Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christmas lights ring oscillator

We set up a string of Christmas lights wrapped around a pine tree outside and plug it into an outlet with a dusk to dawn sensor so it will only turn on at dusk. After a windy day, some of the lights fell from the tree so we adjusted it in the evening. After adjustment, my son noticed that the lights turn on and off at a regular interval, which was strange since these lights are not flashing lights, but are supposed to be on all the time. It turns out one of the light bulb is too close to the light sensor on the outlet, thus tricking it to turn off since the outlet assumed it was dawn. Since it is now dark without the lights, the sensor assumes it is dusk and turns the light back on and so on and so on. Since there is a delay in the sensor, this resulted in the lights being turned on and off periodically. In essence, we have constructed a ring oscillator. A ring oscillator consists of a loop of an odd number of NOT logic gates. The number of stages and the delay in each stage of the logic gates determine the frequency of the oscillator. In our case, we have a single NOT gate represented by the dawn-to-dusk light sensor/outlet combination.