Introduction: Micro-usb 30F Supercapacitor Flashlight

Picture of Micro-usb 30F Supercapacitor Flashlight

This is an example of a supercapacitor flashlight that can be charged with a standard 1A smartphone charger.

French people can find the entire description here :

Step 1: You Will Need

Picture of You Will Need

- perfboard

- micro-usb connector

- 1.1A Polyswitch

- 4.8 ohm 1 Watt resistor

- 1000 ohm, 82000 ohm, 220 ohm and 11.4 ohm 1/4 Watt resistors

- buck converter (RC Airplane Module Mini 360 DC Buck Converter Step Down)

(4.75V - 23V to 1V - 17V)

- 1N5817 diode

- Supercapacitor 30 Farads 2.7V

- TL431 (adjustable shunt regulator with 2.5V Vref)

- green LED 3mm

- button

- boost converter (mini DC DC 0.8 - 3.3V to 3.3 V Step UP Boost converter)

- white LED 5mm (20000 mcd, 3.1 to 3.4V)

- soldering iron with solder and flux

- jumper wires

Step 2: Adjust the Buck Converter

Picture of Adjust the Buck Converter

With the micro-usb connector and a breadboard, you have to connect the buck converter, the Polyswitch, the 1N5817 diode and a 1000 ohm resistor.

You connect a voltmeter to the resistor.

Then you turn the buck converter screw to obtain 2.6V.

Step 3: Turn on a Green LED When the Supercapacitor Is Charged to 2.5V

Picture of Turn on a Green LED When the Supercapacitor Is Charged to 2.5V

The TL431 device is a three-terminal adjustable shunt regulator. The output voltage can be set to any value between Vref ( 2.5 V) and 36 V.

So it's easy to turn on a LED on 2.5V with a TL431...

Step 4: Breadboard and Perfboard Supercapacitor Flashlight

Picture of Breadboard and Perfboard Supercapacitor Flashlight

When the switch is engaged, the supercapacitor feeds a small boost converter which boosts the voltage to 3.3V to power a LED through a 11.4 ohm resistor.

If you need more information, you can read the original description (in french) of this supercapacitor flashlight here :

Enjoy !


Konstantin Dimitrov (author)2016-02-10

Awesome project !
How long time it takes to recharge the capacitor and how long it lasts ?

Omnivent (author)2016-01-11


Schematic, breadboard and perfboard are different - which is the right one and how does it connect up on the perfboard?

Have you got a link to the regulators and their datasheets - full output from 500mV sounds a little too good to be true, but I'd like to have a look at them, to see if they'd fit some of my future projects.

Going for a CC solution should yield you a much better efficiency - as is, it's not much above 25% (no matter the efficiency of the 2 switch mode converters).

Regards :)


Breadboard and perfboard have the same schematic.

You can actually find the Buck converter here :

You can find the Boost converter module here :

This converter module use a BL8530 :

BL8530 need 800mV to start, but when it's started, it can work as low voltage as 300mV.

If you can provide links to interesting components, I'm interested.

Any ideas to improve the flashlight are welcome.


The schematic show the charging part. After, there's only the button, the boost converter, a 11.4 resistor and the White LED...

There's no difference with breadboard and perfboard.

Thank you very much for the links :) I'¨ll have to study them in detail as soon as time allows.

If I find a current-mode module, I'll drop you a link - in my mind I was just contemplating making the circuit from the ground up, but I think I've seen small current mode switch modules. You might be able to get 3..4 times the run time (based on the energy the cap can hold) - I'd probably charge it through some tabs on the housing (rather than fiddle with Micro-USB) and use a linear charger/supply - shouldn't take long to recharge... Almost Tap 'N' Go :)

Nice to see some French work btw. I'm aware that a load of electronics is going on in your country... But unfortunately I only took (slightly less than) a year of French back in the mist of time, so it's not all that easy to enjoy.


Thank you for the message.

I wanted to make a small flashlight and I didn't find a very small current mode switch module. I will apreciate your link.

I have chosen Micro-USB because I wanted a solution to charge the flashlight with a thing that all people have : a smartphone charger.

Yes, I am French and I hope I do not make too many mistakes in writing English. We are often very bad at foreign languages...

