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Semtech Delivers Industry’s First Smart Current Sink LED Backlighting Platform

Tue, 11/23/2010 - 10:25am
Semtech Corporation announced the industry’s first smart current sink LED backlighting platform with on-chip digital lighting effects for high-end handheld displays. This new platform incorporates Semtech’s patent-pending, smart Automatic Dropout Prevention (ADP) technology to enable a new-generation of high-quality current sink drivers that can replace boost converters and charge pumps in high-end handhelds, while providing high-quality display backlighting.

The new SC667 and SC668 current sinks with ADP technology reduce the total parts count and extend battery life compared to boost converters or charge pumps, and offer far superior illumination quality compared to conventional current sink drivers. Additionally, on-chip digital lighting effects provide the flexibility to incorporate fade, breathe and blink effects without changing the firmware.

White LEDs used in backlighting applications typically have a forward voltage up to 3.6V. When the battery voltage declines in portable devices, the supply voltage must be boosted to ensure the white LEDs have sufficient voltage to illuminate the display. Charge pump or inductive boost converter devices have typically been used to provide this voltage boost function. In an effort to maintain constant output power, these circuits increase current draw as the battery voltage declines, shortening battery life.

Improvements in white LEDs have resulted in forward voltages as low as 3.0V, reducing the threshold at which conventional LED drivers need to boost the battery voltage. Because of this, LED backlight drivers increasingly are operating in a non-boost mode, making current sink drivers an attractive alternative. Current sink drivers eliminate the capacitors and inductor associated with the boost circuitry, reducing component count, board size and system cost, with the added benefits of eliminating any switching noise and extending operating time.

Prior to the ADP approach, current sinks were not optimal for high-end handheld devices. This was because line transients caused by the heavy system loads (for example: RF transmission, camera, camera flash, Internet access) produced display flicker when these loads were enabled and disabled.

Semtech’s smart ADP topology eliminates this problem via automatic and simultaneous monitoring of each current sink to avoid dropout as the system loads turn on and off. Each time a current sink with ADP approaches dropout, the digital logic reduces the current setting for all of the backlight LEDs in small increments that are imperceptible to the human eye. This process continues until all current sinks have sufficient headroom to regulate their current at the reduced setting. When this point is reached, the ADP circuitry locks the current setting, thereby eliminating any display flicker.

The SC667 and SC668 are the first current sinks to incorporate ADP technology. These devices also integrate a number of functions to enable high-end features on portables, including an ambient light sensing/control circuit that sets backlight brightness based on surrounding lighting conditions. A PWM dimming interface that incorporates a digital low-pass filter is also included, providing the capability to perform content-adaptive brightness control (versus “always-on” illumination).

The SC668 provides eight current sinks, while the SC667 features seven current sinks plus an interrupt request indicator signal to tell the host processor when an ambient light threshold has been crossed.

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