A simple LED transmitter, and LED receiver!

May 18, 2011 | electronics, My Projects | By: Mark VandeWettering

Tonight’s 20 minute electronics project was to create a simple transmitter to send music using light. A trivial circuit modulates the current through an LED, and a different LED serves as an (inefficient, and not very good) light sensor. Normally you’d use a selenium photocell or the like, but I couldn’t find one in my junk box, and Radio Shack doesn’t have ’em anymore. But LEDs will generate a small current when exposed to light, so you can actually use them as a photodetector.

Addendum: The audio in the video above is pretty weak (the microphone on the iphone is located at the bottom of the phone, and isn’t ideal for recording low level audio). So, I went ahead and recorded a small sample using the voice memo application on the iPhone, and holding the microphone much closer to the speaker of the amplified speaker to give you a better idea of what the quality is. I also reduced the value of the input filter cap to just 4.7uF, which seemed a bit better, and also put in another 4.7uF cap in series with the sensor LED. I’m not sure that helped, but the levels and sensitivity seemed better. At the very least you should be able to hear the audio quality more clearly.

Audio from my LED Transmitter/Receiver (MP3)

Addendum2: The guys over at the Make Blog had some more good information about using LEDs as light sensors.


Comment from James, N9XLC
Time 5/19/2011 at 2:32 pm

I think I’ve read about people making their free space optics communications with LED for the transmit, but not for receive. That’s a neat trick. What I’ve read before, they had the circuits at a higher frequency, like 30khz to get away from interference from other sources, like a 60hz light. Neat stuff.

Comment from Mark VandeWettering
Time 5/19/2011 at 6:58 pm

Yep. Your classic IR remotes are modulated at around 38khz to avoid the noise that would arise from harmonics of the 60hz mains frequencies. I’m surprised that my test yesterday (which was admittedly quite insensitive) didn’t really have any problems with 60hz hum from my desk lamp.

Comment from Festus
Time 8/25/2014 at 4:10 pm

Hi Mark-

Can you please bless me with the schematic of the circuit above? I am trying to get into visible light communication systems and I think your circuit up here is a great place to start.

Thank you

I am a super fan of your work.

Comment from Rodz
Time 3/3/2015 at 10:07 am

Hi sir, can i have the schematic diagram of that circuit? please..thanks sir.. 😀

Comment from huang
Time 6/4/2015 at 3:02 pm

Hi sir, can i have the schematic diagram of that circuit? please..thanks sir..