A good read, if you're planning to build from scratch (at some point in the future perhaps):

And the MCP1624

  • Low Start-up Voltage: 0.65V
  • Operating Input Voltage: 0.35V to 5.5V
  • Adjustable Output Voltage Range: 2.0V to 5.5V

Seems quite handy for your purpose.

Your English is OK! I was referring to the general population - I've spend "fun" time shopping the shadier parts of Paris - I didn't know how to say "No! I don't wan't a huge switchblade and a pair of brass knuckles, just an F'in plain small pocket knife" in French to an old guy without hurting his pride (it was fine stuff he was piling up on the desk after all).

Thank you for the links, but for now I prefer to use ready-made modules. It's easier. I already found the buck-boost unit that I will use for the next version of flashlight that will use a 5.5V supercapacitor :

pmshah (author)2016-01-14

Why go through all this bucking and boosting when you can get plenty of 5.5 volt super capacitors at Ali Express?

supercondensateur (author)pmshah2016-01-18

There were many comments to complete and enhance the response to this question. So here's a summary of those comments to make it more readable for those interested :

Normal supercapacitors have a voltage between 2.5V and 2.85V. The 5.5V supercapacitors are composed of two 2.75V supercapacitors in series.

This flashlight shows a possible technique to recharge a single 2.7V supercapacitor from a 5V voltage source and then shows how to use the supercapacitor to power a 3.1V to 3.4V LED.

So here I have used a buck converter to lower the voltage on charge and a boost converter to increase the voltage to turn on the LED.

This is technically interesting, but it is true that this is not the simplest and not the most logical. For a next version of flashlight, I will use a 5.5V supercapacitor. So I will not need to use a buck converter. To power the LED, I will use a buck-boost converter to fully exploit the energy of the supercapacitor (lowering the voltage when it is above 3.3V and increasing the voltage when it drops below 3.3V).

Here I used a 30F supercapacitor. For the next flashlight, I will take the equivalent of a 40F supercapacitor but in 5.5V.

When you put two supercapacitors in series, the rule is :

1/Ctot = 1/C1 + 1/C2

The equivalent of a 40F 2.75V supercapacitor at 5.5V is the connection of two supercapacitors 20F 2.75V in series.

1/Ctot = 1/20 + 1/20

1/Ctot = 1/10

Ctot = 10

I will use a 10F 5.5V supercapacitor.

The energy stored in a capacitor can be expressed as : W = 1/2 CV^2

W = energy stored (Joules)

C = capacitance (Farad)

V = potential difference (Voltage)

For a 40F 2.75V supercapacitor, the energy stored is:

W = 1/2 x 40 x 2.75^2 = 151.25 Joules

For a 10F 5.5V supercapacitor, the energy stored is :

W = 1/2 x 10 x 5.5^2 = 151.25 Joules

A 40F 2.75V supercapacitor have the same amount of energy as a 10F 5.5V supercapacitor. In fact, two parallel 20F 2.7V supercapacitors (= 1 SC 40F 2.75V) have the same amount of energy as two supercapacitors in series (= 1 SC 10F 5.5V).

I hope I have summarized the discussion as it should.

Thanks to pmshah, Lovot, przemek, GianlucaG1 and david.colclazier.

Lovot (author)2016-01-14

The total energy stored is the same, capacitor energy storage is calculated like this: w=(c*v^2)/2


w= watt seconds

c= capacitance in farads

v=the voltage the cap is charged to

if you examine this, you see that the capacitor contains exponentially more energy the higher the voltage it is charged to, and the maximum amount of energy stored by two caps in parallel and the same two caps in series is the same.

If you use a buck boost regulator that can take an input voltage between 1 and 5.5 volts, and has an adjustable output voltage between 0 and 3.3V (wastes less energy than a resistor control), then a 20F 2.75V cap (75.625W/s capacity) will be able to deliver 65.625w/s (86% of it's stored energy) before the voltage is too low to power the boost converter, and a 5F 5.5V cap (75.625W/s capacity) will be able to deliver 73.125W/s (0.96% of it's stored energy) when discharged to 1 volt. If only charged to 5V, then it will only deliver around 60W/s, which is close to the amount delivered by the low voltage set-up, and greatly simplifies the charging circuit, but requires the use of a buck boost regulator instead of just a boost regulator for the LED driver.

