APPLICATION NOTE 5092

Green LED Replaces LDO Regulator

By:  Kien Mach

Abstract: In systems in which a microcontroller must communicate with peripheral devices that operate at different supply voltages, a level translator may be necessary. This design idea explains how for low-power loads, a single green LED can replace a 1.8V LDO regulator in a level-translator circuit.

A similar version of this article appeared in the September 8, 2010 issue of EE Times magazine.

For systems in which a microcontroller must communicate with peripheral devices operating at different supply voltages, you may need to add a level translator (such as the MAX1840). This device requires two supply voltages (VCC and DVCC) to process the serial digital signals flowing between the peripheral and microcontroller. A typical requirement is to translate the logic-high level of an I²C, SPI™, or 1-Wire® channel from 3.5V to 1.8V.

Such systems often provide a low-dropout (LDO) regulator for each supply voltage, and each LDO also requires two bypass capacitors, one connected to the supply pin and one to the output pin. For portable devices constrained by low cost and limited space, however, we can eliminate the 1.8V LDO and its bypass capacitors by simply substituting a surface-mount green LED (case size 0603) across the level translator's DVCC and VCC pins (Figure 1).

Figure 1. For low-power loads, a single green LED (D1) replaces a 1.8V LDO regulator in this level-translator circuit.
Figure 1. For low-power loads, a single green LED (D1) replaces a 1.8V LDO regulator in this level-translator circuit.

The VCC pin in this configuration assumes a voltage of ~1.9V, which allows the translator to provide a 1.8V logic-high level to the slave devices. To ensure a stable VCC, the slave devices should operate on low power and draw reasonably constant supply currents.

1-Wire is a registered trademark of Maxim Integrated Products, Inc.



Related Parts
MAX1840 Low-Voltage SIM/Smart-Card Level Translators in µMAX Samples  


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© Aug 01, 2011, Maxim Integrated Products, Inc.
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APP 5092: Aug 01, 2011
APPLICATION NOTE 5092, AN5092, AN 5092, APP5092, Appnote5092, Appnote 5092, DI857