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Project Notes

#133 BidirectionalLevelShifter

Test a basic bi-directional 5/3.3V level shifter circuit


Voltage level-shifting is commonly accomplished with this n-channel MOSFET trick. It is the basis of level-modules and interface circuits. Here I’m interfacing 3.3V and 5V circuits.

Sparkfun have a great page describing the technique, and Philips Application Note AN97055 goes into the mechanics.

This is essentially how the bi-directional switching of voltage levels occurs:

  • When neither side is pulling down the input, the gate voltage is pulled up to the low-side voltage .. 3.3V in this case. The FET is not conducting, since gate and source voltages are equal. So both source and rain are at their respective high voltages: source: 3.3V, drain: 5V.
  • When low-side (source) is pulled down low, the source voltage is less than the gate so the FET turns on, and so high-side drain is also pulled low.
  • When high-side (drain) is pulled down low, the drain-substrate diode causes the source to also pull low.

Note that “high” voltages are only nominally the 3.3V/5V rails … these change as soon as other circuit elements are connected. Buffer circuits could be included to isolate and preserve full rail-to-rail swings on either side.

This circuit is a simple demonstration of a switch in the 5V circuit controlling a load (LED + resistor) in the 3.3V circuit. The circuit could be mirrored to demonstrate the bi-directional switching.



The Schematic

The Build

Credits and References

About LEAP#133 FET
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LEAP is my personal collection of electronics projects, usually involving an Arduino or other microprocessor in one way or another. Some are full-blown projects, while many are trivial breadboard experiments, intended to learn and explore something interesting (IMHO!).

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