Supercapacitor LED flash/torch controller IC helps overcome LED camera flash limitations

January 31, 2012 // By Paul Buckley
A supercapacitor LED flash/torch controller IC from STMicroelectronics claims to overcome the limitations of compact digital cameras and cameraphones to satisfy demands for increased power from the built-in flash unit while supporting more sophisticated user controls.

The STCF04, is an integrated camera flash and torch controller that raises the maximum power of an LED flash module from a few Watts, typical of today's designs, to over 40 Watts, producing the brightness equivalent to an outdoor security floodlight. The new device also provides extra flash and torch brightness controls, with eight user-selectable levels for the flash and 12 for the torch, as well as a light-sensor input. Flash and torch safety timers, temperature sensing and short-circuit protection features are also built in.

The STCF04 is used in a configuration combining a supercapacitor, a discrete high-current MOSFET switch and high-power white LEDs, and is ideal for use in emergency high-intensity flashing lights as well as camera and cameraphone applications.

The discrete MOSFET is the key to the STCF04's power advantage over other controllers that usually integrate a MOSFET of lower rating on the chip. Its extra power enables designers to provide the higher quantities of light energy required by today's high-Mpixel camera sensors by specifying an LED flash unit rather than a conventional high-power xenon flash, thereby gaining the advantage of a compact and simplified design.

Since ST began sampling the STCF04, two major partners – Murata which is leading producer of supercapacitors (MURATA) and OSRAM which is a top-tier supplier of flash modules for leading smartphone platforms have begun using the device to showcase the best capabilities of their latest products.

Availability and Pricing

Available in the 25-bump 3 x 3 mm TFBGA package, the STCF04 is currently sampling. Full production is planned at the end of Q1 2012 priced at $2.00 for orders of 1000 pieces.

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