Charlieplexing the Arduino





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:

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

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



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    You really helped me understand charlieplex better. Thanks!!

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

    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.


    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.

    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.

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

    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.

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

    Glad to hear it. Thanks!

    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.