Picture of Simple Buck LED Driver with PWM Input
High-power LEDs over 1W are now quite inexpensive. I'm sure many of you are incorporating LEDs as light sources in your projects.
However I realize that the finding and configuring the power supply is still not as simple as it can be; commercially available LED drivers are convenient, but often overkill or not flexible. Even my own Universal LED Driver can be overkill at times. Some projects call for a bear minimum, simple driver.

Poorman's Buck - Simple, Constant Current LED Driver

So I created the "Poorman's Buck" - simple switch-mode (buck) constant current LED driver that's built without a microcontroller or a specialized IC. All of the parts are easy to obtain, "off-the-shelf", though-hole parts.

Even though this driver is minimalistic, I added a current adjust function that doubles as a dimmer, and an input to control the output with PWM. This makes the "Poorman's Buck" perfect building block for Arduino or other microcontroller based LED projects - you can control many high-power LEDs from a microcontroller simply by sending PWM signal. With Arduino you can simply use "AnalogWrite()" to control the brightness of high-power LEDs.

Step 1: Features

Picture of Features
  • Inductor "switch mode" (buck) converter for high energy efficiency.
  • Wide supply voltage range of 5 to 20V. Great with batteries as well as AC adaptors.
  • Cycle-by-cycle, true constant current circuit
  • Configurable output current up to 1A
  • Up to 15W maximum output power. (at supply voltage 20V with five 3W LEDs connected)
  • Current control potentiometer (trims the output current down to about 9%)
  • Current control can be used as a built-in dimmer
  • Output short-circuit protection
  • PWM control input - controllable via external microcontroller including Arduino.
  • Compact design - only 1 x 1.5 x 0.5 inches (excluding the pot shaft)
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george0463 months ago

1. I'd like to build your circuit, but I have very small place. Which components can I remove to get a non PWM model? My tips are: (R5, R6, C2, IC2/2, R4, D2) Am I right?
I'm planning to use a single comparator. Should I add C2 to IC1/2 (like on IC2/2) after removing the pwm "supporter" components?
2. I need to drive only one led with max 800mA so replace R11 and R10 with one R'=0,35/I ?
3. I also don't need the potentiometer, so how should I replace it with a 10K normal resistor "in the top extreme" ( the 10k resistor has just 2 legs, however the potentiometer has 3)
4. Someone suggested to put a 4,7 uF cap paralell with the led(s) in exchange for reducing L1. Is it a good idea to do it without other modifications? I'd like to do it, because smaller L value is quite cheaper with higher current ratings. In my country small 47-100uH inductor is available with 470ma rating.
Maybe I asked stupid things, sorry.
Thanks your help.

I am designing a buck converter for my USB solar power charger. My input voltage is 21 and the output is 5 V. I am looking for a PWM controller with no internal switch. Anyone knows where I can find it?

RachmatA8 months ago

can you write the pin number of lm939 on schematic? because eagle has different footprint

m.3bass8 months ago

hello every body i have a big problem with this ct. i connect all component but R1 temp. increase to burn and i can not know what happened is any one can help me i need this ct. cause my project is same with tis project

LaurenceD9 months ago

I need something like this that I can build myself. I am driving a 50W 50 LED chip at 32-34 volts. I have a boost power supply to run it off of a 12VDC battery. Please help.

chti-tophe9 months ago


i have question what is the value of resistance of the inductor L1. I try with some inductor (with value between 47 uH and 100uH) but the maximun value of current is not 350 ma ! could you help me please.


dudes10 months ago
Hi, I'm interested in buying the kits, but I can't find it on your website. Do you still offer it?
ledartist (author)  dudes10 months ago

Sorry Poorman's Buck kits are sold out and discontinued...

dudes ledartist10 months ago

Oh, OK. Well I guess I have to make one now ;)

zwatts210 months ago


Muy buen manual. Estoy trabajando en un Buck para cargar una batería con un panel solar, te quería hacer una pregunta. ¿Sabes por qué mi salida del buck depende mucho del voltaje de la señal PWM?, la estoy alimentando a 12V, y la entrada y la salida del buck son 35 y 12V respectivamente.

