Rear Light After Glow (For Bicycles)

This article is of interest only to readers whose bicycle lights are powered by a dynamo. The laws on bicycle lights in the United Kingdom are stricter than in other countries and a dynamo is, therefore, a rarity in this country. From the point of view of traffic safety it is advisable (in UK obligatory) for cyclists to have the rear lamp of their bicycle to light even when they are at standstill. In principle, it is not very difficult to modify the existing rear light with afterglow: all this needs is a large enough energy reservoir. Since the after-glow is required for short periods of time only, a battery is not required: a large value capacitor, say, 1 F, is quite sufficient.

As the diagram shows, in the present circuit, the normal rear light bulb is replaced by two series-connected bright LEDs, D2 and D3. These are clearly visible with a current of only 6 mA (compared with 50 mA of the bulb). The current is set with series resistor R1. The LEDs are shunted by the 1 F capacitor, C1. Since the working voltage of this component is only 5.5 V, it is, in spite of its high value, physically small. An effective regulator is needed to limit the dynamo voltage adequately. Normal regulators cannot be used here, since they do not work at low voltages. Moreover, such a device would discharge the capacitor when the cycle is at standstill.

Rear Light After Glow
Rear Light After Glow Circuit Diagram

Fortunately, there is a low-drop type that meets the present requirements nicely: the Type LP2950CZ5.0. Of course, the dynamo output voltage needs to be rectified before it can be applied to the regulator. In the present circuit, this is effected by half-wave rectifier D1 and buffer capacitor C2. Diode D1 is a Schottky type to keep any losses low – important for this application, because the ground connection via the bicycle frame usually causes some losses as well. The value of buffer capacitor has been chosen well above requirements to ensure that C1 is charged during the negative half cycles of the dynamo voltage.