One common and interesting application of LDR will be discussed in my next post.

Light dependent resistors or LDRs are often used in circuits where it is necessary to detect the presence or the level of light. They can be described by a variety of names from light dependent resistor, LDR, photoresistor, or even photo cell (photocell) or photoconductor.

A photoresistor or light dependent resistor (LDR) is a resistor whose resistance decreases with

increasing incident light intensity; in other words, it exhibits photoconductivity.
A photoresistor is made of a high resistance semiconductor. If light falling on the device is of high enough frequency, photons absorbed by the semiconductor give bound electrons enough energy to jump into the conduction band. The resulting free electron (and its hole partner) conduct electricity, thereby lowering resistance.

It is a passive light transducer. It is also called as photoconductive cell because its conductivity changes due to change in light intensity. It is supplied with external power supply. It works as follows – when light falls on it, its resistance decreases and when it is dark, its resistance becomes maximum. Thus, the change in its resistance is directly proportional to intensity of light falling on it. It is made up of photosensitive material like Cadmium Sulphide (CdS), Selenium (Se), Cadmium Selenide (CdSe) or Lead Sulphide (PbS). It is deposited on insulating surface like ceramic substrate in the form of zigzag wire as shown in above figure. It is enclosed in round metallic or plastic case and two terminals are taken out for external connections. The structure is covered with glass sheet to protect it from moisture and dust and allows only light to fall on it.

Although other devices such as photodiodes or photo-transistor can also be used, LDRs are a particularly convenient electronics component to use. They provide large change in resistance for changes in light level.

In view of their low cost, ease of manufacture, and ease of use LDRs have been used in a variety of different applications. At one time LDRs were used in photographic light meters, and even now they are still used in a variety of applications where it is necessary to detect light levels.

A schematic diagram of an LDR.

CdS :  Cadmium Sulphide

What is an LDR or light dependent resistor?

A photoresistor or light dependent resistor is a component that is sensitive to light. When light falls upon it then the resistance changes. Values of the resistance of the LDR may change over many orders of magnitude the value of the resistance falling as the level of light increases.

It is not uncommon for the values of resistance of an LDR or photoresistor to be several megohms in darkness and then to fall to a few hundred ohms in bright light. With such a wide variation in resistance, LDRs are easy to use and there are many LDR circuits available.

LDRs are made from semiconductor materials to enable them to have their light sensitive properties. Many materials can be used, but one popular material for these photoresistors is cadmium sulphide (CdS).

How does an LDR work?

It is relatively easy to understand the basics of how an LDR works without delving into complicated explanations. It is first necessary to understand that an electrical current consists of the movement of electrons within a material. Good conductors have a large number of free electrons that can drift in a given direction under the action of a potential difference. Insulators with a high resistance have very few free electrons, and therefore it is hard to make the them move and hence a current to flow.

An LDR or photoresistor is made any semiconductor material with a high resistance. It has a high resistance because there are very few electrons that are free and able to move – the vast majority of the electrons are locked into the crystal lattice and unable to move. Therefore in this state there is a high LDR resistance.

As light falls on the semiconductor, the light photons are absorbed by the semiconductor lattice and some of their energy is transferred to the electrons. This gives some of them sufficient energy to break free from the crystal lattice so that they can then conduct electricity. This results in a lowering of the resistance of the semiconductor and hence the overall LDR resistance.

The process is progressive, and as more light shines on the LDR semiconductor, so more electrons are released to conduct electricity and the resistance falls further.


Photoresistors come in many types. Inexpensive cadmium sulphide cells can be found in many consumer items such as camera light meters, street lights, clock radios, alarm devices, outdoor clocks, solar street lamps and solar road studs, etc.
They are also used in some dynamic compressors together with a small incandescent lamp or light emitting diode to control gain reduction and are also used in bed lamps, etc.
Lead sulphide (PbS) and indium antimonide (InSb) LDRs (light dependent resistor) are used for the mid infrared spectral region. Ge:Cu photoconductors are among the best far-infrared detectors available, and are used for infrared astronomy and infrared spectroscopy.



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