Gracias! saludos

Hiwliws1 year ago


Your project is really nice.

I'm looking for something to give me an idea of how can I make a 5 independent colors of LED dimmer according to the time of the day... I know, it's a lot and I'm a begginer.

Can someone suggest something for me to start with?

Thank you.

You can use arduino, raspberry pi or beaglebone black.
It would be easiest way for a beginner like you and me.

You can use python language with raspberry or beaglebone.
Python is very easy language to learn.

RGB led will do the job for you. You can set colors for every hours.
If you want to use 5 independent led, you can do it also.

coloneedestek.11 months ago

I have a 16V power source,

a 9-12V 10W white led,

two of RGB led(r:6-8V 300mA, g:9-12V 300mA, b:9-11V 300mA).

I want to build up 4 unit of this circuit.
One for white led, three for rgb leds.(I will connect same colors in parallel connection.)
So anyone can help me with which parts do I need to change?
I actually don't understand how can I calculate the output voltage.
Please help me.


is there any modifcations that could be made to make the circuit handle a 40-50w load?


hahihula1 year ago

Hi, I tried to simulate this circuit for better understanding. But it behaves really strange. Could someone please point out where I made mistake? Thanks


for switching you used a n channel mos. replace it with a pmos (and be careful how you connect it: source to vdc and drain to the node with the inductor terminal and the anode of the shotky )

Thank you for the advice but...
I changed the mos but still it work strange. there is only 400 nano Amps on the led ...
Hi, ledartist,

Have tried to build a prototype of your offered driver – it works fine from 18V, thank you.
But I need to run it from a 26– 27V SPSU, so I need to limit the Vgs voltage on the P-mosfet. I have tried different solution but had no luck.
1) Tried voltage divider of two 1KOhm resistors. I can not use smaller value resistors due to high voltage and power dissipation.
2) Tried connecting a 15V Zener diode between the GND and the Q2 collector.
3) Tried connecting a 15V Zener diode between the Gate and the Q2 & Q1 emitters

In all applications I had severe distortion in shape of Mosfet driver signal. As a result a got increased looses on Mosfet, it became very hot.
Is Zener diodes fast enough to switch at 285KHz frequency in my version of driver ??? Would you be so kind and post the right schematic of how to limit the Vgs voltage ???

Thanks for your help !!!

Try connecting the zenner in series with the Q2&Q1 emmites and R8.

ledartist (author)  sbogdan31 year ago

Great solution! Why didn't I think of that.

anio1 year ago


Thanks for the good instructable. I have a question:

I am working on PWM controlled led strip which will be mounted on motorcycle. The brightness will corresponds to an accelerometer value.

So from a static point of view a moving object with a PWM duty cycle for example 10% will flicker. Can i use your schematic to avoid this problem?


Ploopy1 year ago


ed-9991 year ago
I really like this project, and I think it will work for me with a few changes. My application requires 30W or 2.5A at 12V for 60 LEDs, 20 parallel strings of 3 LED each.

I believe that the 1A limit for this circuit is the wattage of R10, R11, D3, L1 and maybe a heat sink for the MOSFET. The MOSFET is rated at about 5A so it shouldn't be a problem. So that leaves the other parts in the power side to the circuit (R10, R11, L1, and D3).

By making the following changes, I think that the output current can be raised to about 3A.
change R10, R11 to about 3W each.
change the 1N5819 (1A) to 1N5820 (3A)
Change L1 47-100uH 1.2A  to a 100uH 3A

Has anyone tried to increase the output current? If so how did you do it?


Hi ed-999,

Did you tried out the circuit with specified changes ? I wanted to proceed with 48W at 12 or 4A. Please let me know at earliest.

