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Copyright © 2000

1728 Software Systems

IMPORTANT !!! DO NOT use wall current !!! ALL of these circuits can be built using batteries (dry cells) only !!! If you have no experience with wiring OR if you want suggestions on what supplies to buy, click here.
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Part One "Basic Electricity", dealt mainly with switches. Now, in Part 2, we are going to discuss a special kind of switch - the relay.
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Notice in the above diagram that a relay uses an electromagnet. This is a device consisting of a coil of wire wrapped around an iron core. When electricity is 1/7

1728. Military & OEM applications and V2. At this point you might be wondering about the purpose of all this. Photometric SPDT switch controlled by the electromagnet. OEM/ODM welcome then the A and C terminals are connected. Why switch an electromagnet just so it can control another switch? Why not just use one regular switch? One important application is illustrated in the diagram below. electricity is disconnected. The solenoid electromagnet consists of wire wrapped around a tube containing an iron cylinder called a "plunger".pnicorp. are connected. the "plunger" moves through the tube and activates a switch. the electromagnet www. www. When electricity is supplied to the wire coil. When the Pyranometer. coils at good A B and C terminals are an performance.licor. The Hundred of applied to the coil of wire it becomes magnetic. hence Rosy Electronics Products the term electromagnet. It is important to note that the electromagnet is magnetically linked to the switch but the two are NOT linked electrically.htm 2/7 .rosy. http://www.4/20/2012 BASIC ELECTRICITY TUTORIAL . When PNI Digital Compasses electricity is applied to V1 Low power navigation solutions for There is another type of relay called a solenoid that basically works on the same acts upon the SPDT switch so that the B and C terminals LI-COR Light Sensors Research Grade Quantum (PAR).

the use of a solenoid is the most practical solution. http://www. We could use thick battery cables for the ignition wires and use a heavy duty ignition switch. So why do we need this solenoid "middle man" ? Couldn't we just eliminate it and connect the ignition wires to the + battery terminal and the other wire to the starter motor? The important point here is that the electromagnet is using a small amount of current to control a large amount of current to the starter motor. After starting the car for just a few times. Do you think it would be easy to squeeze cables into the steering column and to squeeze in a heavy duty ignition switch too? NOTE: the symbol indicates a ground connection. the wires and the switch would be in bad shape. using the automobile itself as one "side" of a circuit saves a tremendous amount of wire. When the ignition key is turned all the way to the "start" position.) Connecting the ignition wires to the battery and then to the starter motor would cause these thin wires to conduct much more current than they were designed for. We do have a second choice. (The same would hold true for the ignition switch). (Remember that the electromagnet and the switch are NOT connected electrically).4/20/2012 BASIC ELECTRICITY TUTORIAL .1728. you will notice they are quite thick.htm 3/7 . This isn't very practical either. Since a great percentage of an automobile consists of metal. Have you noticed that all of the wires (except the ignition wires) are purposely drawn with thick lines? The reason being that some circuits (such as the starter) in a car require a tremendous amount of current. it allows electricity to flow to the starter solenoid (relay) which then connects the battery to the starter motor. These wires would become very hot and the insulation would start to smoke. (If you look at an automobile's battery cables.

then (because the alarm loop is unbroken) it goes to C and finally to the positive battery terminal. After all. causing the SPDT switch to make contact with terminal B. This is NOT recommended for any serious alarm system. Now let's suppose that the alarm loop is broken. What possible application requires such an odd switching arrangement? How about a burglar alarm? Referring to the above diagram. Alarm Circuit 1 does suffer from one serious flaw. The siren then goes off ! Is there a http://www. it causes the switch contact to break and then the alarm will sound. goes to V1 then V2. Can you see what it is? If the alarm loop is reconnected. ***************************************** Another practical use of relays is for switching one circuit 'on' when another circuit has been switched 'off' or broken.htm 4/7 .org/project3. if a door with a magnetic switch is forced open. the siren shuts off. Perhaps one or more magnetic switches could be wired in series in the alarm loop and when one magnet moves. it can easily be seen that electricity flows from the negative battery terminal. all a burglar would have to do is close the door. Since the alarm loop wire connects points 'V2' to 'C'. the siren does NOT sound because there is NO current going to point A. Because of this. let's trace the electrical flow. The wire does not necessarily have to be cut to trigger the alarm. a 9 volt electronic siren (or buzzer) and a 9 volt SPDT relay.1728. we recommend using a 9 volt battery.4/20/2012 BASIC ELECTRICITY TUTORIAL . current is flowing through the electromagnet.RELAYS ***************************************** For the next circuits. The electricity is now flowing across points C and A to the siren and NOT the electromagnet. In this circuit.

