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555 Oscillator Applications

The maximum output to either sink or source the load current via pin 3 of 555 is about 200mA and this value is more than enough to drive or switch other logic IC's, a few LED's or a small lamp etc and that we would need to use a bipolar transistor or MOSFET to amplify the 555's output to drive larger current loads such as motor or relays. But the 555 Oscillator can be used in a wide range of waveform generator circuits and applications that require very little output current such as in electronic test equipment for producing a whole range of different output test frequencies from very accurate sine, square and pulse waveforms or as LED or lamp flashers and dimmers to simple noise making circuits such as metronomes, tone and sound effects generators and even musical toys for Christmas. We could very easily build a simple 555 oscillator circuit to flash a few LED's "ON" and "OFF", but one very nice and simple to build project using an astable based 555 oscillator is that of an Electronic Metronome. Metronomes are devices used to mark time in pieces of music by producing a regular and recurring musical beat or click. A simple electronic metronome can be made using a 555 oscillator as the main timing device and by adjusting the output frequency of the oscillator the tempo or "Beats per Minute" can be set. A tempo of 60 beats per minute means that one beat will occur every second and in electronics terms that equates to 1Hz. So by using some very common musical definitions we can easily build a table of the different frequencies required for our metronome circuit as shown below.

Metronome Frequency Table

Musical Definition Larghetto Andante Moderato Allegro Presto Rate Very Slow Slow Medium Fast Very Fast Beats per Minute 60 90 120 150 180 Cycle Time (T) 1sec 666ms 500ms 400ms 333ms Frequency 1.0Hz 1.5Hz 2.0Hz 2.5Hz 3.0Hz

The output frequency range of the metronome was simply calculated as the reciprocal of 1 minute or 60 seconds divided by the number of beats per minute required, for example (1/(60 secs / 90 bpm) = 1.5Hz) and 120bpm is equivalent to 2Hz, and so on. So by using our now familiar equation above for calculating the output frequency of an astable 555 oscillator circuit the individual values of R1, R2 and C can be found.

The time period of the output waveform for an astable 555 Oscillator is given as: For our electronic metronome circuit, the value of the timing resistor R1 can be found by rearranging the equation above to give.

Assuming a value for resistor R2 = 1k and capacitor C = 10uF the value of the timing resistor R1 for our frequency range is given as 71k6 at 60 beats per minute to 23k5 at 180 beats per minute, so a variable resistor (potentiometer) of 100k would be more than enough for the metronome circuit to produce the full range of beats required and some more. Then the final circuit for our electronic metronome example would be given as:

555 Electronic Metronome

This metronome circuit demonstrates just one simple way of using a 555 oscillator to produce an audible sound or note. It uses a 100k potentiometer to control the full range of output pulses or beats, and as it has a 100k value it can be easily calibrated to give an equivalent percentage value corresponding to the position of the potentiometer. For example, 60 beats per minute equals 71.6k or 72% rotation. Likewise, 120 beats per minute equals 35.6k or 35% rotation, etc. Additional resistors or trimmer's can be connected in series with the potentiometer to pre-set the outputs upper and lower limits to predefined values, but these additional components will need to be taken into account when calculating the output frequency or time period. While the above circuit is a very simple and amusing example of sound generation, it is possible to use the 555 Oscillator as a noise generator/synthesizer or to make musical sounds, tones and alarms by constructing a variable-frequency, variable-mark/space ratio waveform generator. In this tutorial we have used just a single 555 oscillator circuit to produce a sound but by cascading together two or more 555 oscillator chips, various circuits can be constructed to produce a whole range of musical effects such as the police car "Dee-Dah" siren given in the example below.

555 Oscillator Police "Dee-Dah" Siren

The circuit simulates a warble-tone alarm signal that simulates the sound of a police siren. IC1 is connected as a 2Hz non-symmetrical astable multivibrator which is used to frequency modulate IC2 via the 10k resistor. The output of IC2 alternates symmetrically between 300Hz and 660Hz taking 0.5 seconds to complete each alternating cycle.


