A voltage regulator is an electrical device whose sole purpose is to maintain a constant output voltage. It provides the desired output voltage regardless of any change in the input voltage or load conditions. Electronic circuits are dependent on voltage regulators since they require a stable voltage supply to avoid damage.
How does it work?
The voltage regulator uses the principle of a feedback control system. It relies upon negative feedback control loops.
As you can see, a reference voltage signal is provided to the comparator circuit along with the feedback signal from the controller. The comparator circuit compares both values and sends the error signal to the controller. The controller regulates the output voltage using the error signal from the comparator.
Types of Voltage Regulators
Throughout the world, voltage regulators are the most common electrical component in any machine or device. There are two fundamental types of voltage regulators:
A linear voltage regulator works like a voltage divider. The resistance of the linear regulator varies with the connected load and input voltage. Therefore, it is able to supply a constant voltage signal.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Linear regulators have a lot of advantages, for example, it provides a low ripple voltage that means less fluctuation in the output voltage signal. It has a fast response time. Moreover, it has low electromagnetic interference and less noise.
The efficiency of the linear voltage regulator is low and it dissipates a lot of heat so a heat sink is needed. It also requires more space. One of the main disadvantages is that the output voltage cannot exceed the input voltage.
Types of Linear Voltage Regulator
A shunt regulator is used for low-powered circuits. It works by directing the current away from the load and sending it into the ground. It provides a path from the input voltage to a variable resistor which is connected to the ground. It has a very low efficiency but since the wasted current has a very low value, it is neglected.
The operation of a series voltage regulator is dependent upon the variable component which is connected with the load. When the resistance of the variable component is changed, the voltage drop across the component also changes. Using this technique, the voltage across the load remains the same.
One of the main advantages is that since the variable component and the load are connected in series, the current flowing through them is the same. Thus, the load effectively uses the current. Which makes it more efficient than a shunt regulator.
Switching Voltage Regulators
Switching voltage regulators consist of a series device that is repeatedly switched on and off at a high frequency. The duty cycle is used to control the amount of charge supplied to the load. The duty cycle is controlled by a feedback system that is very similar to the one in the linear regulator. Switching regulators have a high efficiency because the load is either on or off which means it dissipates no energy when it is off.
The switching regulator is superior to the linear regulator when it comes to the output voltage. Because it can supply an output voltage signal which can be greater than the input voltage. Furthermore, it can even generate an opposite polarity voltage signal.
Types of Switching Regulators
Step Up Regulator
Also known as a boost regulator, Step up regulators generate a higher output voltage signal by increasing the input voltage signal. This type of regulator is most commonly used to power multiple LEDs.
Step Down Regulator
Step Down regulators are also called buck regulators. They supply a lower regulated output voltage signal from a higher unregulated input voltage signal.
Step Up/Step Down Regulator
The purpose of this regulator is to increase, decrease or invert the voltage signal. Moreover, it is also called a voltage inverter circuit. Opposite polarity is achieved by the forward and reverse biasing action of the diode. During the off-time, the circuit charges the capacitor and when the capacitor is fully charged, it supplies the opposite polarity output. The efficiency of this type of voltage regulator is very high.
Transistor Voltage Regulator
Zener diodes have a mode due to which it can act as a voltage regulator. This mode is known as the reverse breakdown voltage operation. During this mode, the Zener diode maintains constant output DC voltage signal while the AC ripple voltage signal is completely blocked.
Applications of Voltage Regulators
There are many applications of voltage regulators. One of the most common examples is the mobile charger. The adapter is supplied with an AC signal. However, the output voltage signal is a regulated DC signal.
Every power supply in the world uses a voltage regulator to provide the desired output voltage. Computers, televisions, laptops and all sorts of devices are powered using this concept.
Small electronic circuits rely on regulators to operate. Even the slightest fluctuation in voltage signal can damage the components of a circuit such as ICs.
When it comes to power generation systems, voltage regulators play an essential part in its operation. A solar power plant generates electricity based on the intensity of sunlight. It needs a regulator to ensure a regulated constant output signal.
Rheostats are resistors which are adjustable, and are used when applications require current adjustment or different resistance in an electrical circuit. Rheostats can adjust generator features, low lights, and start or stable the speed of electrical motors.
There are two things that affect the amount of current flowing into an electric circuit: the magnitude of the applied voltage and the overall resistance of that circuit. If the circuit resistance is lowered, the electric current flow that is passing through the circuit increases. Conversely, the electric current is limited if the circuit resistance is increased.
There is direct relation between the length of the wire to the resistance of the circuit. Increasing the length of the wire increases the resistance between in the circuit. Rheostats allows resistance to be changed, which in turn, either increases or decreases the current through the circuit. The need to add different resistors for varying resistances automatically disappears since a single rheostat can incorporate different resistances necessary for the circuit depending upon its range.
A rheostat is a wire wound variable resistor which has two connection points: one is a moving point and the other one is a fixed point. Similar to a potentiometer, some rheostats can have three connection points (A, B, and C) as shown in Figure 1, but still, only two of them are used. In such cases, there are two fixed points (A and C), only one of which is used, and the second connection point is the moving one (B).
Rheostats also have to bear large currents when compared with potentiometers. Therefore, rheostats are made up of wire wound resistors. They are mainly constructed by wrapping the Nichrome wire across a ceramic core. Such a core behaves as an insulator to the heat energy and does not permit it to flow through the rheostat.
