Two-minute explainer: (In)visible random flicker


Date: 28-08-2017

One of the yardsticks for good LED design is that the electronic circuitry should not produce any perceptible flicker. Flicker is potentially harmful to health and can trigger migraines and epileptic fits – but the difficult word here is ‘perceptible’.


Typically, we expect flicker to be something that most of us can see, but that’s the easy part and easily remedied. More difficult is the flicker that is generated but cannot be seen except via testing equipment on the lab bench. Once that flicker is identified, then, again, it can be dealt with.


But what about the flicker that is not a regular feature of a circuit and only occurs when a particular set of circumstances comes together? And what if that set of circumstances varies from circuit to circuit? Welcome to the phenomenon that is (in)visible random flicker (VRF).


It sounds like the stuff of paranoia, searching for something that may not be there, but extensive testing by one of the UK’s major driver manufacturers has uncovered this effect in some of the latest generation integrated circuits (ICs) – and these from respectable manufacturers where build quality is not in question.


It appears that the effect is created when a specific conjunction of variables in the circuit come together; say, the output setting of a dimmer meets the internal algorithm of the IC that’s been built into the circuit of the driver. And, like the flat spot in an engine, the effect disappears by altering the variables – a change of speed, a shift of gear, the temperature of the engine . . . and all is well