Thank You

I'm also thinking of an application requiring about 2.5A @ 14ish volts... what kind of luck did you have? Did your modifications work?


gialla871 year ago

maybe someone will pass by here...

what parts of the schematic could i avoid repeating if trying to make a 3 channels version of this?

siddhanth1 year ago
Hi ledartist,
I have a small noobish question since I am new to the world of power leds(forgive me). Before this I could get away with series resistances :-P

Anyhow my doubt is.
Since this is a constant current source,my diodes forward voltage is 6.5-7volts max.@700ma If I supply the driver with like say 14volts, will the leds get burnt even when I configure the driver to only 700ma?
The problem is the source of the power is an ac(my motorbike) and the voltages fluctuate with the increase and decrease in rpm. I believe at idle,it generates 11vac and 14vac at peak rpm.

Is there a way out to this without introducing a linear regulator?
kalmara1 year ago
Hello, ledartist.
I have some questions about modifying the buck driver for my own needs.
I have access to a bunch of SMD LM393's, a bunch of FZT951 PNP BJT transistors (rated at 150MHz, 5amps continius, I think 350mA or 700mA would be very low-weight lifting for them), and a bunch of 0.3ohms 1watt SMD resistors, SR24 2amp schottky diodes and etc. I'm thinking of making my own design for the PCB with all SMD devices, except for the inductor. So the question is - by altering the voltage reference for the first comparator can I use 0.3ohm sensing resistors, or maybe 2x0.3ohm in parallel (as in your design example). The other thing is - I plan on removing the mosfet and the totem-pole driver and use the FZT951 as a power deivce. Will the transistor be *beef* enough to handle the switching, or should I add another small signal SMD to form a darlington array in front of the power switcher?
ledartist (author)  kalmara1 year ago
You can use BJT as the switch for sure, but you do need some kind of driver to drive the power transistor, not for the reason you might be thinking, but for the speed.
For switching converter, the switching speed, especially turn-off speed is important. During switching, the transistor is partially conducting, which means that the voltage is burned in the device. Without a totem-pole driver for example, you will see the transistor getting very hot, because of the slow switching speed.
Darlington is particularly not suited because of its slow speed.

Hello, Aki, thanks for the quick reply.
LM2596 simple switcher dc-dc converter uses darlington output transistors, and it has a fixed frequency oscillator at 150kHz.
Anyway - I had a lightbulb, I'm going to scavenge a SOIC-8 mosfet from a dead laptop motherboard, and totem-pole will be a small SMD device called MMDT2227, which incorporates two transistors in one package : 2222A-NPN/2907A-PNP they are rated at 600mA, I think the surges of the mosfet gate will not max them out.
Another question : does the optional C5-22pF capacitor err..."slow down" the feedback ? What was it's purpose in the first place?
How would this be modified to drive 100mA LEDs? Can you post the formulas you used to determine the values of the various components (and any other values that need to be taken into consideration such as current rating of the inductor, etc)? Thanks!
ledartist (author)  Doktor Jones1 year ago
Sorry for my late reply. The formula for the combined value of R10 & R11 would roughly be: 0.35 / I. Where I is the desired output current in Ampere.
So for 100 mA (0.1 A), R would be 3.5 ohm, however I'd use standard value of 3.6 ohm.
make the circuit and then bog down the circuit with given potentiometer(adjust it) and multimeter set in ammeter mode connected on the output.
adjust it till its 100ma and enjoy?
Unfortunately I don't have a multimeter with an ammeter mode. Also, I was hoping to learn the formulas so I could modify the parts list to fit my needs in the future, such as if I want to use it to drive something else with different current requirements.

Wonderful design. Just wonder if this could be use to drive a laser diode?

Sorry I don't know much about laser diode. But I thought you need to monitor the temperature?

can this be use to drive laser. diode?
pravardhan1 year ago

Can we modify the circuit and work as a "Boost LED Driver" upto 25V to 40V & 350mA output?

Bryan_L2 years ago
What is the formula for determining the maximum current capability. Is it the voltage drop of the diode/divided by the current to determine the sense resistor R10 and R11.

For example for 750 ma (.7/.75) = 1 ohm? which matches the specs in the article.So if I wanted 2 amp current capacity total then it would require a sense resistor of (0.7/2) = 0.35 ohm resistor

Bryan_L2 years ago
On the schematic the PWM input is identified. It is one of the pins of the IC, below D2 on the schematic
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