I bought some RGB power leds, o.a. a Cree XML. The spec/description at the (Chinese) site mentioned forward voltage of 3.3-3.9V. But when driving the led at that voltage I measure much less current than expected. ~0.150mA @ 3.9V instead of ~1A for the Cree led, and something similar for other leds with a max of 700mA. I need to go above 5V to get the full max current.

Do I misunderstand the meaning of forward voltage? Or is it happening more often that leds are supplied with higher voltage drops (than described).

I planned to use a 5V power supply and a current regulator (mosfet, resistor and transistor feedback) which requires and extra voltage of ~1.2V. This does not fit if forward voltage is that high.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ My answer to electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/353955/… discusses binning of LEDs to achieve consistency between samples. It won't explain the very high Vf but may help in some way. You should really test the LEDs using a current source rather than a voltage source. \$\endgroup\$
    – Transistor
    Feb 19, 2018 at 23:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Watch out for high-powered LED's. The 10 mm dome type on a ceramic plate often has 2 LED's in series, and another pair parallel to the first. Turn-on voltage is about 6 to 7 volts. They can do the same with RGB LED's except they have six connections instead of two. At full power they MUST be mounted to a large heat-sink with thermal epoxy. \$\endgroup\$
    – user105652
    Feb 19, 2018 at 23:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ How did you run these at the right voltage? With a variable power supply? Or did you use a current limiting resistor and measure the voltage across the LED? \$\endgroup\$
    – jonk
    Feb 19, 2018 at 23:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ If it's a chinese site then there's a decent chance the specs are simply wrong. There's also a good chance the part is not the part you think it is. \$\endgroup\$
    – user253751
    Feb 20, 2018 at 1:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I measured with voltage supply, but using limiting resistor, measuring voltage across the led and across the resistor (to get the current). I think I suffer from wrong specs at aliexpress. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2018 at 6:54

1 Answer 1


The Cree spec shows 2.9 - 3.5 V for 700 mA

enter image description here

You should be able to engineer a current controller that works at 5 V without any problems.
Perhaps something simple like this, though it will have a thermal variation of current which can be reduce by putting the NPN close the LED.


simulate this circuit – Schematic created using CircuitLab

  • \$\begingroup\$ Any suggestion for a current controller - must be very cheap (<$0.20) because I need to make many? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2018 at 6:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Added to the answer ....but <$0.20 seems a bit aggressive. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2018 at 15:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes it is ;-) Found a more-or-less similar schema on a blog. But that did not use a resistor R3. R3 will increase the voltage drop over R1, isn't it? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2018 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ R3 has no real effect but is simply a safety limit on base current. The base current is only uA. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 22, 2018 at 18:29

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