see Part I). reconnecting the alarm loop no longer causes current to flow through the electromagnet. this type of circuit is called a supervised alarm system. What happens when current is applied to this circuit? The siren sounds off immediately and stays on continuously. You can easily see that the alarm could be 'sabotaged' in a number of ways if unauthorized persons had access to it. What happens if the alarm loop is reconnected? The siren still blasts away. in a real world application. an alarm would be http://www. in real world applications. Unlike Circuit 1. which attracts the switch to point B. Also. etc. a wire might be broken. All right! In the 'real world'. the alarm sounds.). By using a scrap of wire. Therefore. Break the alarm loop. Incidentally. The only way to activate the electromagnet is by connecting points B and C. you would know something was wrong (a door might be open. the power supply (battery) and the siren should be inaccessible to everyone except those authorized to 'arm' and 'disarm' it. Hmmm. you would never be able to arm it. that sure seems like an annoying alarm (Did Tim Conway's father wire it? If you don't get this joke. As long as the alarm loop remains unbroken the alarm remains silent. temporarily connect point B to point C.4/20/2012 BASIC ELECTRICITY TUTORIAL . Now for the 'beauty' of this clever circuit. Temporarily connecting points B and C causes current to flow through the electromagnet.RELAYS better way to wire an alarm? Sure. Alarm Circuit 2 looks very similar to Circuit 1.htm 5/7 . the only difference being that one side of the alarm loop now goes to point B instead of point C. the relay. Now that's a much better alarm circuit! Let's see how it works. If you break the alarm loop. Why? If the alarm loop were to be broken. the siren sounds once again. The alarm shuts off immediately. if the alarm cannot be armed.

Mechanical relays do have their disadvantages when compared to an SSR: 1) switching is much slower http://www. the same power supply probably would not operate the alarm loop as well as the warning circuit. As is the case with many mechanical devices being replaced by their electronic equivalents. Though inexpensive and consisting of only 3 parts. relays are being "phased out" by Solid State Relays (SSR's). And good luck with the project !!! ***************************************** Just a few more words about relays. (Yes. you could add some magnetic switches to the alarm loop but remember this will increase the cost very quickly).4/20/2012 BASIC ELECTRICITY TUTORIAL . do some further research on relays. One more circuit should be shown because in real life.1728. The arming process would probably be done with a key switch. The alarm might also have flashing lights.htm 6/7 . By all means. we would recommend Alarm Circuit 2. The circuits shown are for demonstration and educational purposes only and NOT meant to be used in place of professional alarm systems. alarms and so on.RELAYS much more complex than the one shown here. As far as building a science project. Circuit 2 demonstrates some important electrical concepts. an automatic phone dialer to the police and so on. which probably could be built for about $5. The diagram for such an arrangement is shown below in Alarm Circuit

their one advantage is their ability to switch high voltage and high current circuits.4/20/2012 1) switching is much slower 2) the contacts wear out 3) they make noise when they switch 4) their magnetic fields can cause problems for nearby components Presently. At least mechanical relays can easily demonstrate the principles of electrical/electronic switching.1728.RELAYS RETURN TO HOME PAGE Copyright © 2000 1728 Software Systems http://www. BASIC ELECTRICITY TUTORIAL .htm 7/7 . (the automobile starter solenoid for example).org/project3. No doubt with time. even this will be surpassed by the SSR.