Linear Voltage Regulator Operation
Every electronic circuit is designed to operate off of some supply voltage, which isusually assumed to be constant. A voltage regulator provides this constant DCoutput voltage and contains circuitry that continuously holds the output voltage at thedesign value regardless of changes in load current or input voltage (this assumesthat the load current and input voltage are within the specified operating range forthe part).
The Basic Linear Regulator
A linear regulator operates by using a voltage-controlled current source to force afixed voltage to appear at the regulator output terminal (see Figure 1).The control circuitry must monitor (sense) the output voltage, and adjust the currentsource (as required by the load) to hold the output voltage at the desired value. Thedesign limit of the current source defines the maximum load current the regulatorcan source and still maintain regulation.The output voltage is controlled using a feedback loop, which requires some type ofcompensation to assure loop stability. Most linear regulators have built-incompensation, and are completely stable without external components. Someregulators (like Low-Dropout types), do require some external capacitanceconnected from the output lead to ground to assure regulator stability.Another characteristic of
linear regulator is that it requires a finite amount of timeto "correct" the output voltage after a change in load current demand. This "time lag"defines the characteristic called
, which is a measure of how fastthe regulator returns to steady-state conditions after a load change.
FIGURE 1. LINEAR REGULATOR FUNCTIONAL DIAGRAM