Measuring Light With ChipKIT

light meter showing LUX value

How does one go about measuring the amount of light in a given area? With a Light Meter of course! Maintaining proper lighting levels can be very important in places like schools, hospitals and even your own workbench.

[Raj] over at Embedded Labs has put together an excellent tutorial on how to construct your very own light meter based upon the chipKIT platform. The chipKIT Uno32 is similar to Arduino, but boasts a much more powerful PIC32MX320F128 microcontroller.  We’ve seen projects that feature the chipKIT Uno (pdf warning) here before. From playing pong to hosting several temperature sensors, it’s certainly a versatile platform.

The light meter uses an I/O shield and communicates to a BH1750FVI digital light sensor via I2C. The firmware divides the raw data coming off the sensor by a constant, and displays the light intensity data on an OLED display in Lux, foot-candles, and Watts/m^2 units. Be sure to check out the tutorial for full schematics and source.

Light-sensing circuit for power saving applications


Instructables user [MacDynamo] was thinking about home security systems and wondered how much electricity is being wasted while such systems are powered on, but not activated. He pondered it awhile, then designed a circuit that could be used to turn a security system on or off depending on the time of day, but without using any sort of clock.

His system relies on a 555 timer configured as a Schmitt trigger, with a photoresistor wired to the reset pin. When the ambient light levels drop far enough, the resistance on the reset pin increases, and the 555 timer breaks out of its reset loop. This causes the circuit to power on whatever is connected to it. When the sun rises, the resistance on the reset pin drops and the 555 timer continually resets until it gets dark again. He notes that this behavior can be easily reversed if you were to put the photoresistor on the trigger pin rather than the reset pin.

We like the idea, though we are a bit wary about using this for any sort of real security system. An errant insect or debris could cause the system to be turned on, and we’d feel pretty foolish if someone disabled our alarm with a flashlight. That said, this sort of circuit still has plenty of practical, power-saving applications outside the realm of home security.


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