Ideally you find the cap with the highest price/power, and then place those caps in the configuration that allows for the most power available for operating the LED, which would probably be a higher voltage, low farad set-up where a boost regulator charges the caps, and a buck regulator powers the LED.

przemek (author)Lovot2016-01-18

You correctly calculate the energy stored in the cap, but there's some confusion about the units. FIrst of all, it's Watt times second, not W/s (which would be Watt divided per second). By the way, W*s is the same as Joule, abbreviated as J, so we could just use this.

Another nitpick---the energy depends on a square of voltage, but you shouldn't call it 'exponential': that would be correct if energy depended on exp(v). An example of exponential dependence is the current in a diode: it does depend exponentially on voltage: I ~ exp(V)

GianlucaG1 (author)Lovot2016-01-15

>> then a 20F 2.75V cap (75.6W/s capacity)

75.6W*s: if it wolud be W/s it should be able to give 75.6W every second!

Lovot (author)GianlucaG12016-01-15

A watt second is a unit of energy, a cap with 75W/s capacity can deliver 75W for one second, or 1 watt for 75 seconds, or anything in between as long as the power draw (in watts) and the amount of times the load is active (in seconds) multiply to get 75.

ichitito (author)2016-01-13

I felt compelled to write this instead of just disconnect. I am a highly trained trauma surgeon, I read this instructables with immense curosity. Unfortunately the level of the projects just blew my gradient. I could not figure out how to connect things, saw the diagrams ( similar to the ones on a mayan tombe), kidding asside, the scope and variety of the projects is amazing. I only wish I could make them at home.

You can easily see components and connections in the Breadboard release (click on the first breadboard image to see all components).

Just buy the same components, a breadboard and wires to easily repeat the flashlight without any welding.

The perfboard Version uses the same connections, but you must learn to weld on perfboard ...

Happy that you like this supercapacitor flashlight.

I think supercapacitors are the future !

You can vote for this project in "MAKE IT GLOW! CONTEST" if you wish. This will give perhaps more visibility on supercapacitors...

If you have specific questions, do not hesitate.

Correction : you must learn to solder on perfboard (little translation problem).

Just don't forget to adjust the buck converter like the step 2...

Omnivent (author)ichitito2016-01-13

Hi Ichitito,

A number of years ago, I helped a guy with a circuit design and came to what I considered the easy part of it, but no matter how I explained it, he just couldn't get his head around it. I probably got a little annoyed with his apparent lack of understanding (after endless hours) and I wrote to him "Come on, it's not Rocket science after all", to which he replied "No, too bad 'cause I am a Rocket scientist" :)

Then I knew his reference background and could find enough parallels to talk him through it.

So... Schematics = Mayan tombe? Even if I spent some years with Cochlear Implant surgery, a lot of what went on in the theater besides my own tasks went far over my head as well - we all specialize and to do that we have to exclude something :)

Perhaps compare blood flow with electron flow - lots of parallels actually.

If you're serious about wanting to make this flashlight, I'd like to offer my assistance (via email) and I'm positive that I can guide you along to a working example - PM me if interested :)

Ralphxyz (author)2016-01-15

re: "The perfboard Version uses the same connections, but you must learn to weld on perfboard ..."

little translation problem here!!

In English one "solders" a perfboard connection not welds them!!

Great project and great discussion, merci

Merci for the compliment and for the correction ;)

luki274 (author)2016-01-15

Which voltage should the polyswitch have?

There is one with 30V and one with 60V.

Like you want. Smartphone chargers are 5V / 1A mostly ...

This Polyswitch 1.1A is a security in the event of failure or improper assembly ...

pmshah (author)2016-01-15

I have been dealing with discrete power electronics for more than 40 years. I know all about L, E R, C, j and what have you. I know how to calculate the inductance, capacitance, resistance and impedance depending on series or parallel connection.

You get button battery size 5.5 V 4 F super capacitors at very reasonable price.. All you need to do is connect them in parallel, as many as you need, and they simply add up. You eliminate the conversion losses in the process.

Lovot (author)2016-01-15

No problem, I did some research because it seemed off that two caps in series would have half the capacity they did in parallel. I learned a lot in the process.

G3P0 (author)2016-01-15

I thought capacitors did a complete discharge when connected to a circuit?

