NOTE: THE FIRST THREE STEPS ARE AN INTRO.THOSE OF YOU WHO ALREADY KNOW ABOUT LED's SHOULD SKIP TO STEPS 4 AND 5 FOR THE TIPS.
I've been noticing that a lot of people (not people on instructables, but people interested in electronics in general) don't really know about LED's. No one in my science class at school had ever even heard of them. This is an easy introduction to LED's that should teach you the basics. It's good if you're interested but have no idea where to start. I also thought this would help out anyone wanting to enter the contest, but it took me a while to finish.
Remember, (As always) feedback and ratings (positive or negative) are always appreciated!
FOR MORE INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO WIRING, YOU CAN SEE NOAHW'S INSTRUCTABLE "LEDs FOR BEGINNERS"
Step 1: Name/Background Info
LED's. So common on Instructables. What the heck are they?
LED is an acronym for Light Emitting Diode. Well, you ask, what on earth is a diode.
A diode is a device that, in simplest terms, allows electricity to flow through one way but not the other. Those of you who are knowledgeable about mechanical things could think of it as sort of a check valve. If you have no mechanical knowledge, disregard that last sentence.
Now that you know what a diode is, an LED is just one that emitts light (But you could probably figure that out just from reading the name).
Step 2: More Important Information
Another important thing about all LED's (and all diodes) is that every one of them has exactly two electrodes. These are important to know when you are wiring an LED into a circuit. They are the...
Anode - The p-side which is the longer leg. And the...
Cathode - Which is the n-side and shorter leg.
Since you know these terms you can remember that electricity flows easily from the anode to the cathode but not the other way around.
Step 3: Advantages of LED's
LED's are great for many reasons. First of all, they don't heat up like regular lightbulbs do. This is great because, well, you don't burn yourself. They are also smaller than a lightbulb. Another important thing about LED's is that they run on very low amounts of electricity, which is helpful because it makes them safer to work with (you don't electrocute yourself). Most run on about 20mA.
Step 4: Tips
Just like with everything, there are some tips that are helpful to make sure your LED's work well.
Clip the leads - Simple, I know, but people forget to. This is important because it prevents them from bumping into other parts and messing up your circuit.
Remember which electrode is which - This is a big one because if you don't it won't work at all. It's a diode; current only flows through it one way.
Read the package - Simple again, but each LED requires slightly differnt voltage and ampage.
Step 5: Resistors
It always helps to wire a resistor into your circuit. It will make the LED last longer by dropping the voltage. There are some sites that make it easy to find which resistor you need. My favorite is here.
Step 6: Project Ideas
Now that you have some knowledge of what LED's are you might want some project ideas. It's easy. Anything involving light. And it's not even limited to that. You can check out the LED Contest for some ideas.
The Instructable that I want to enter into the contest is a "Reminder Table" which is a little table with a number of sections (mine has four) that you put things in to remind you to do them. Each section lights up a different color. The idea is that you turn each light on when you have something that you need to remember to do, then off when you accomplish that. I want to use it to remember my practice cards, guitar picks etc.
One of my favorite ideas in the contest is the Star Wars Blaster, which opens up a whole other area of project ideas.
Step 7: Now You're Ready!
With these "Tool Tips" (sorta) and a completed LEDucation (sorry, couldn't resist) I hope you can get out and build some cool LED projects. Remember, I really do appreciate any type of feedback or ratings.