Figure 1 explains the working principles of a rheostat. As mentioned above, rheostats work on the principle that the resistance of a certain track or wire depends upon its length. Let’s assume that we are using the fixed connection point A and the moving connection point B of the rheostat illustrated in Figure 1. The rheostat will offer minimum resistance to the circuit if the slider lies closer to point A, since the resistive coil length is at a minimum. Therefore, a large current can flow through the circuit in this case.
Similarly, the rheostat will offer maximum resistance if the slider lies closer to point C, as the resistive coil length is at its maximum. Hence, a tiny amount of current would flow through the circuit and a large part of the current would be opposed by the rheostat.
Now, let’s say that we are using the fixed connection point C and the moving connection point B. In this case, when the slider is made to lie near point C, the rheostat would offer minimum resistance and maximum current flow through the circuit. Likewise, when the slider is moved near to point A, the rheostat would offer maximum resistance and minimum current flow through the circuit.
Finally, it is important to know the maximum and minimum resistances necessary for your circuit. Rheostats have maximum and minimum resistance ratings, and thus, they cannot offer resistance outside their inherited range.
Now you may be wondering if there is a high point up to which the resistance may be decreased or elevated inside the rheostat. For all rheostats, they come with a resistance rating, for instance if 50kω is the rating of the rheostat, the minimum resistance it will deliver is zero and the maximum will be near 50kω.
Rheostats are used in situations where high voltage is needed to transmit electricity. They either work as a variable resistor or as a potential divider. An example of rheostats working as a variable resistor is in dimmers. Fan dimmers and light dimmers frequently use rheostats to control the variation of speed and the intensity of light respectively.
Rheostats are used to change the intensity of light when the lights are dim. The flow of electric current decreases through the bulb. If rheostats resistance is increased the light brightness is lessened. Similarly, The flow of electric current increases through the bulb. If rheostats resistance is increased, the light brightness is increased.
When the rheostat amplifies its resistance, the electric current through the bulb is reduced and the light dims. This same process would slow a ceiling or portable wall fan. Radios are equipped with rheostats to manage volume. Motor speeds can also be controlled through rheostats. They can also be used to control temperature in an oven, a heater or an apartment.
Rheostats also work as potential dividers. Wheatstone bridge applies the same potential dividing principle. Different types of resistive sensors use the potential dividing technique, strain gauges, light dependent resistors and thermistors. Rheostats can be used to measure the resistance of a sensor through a microcontroller. Rheostats can accomplish high voltage readings as well as accurate logic level shifting.
Rheostats are still a primary and common component to control the discharging of current in an electrical circuit. However, solid state devices like triacs and silicon-controlled rectifiers (SCR) have taken the place of rheostats. Rheostats are less efficient than a triac and are less reliable because of presence of mechanical components.
They are mostly when circuits need to be tuned or calibrated. High voltage power lines also use rheostats as potential dividers. Low current and high voltage induce minimal losses in power transmission. This helps supply electricity to millions of homes around the globe.
In the electronics industry, one of the most popular applications of semiconductor diodes is to convert alternating current (AC) signal of any frequency, which is typically 60 or 50 Hz, to a direct current (DC) signal. This DC signal can be used for powering electronic devices, rather than batteries. The circuit which converts the AC into DC signal commonly consists of a particular arrangement of interlocked diodes and is known as a rectifier. In power supply circuits, two types of rectifier circuits are commonly used — half-wave and full-wave. Half-wave rectifiers only permit one-half of the cycle through, whereas full-wave rectifiers permit both the top half and bottom half of the cycle through, while converting the bottom half to the same polarity as the top. This difference between them is shown in Figure 1.
Between the two types, the full-wave rectifier is more efficient as it uses the full cycle of the incoming waveform. There are two types of full-wave rectifiers — the center-tapped full-wave rectifier, which requires a center-tapped transformer, and the bridge rectifier, which does not need a center-tapped transformer. The bridge rectifier will be discussed in this article as it is the most popular and usually comes in preassembled modules, making them easier to use.
Bridge Rectifiers use four diodes that are arranged cleverly to convert the AC supply voltage to a DC supply voltage. The output signal of such a circuit is always of the same polarity regardless of the polarities of the input AC signal. Figure 2 depicts the circuit of a bridge rectifier with diodes interlocked in a bridge configuration. The AC signal is applied at the input terminals a and b, and the output is observed across the load resistor R1.
Let’s see how this rectifier circuit responds to an AC signal with changing polarities at every cycle:
Nonetheless, this output voltage of single polarity is not pure DC voltage, as it is pulsating and not a straight line in nature. This problem is quickly solved by connecting a capacitor in parallel with the load resistor as shown in Figure 3. In this new design, the positive half cycle will charge the capacitor via the diodes D2 and D3. And, during the negative half cycle, the capacitor will stop charging and will begin to discharge itself through the load resistor.
This process is known as filtration, and the capacitor acts as a filter. The capacitor has improved the pulsating nature of the output voltage, and it will now only have ripples. This waveform shape is now much closer to a pure DC voltage waveform. The waveform can be further improved by using other types of filters such as an L-C filter and pie filter.
The bridge rectifier just discussed is a single-phase type, however, it can also be extended to a three-phase rectifier. These two types can be further classified into full controlled, half controlled, or uncontrolled bridge rectifiers. The circuit that we just discussed is uncontrolled since we cannot control the biasing of the diode, but if all the four diodes are replaced with a thyristor, its biasing can be controlled by controlling its firing angle via its gate signal. It results in a fully controlled bridge rectifier. In a half controlled bridge rectifier, half of the circuit contains diodes, and the other half has thyristors.