What element in the schematic is facilitating partial discharge of the stored energy in the capacitor instead of a full discharge?

supercondensateur (author)G3P02016-01-15

A standard capacitor stores very little energy. So it discharges very quickly.

A supercapacitor stores much more energy. Supercapacitors are also able to provide a very high amperage but this current can be limited by a resistor for example. Who can do more can do less ...

fergio (author)2016-01-15

ottimo lavoro, complimenti. Avevo già realizzato una torcia con un supercondensatore da 100 Farad e un led da 1w ma è durato poco perché caricavo il condensatore con 3.3v non conoscendo il limite di questi componenti.

supercondensateur (author)fergio2016-01-15

Thank you. Indeed, a supercapacitor should not be charged to a higher voltage than its rated voltage.

supercondensateur (author)2016-01-15

You're right, I made an error of interpretation.

GianlucaG1 (author)2016-01-15

For the same size, higher the voltage, higher stored energy! Size is proportional to C*V, but stored energy is
proportional to C*(V^2)!

A 20F 2.75V capacitor is as big as a 10F 5.5V, but stored energy is:

20F: 10*(2.75^2)=75J

10F: 5: *(5.5^2)=150J!

definingsound (author)2016-01-14

This is an awesome instructable, thanks for sharing.

I'd like to know an additional statistic: How long does it take to charge the system?

So the charge lasts in the capacitor for months. Operation allows 13.5 minutes of good light, then 3.5 minutes of average lighting (with this 1W LED). Would it be fair to say that 15W of energy is stored in the capacitor? So a 5V 2A charger can charge the device in 1.5 seconds?

Thanks !

It isn't a 1W LED (where did you see that ?).

The charging curve of a supercapacitor is not the same as a battery, especially with a constant voltage charging.

The charge is at 2.5V and 1A at the beginning of the charge, then the amperage decreases and the voltage increases a little on the charge termination.

Result : The full charge of the supercapacitor to 2.5V takes 3 minutes and 10 seconds. As the supercapacitor is never completely discharge thereafter, the charging time is finally shorter.

The charge would have been faster with a good constant current charging module, but it is difficult to find any small constant current charging module at 1A (or 2A).

oops you're right I was looking at the power rating for the 1N5817 diode, not the LED. 3.6V at 20mA makes it a 0.072W LED?

Maxi : 3.4V at 20mA...

david.colclazier (author)2016-01-14

That's only if they're wired in series... If they're wired in parallel, the Ctot would in fact be 20 w/ 2x 10F 2.75v

Exactly, I have answered to pmshah asking why I did not use 5.5V supercapacitors...

supercondensateur (author)2016-01-14

Thanks !

Full charging of the supercapacitor (2.5V) takes 3 minutes and 10 seconds. As we never fully discharge the supercapacitor, the charging time is ultimately shorter. A constant current charge would have been much faster, but it's difficult to find very small constant current charging modules ...

br0x (author)2016-01-14

How long does it last (30F ionistor)? I heard they are worse than accumulators, that is less recharge cycles until it dies

supercondensateur (author)br0x2016-01-14

No, supercapacitors can withstand 500,000 to several million recharge cycles. With the load speed, it is the main asset of supercapacitors.

brian32768 (author)2016-01-11

AWESOME -- they make 30F capacitors now??? Zowie. I've needed a few of these for decades, now I can finish my interocitor and leave this backwater planet!

Phil_S (author)brian327682016-01-14

Saw a bank of these on YouTube starting a car.

Very useful items, keep a charge for ages, huge number of charge/discharge cycles, better than batteries for many applications

Yonatan24 (author)brian327682016-01-12

I think I saw a 400F once (not in IRL, in a picture)

pskvorc (author)2016-01-14

I like it!

DCA (author)2016-01-10

Very cool! How long will the light run between charging?

supercondensateur (author)DCA2016-01-10

17 minutes of light.

(13.5 minutes of good light, then 3.5 minutes of average lighting)

grayl (author)supercondensateur2016-01-12

I'm more concerned about how long will a charge last - ie. the half life of a single charge?

supercondensateur (author)grayl2016-01-12

The flashlight loses in intensity over time. But after a single charge, it still shines if used several months later.

supercondensateur (author)2016-01-12

Supercapacitors are a little bit different than capacitors.

You can see supercapacitors from 4000F to 1mF here :

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