High efficiency white LEDs have advanced to the point where they can replace glow bulbs and other light sources not only as indicators, but also for illumination. While many of the claims made about the LEDs’ efficiency, light quality, lifetime and economy are mostly exaggeration, the truth is that for very low light levels they are now competitive. They have equal or slightly higher efficiency than a flashlight bulb, a longer lifetime, and are very much tougher. On the other hand, they are still far more expensive than a bulb, for a given light output.
The circuit is a self-oscillating boost converter, and I certainly cannot claim having invented it. It is ages old! I only did the detail design of this one, and optimized it in the course of one afternoon. It runs with a beautifully clean waveform, with all components except the LEDs staying completely cold to the touch. At this low power level, even that doesn’t guarantee a good efficiency, but I measured it at about 72%, which is quite good for a circuit operating from such a low voltage!