Introduction: Charlieplexing the Arduino

This Instructable shows how to implement Charlieplexing, a technique that will allow you to control many more LEDs than you have pins. This shows how to configure 6 LEDs and use only 3 pins. You can extend this to many more LEDs. The exact number of LEDs that you can control with a given number of pins is given by n^2 - n where n is the number of pins used (i.e.,  3^2 - 3 = 9 - 3 = 6 LEDs using only n = 3 pins).

Step 1: Charlieplexing the Arduino

Charlieplexing not only takes advantage of the two states that we normally change, HIGH and LOW, but also uses a third state by changing between OUTPUT and INPUT modes, which affects internal resistors on the Arduino.

For Charlieplexing 6 LEDs, we will setup six LEDs (L1 thru L6) and need to configure three pins (I chose Pins 13, 12, and 11) for each LED.

For each LED (L1, L2,....,L6), we need to set the pinMode (INPUT or OUTPUT) and the pin state (HIGH or LOW)

H: pinMode = OUTPUT; state HIGH
L: pinMode = OUTPUT; state LOW
Z: pinMode = INPUT; state LOW

For example, to configure LED L2, set pin 13 to H, pin 12 to L, and pin 11 to Z:

Pin13    
pinMode(LED_1, OUTPUT);  //pinMode
digitalWrite(LED_1, HIGH);   // state
 
Pin12    
pinMode(LED_2, OUTPUT);  // pinMode
digitalWrite(LED_2, LOW);   //state

Pin11    
pinMode(LED_3, INPUT);  // pinMode
digitalWrite(LED_3, LOW);  // state

Step 2: Configure Hardware

Connect two LEDs to each Pin; be sure to flip the LED so the Cathode (+) and Anode (-) are on the correct Pins. The cathode (+) has the longer leg and is shown in the schematic as the leg with the bend in it.  

Step 3: Configure the Software

Comments

author
ZentOx made it!(author)2017-01-31

You really helped me understand charlieplex better. Thanks!!

author
superqi7 made it!(author)2015-02-24

How do you make multiple LEDs light up at the same time?

author
muscipula made it!(author)2016-12-22

Just reduce the delay time, even remove it then you will see the LEDs are all lit. You then figure out the code that cycles the lights either switching on or off and so on.

Andrew

author
neilzzoferrari made it!(author)2015-12-29

You can use a short delay and light up LEDs one by one. If the delay is right, you can use persistence of vision to make those LEDs glow. Mae separate function for each LED, and call those functions in a loop.

author
tsant made it!(author)2015-02-24

Actually, I am not really sure. I found another Instructable that goes through the process. I would have to set this up again at home and go through this other tutorial line by line to figure it out. Hope this gets you on the right track. If not, let me know.

author
superqi7 made it!(author)2015-02-24

Thank you very much, I will look at it and try it.

author
Artstep made it!(author)2016-11-27

You have an incomplete image of the wiring - the connection between the cathode of L4 and anode of L6 is missing.

Other than that, all good it seems, thank you for the tutorial.

author
shutterbun made it!(author)2015-01-22

Everything worked great, thanks for the tutorial, and especially for the breadboard image. Very helpful!

author
tsant made it!(author)2015-01-22

Glad to hear it. Thanks!

author
IMFoolishTim made it!(author)2014-05-26

I couldn't get L6 to work, looking at the sketch you have:

//turn on LED L6 pinMode
(LED_1, OUTPUT);
digitalWrite(LED_1, HIGH);
pinMode(LED_2, INPUT);
digitalWrite(LED_2, LOW);
pinMode(LED_3, OUTPUT);
digitalWrite(LED_3, HIGH);

I needed to change LED_3 to LOW:
digitalWrite(LED_3, LOW);

Then it worked.

Tim

author
tsant made it!(author)2014-05-26

Updated sketch on github.

thanks.

author
RileyPankratz15 made it!(author)2014-03-21

Thank you so much!

author
tsant made it!(author)2014-03-21

I knew that a pin can source current but I didn't know until now that a pin other than ground pin can sink current. so in deed the connections to ground aren't required. I'll have to update the schematic. oops.

author
RileyPankratz15 made it!(author)2014-03-19

Question for you, I am a complete beginner. So this is probably a stupid question, in your schematic, following pin 13, I noticed there is no resistor for the LED, how will row 1 not fry? Any info would be much appreciated

author
rfisher11 made it!(author)2013-09-25

The schematic is correct but the wiring is wrong. L5 and L6 are reversed. Also, seems to make more sense to run the wires from pins 13, 12, and 11 through the resistors first (just like the schematic) and dispense with the ground wires which don't make sense in this set up anyway. Finally, if it is wired correctly according to the schematic, then the code is incorrect. This is what the loop should be:
void loop()
{
//turn on LED L1
pinMode(LED_1, OUTPUT); //row 1
digitalWrite(LED_1, LOW);
pinMode(LED_2, OUTPUT); //row 2
digitalWrite(LED_2, HIGH);
pinMode(LED_3, INPUT); //row 3
digitalWrite(LED_3, LOW);

delay(1000);

//turn on LED L2
pinMode(LED_1, OUTPUT); //row 1
digitalWrite(LED_1, HIGH);
pinMode(LED_2, OUTPUT); //row 2
digitalWrite(LED_2, LOW);
pinMode(LED_3, INPUT); //row 3
digitalWrite(LED_3, LOW);

delay(1000);

//turn on LED L3
pinMode(LED_1, INPUT); //row 1
digitalWrite(LED_1, LOW);
pinMode(LED_2, OUTPUT); //row 2
digitalWrite(LED_2, LOW);
pinMode(LED_3, OUTPUT); //row 3
digitalWrite(LED_3, HIGH);

delay(1000);

//turn on LED L4
pinMode(LED_1, INPUT); //row 1
digitalWrite(LED_1, LOW);
pinMode(LED_2, OUTPUT); //row 2
digitalWrite(LED_2, HIGH);
pinMode(LED_3, OUTPUT); //row 3
digitalWrite(LED_3, LOW);

delay(1000);

//turn on LED L5
pinMode(LED_1, OUTPUT); //row 1
digitalWrite(LED_1, LOW);
pinMode(LED_2, INPUT); //row 2
digitalWrite(LED_2, LOW);
pinMode(LED_3, OUTPUT); //row3
digitalWrite(LED_3, HIGH);

delay(1000);

//turn on LED L6
pinMode(LED_1, OUTPUT);
digitalWrite(LED_1, HIGH);
pinMode(LED_2, INPUT);
digitalWrite(LED_2, LOW);
pinMode(LED_3, OUTPUT);
digitalWrite(LED_3, LOW);

delay(1000);
}

author
tsant made it!(author)2013-06-30

Image is now correct.

author
tsant made it!(author)2013-06-11

The GND isn't connected to the breadboard bus correctly; I'll upload new image shortly! Should be over one to connect all black GND Jumpers to Arduino gnd

author
tsant made it!(author)2013-06-02

Thx!

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