+/– Voltage On Bargraph Display

The LM3914 is a truly versatile component. Besides LEDs, only a few other components are needed to make the ‘bidirectional’ bargraph voltmeter shown here. The circuit is similar to a conventional bar display, but it offers a possibility to change the direction in which the LEDs are switched on. This may be useful, for example, when positive and negative voltages are measured. For a positive input voltage, the LEDs are switched on in the usual manner, that is, from D3 to D12, while for negative voltages, the LEDs are switched on in the opposite direction, from D12 to D3. Obviously, the negative voltage must be ‘rectified’, i.e. inverted, before the measurement.

A suitable circuit for this purpose is presented in the article ‘Absolute-value meter with polarity detector’ elsewhere in this website. A set of transistor switches (MOSFETs) controls the direction in which the LEDs light. When the control voltage is high (+6V, according to the schematics, but any voltage that is at least 3V higher than reference voltage will do), T1 and T4 are switched on, while the other two MOSFETs are off. In this way, the LM3194 is configured in the usual manner with the top end of the resistor network connected to the internal voltage reference and the low end connected to ground.

+/– Voltage On Bargraph Display
As the input voltage rises, the comparators inside the LM3914 will cause the indicator LEDs to be switched on one by one, starting with D3. When the control voltage is lower than about –3V, T2 and T3 are switched on while T1 and T4 are off. Consequently, the ends of the resistor network are connected the other way around: the top end goes to ground and the low end, to the reference voltage. The first LED to be switched on will then be D12; i.e., the LEDs that forms the bargraph display light in the opposite direction. Although not documented by the manufacturer of the LM3914, this option works well, but only in bar mode (in dot mode, internal logic disables any lower-numbered LEDs when a higher-numbered LED s on, which obviously conflicts with our purposes).

To achieve good symmetry, an adjustable resistor is added to the voltage divider in the LM3914. Using a DVM, adjust the preset until the voltage across P1+R4 equals 1/11th part of Urefout. Sensitivity is determined with the ratio of resistors R5 and P2. If, for example, the reference voltage is set to 2.2 V by means of P2, there will be a voltage drop of 200 mV per resistor in the ladder network (including R4-P1). So, the first LED will switch on when the input voltage exceeds 200 mV, the second, at 400 mV, and so on, and the whole display will be on at 2 V. The circuit draws about 100 mA when all LEDs are switched on.

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