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Showing posts from May, 2010

Catching up on projects - 4-channel light dimmer

I haven't posted anything in a while, which means I've gotten behind on documenting the projects I've been working on. So to start catching up, today's project is the 4-channel computer controlled light dimmer I built a summer ago. Basically it allows me to dim 4 incandescent lights independently simply by sending commands over a serial interface. So how does it work? Well, to actually dim lights running at 110V AC, it's not as simple as putting a resistor or two in series - this would dissipate tons of power (if you can even find a resistor big enough) and would be extremely inefficient. The trick is to essentially turn the light on and off really quickly. Then you can adjust the ratio of on-time to off-time (duty cycle) to adjust the brightness. This is basically pulse width modulation (PWM), but there's a catch - since the lights are already running at 60Hz, any old PWM frequency won't work. For example, if you tried to arbitrarily use PWM at a