Learning Electronics

Learning Electronics

Learn to build electronic circuits

Multi-Colour LED

How many different conditions do you reckon may be signalled with just one LED? Two, maybe three? Using this simple circuit, a lot more! Admittedly, a two-colour LED is used here. Such a device consists of two light-emitting chips, usually red and green, encapsulated in the same case. It has three pins: two for the anodes, and one for the common cathode. In this way, each diode can be activated separately. Various mixed colours may be obtained by varying the current through the two diodes. At least four discrete colours are then easily perceived: pure red, pure green, orange (IR ≈ 2IG) and yellow (IG ≈ 2IR).

In the present circuit, the LED elements are driven by CMOS three-state buffers type 4503, which, unlike most CMOS ICs from the 4000 series, are capable of supplying up to 10 mA of output current. The LED currents are limited by resistors R1 through R6, whose values invite experiments with brightness and colours according to your own taste. The circuit was originally developed to indicate the state of three inputs, a, b, and c (non-binary, i. e., only one of these is at 1 at any time), with the configuration (a=b=c=0) representing the fourth state. The latter is decoded by NAND gate IC1.

Circuit diagram:Multi-Color LED Circuit Diagram
Multi-Color LED Circuit Diagram

An additional effect is produced by gates IC1a and IC1b, which are connected up into an oscillator circuit producing approximately two pulses per second. These pulses are used to control the common-enable input, DA (pin 1) of the 4503, so as to produce a flickering effect. The oscillator is controlled by means of inputs ‘d’ and ‘e’. Pulling both of these logic high disables the oscillator and the LED driver. With e=0 and d=1 the outputs of the 4503 are switched to three-state, and the circuit is in power-down standby mode. Although designed for a 12-V supply voltage, the circuit will happily work at any supply voltage between 5 V and 16 V. Non-used inputs of CMOS ICs must, of course, be tied to ground via 10-100 kW resistors.