This circuit uses a mixture of transistors, an IC and a relay and is used to automatically open and close a pair of curtains. Using switch S3 also allows manual control, allowing curtains to be left only partially open or closed. The circuit controls a motor

that is attached to a simple pulley mechanism, to move the curtains. Automatic Operation The circuit can be broken into three main parts; a bi-stable latch, a timer and a reversing circuit. Toggle switch S3 determines manual or automatic mode. The circuit as shown above is drawn in the automatic position and operation is as follows. The bi-stable is built around Q1 and Q2 and associated circuitry and controls relay A/2. S1 is used to open the curtains and S2 to close the curtains. At power on, a brief positive pulse is applied to the base of Q2 via C2. Q2 will be on, and activate relay A/2. The network of C3 and R4 form a low current holding circuit for the relay. Relay A/2 is a 12V relay with a 500 ohm coil. It requires slightly less current to keep it energized than it does to operate it. Once the relay has operated, the current through the coil is reduced by R4, saving power consumption. When Q2 is off, C3 will be discharged, but when Q2 becomes active (either at switch-on or by pressing S1) capacitor C3 will charge

very quickly via the relay coil. The initial charging current is sufficient to energize the relay and current flow through R4 sufficient to keep it energized. CAR TACHOMETER Circuit
A 555 is configured as a monostable or one shot in this project. The period of the 555 is determined by the 47k and the capacitor from pin 6 to ground (100n). Time "T" = 1.1 RC or 1.1 X 50,000 X 0.1 X10 -6 = 0.0055 or 5.5 mS (milli-seconds). The 555 receives trigger pulses from the distributor points. These are limited by the 1k and 5v zener diode. These are AC coupled to the trigger input through the 100n coupling capacitor. The 50mA meter receives pulses of current through the 200k pot to show a reading.

Integration of the current pulses produces a visible indication of the cars engine speed on the 0-1mA meter. Supply is taken from the cars 12v system and for the 555 it is reduced to a regulated 9v by the 15 ohm resistor in conjunction with the 9v zener diode. Note: the 10u electrolytic must be placed physically as close as possible to supply pin 8. The 555 is capable of sinking and sourcing up to 200mA, but it gets very hot when doing this on a 12v supply. The following circuit shows the maximum number of white LEDs that can be realistically driven from a 555 and we have limited the total current to about 130mA as each LED is designed to pass about 17mA to 22mA maximum. A white LED drops a characteristic 3.2v to 3.6v and this means only 3 LEDs can be placed in series.


This circuit mimics the lights in knight rider's car. They flash one at a time chasing each other.

In the Knight Rider circuit, the 555 is wired as an oscillator (Astable mode). The output of the 555 is directly connected to the input of a 4017 decade counter. The input of the 4017 counter is called the CLOCK line. The 10 outputs Q0 to Q9 become active, one at a time, on the rising edge of the waveform from the 555. Each output can deliver about 20mA but a LED should not be connected to the output without a currentlimiting resistor (100R or 220R). Using six 3mm LEDs, the display can be placed in the front of a model car to give a very realistic effect. The same outputs can be taken to driver transistors to produce a larger version of the display. Schematic

This circuit consumes 22mA while only delivering 7mA to each LED. The outputs are fighting each other via the 100R resistors (except outputs Q0 and Q5). Parts 1x NE555 Bipolar Timer 6x LED (Red) 8x 100 Resistor (1/4W) 2x 220 Resistor (1/4W) 1x 1K Resistor (1/4W) 1x 68K Resistor (1/4W) 1x 3.3F Electrolytic Capacitor (16V) 1x 4017 Decoded Decade Counter 1x 9V Voltage battery


This circuit produces a sound very similar to a machine gun:


This circuit detects metal and also magnets. When a magnet is brought close to the 10mH choke, the output frequency changes.


This circuit produces 10 different tones and by selecting suitable values to change the voltage on pin 5, the result can be quite pleasing. Note: the two unused outputs of the 4017 produce a tone equal to that produced by the 555 when pin 5 has no external control voltage.


This circuit flashes the left LEDs 3 times then the right LEDs 3 times, then repeats. Overview

This circuit uses a 555 timer which is setup to both runn in an Astable operating mode. This generates a continuous output via Pin 3 in the form of a square wave. When the timer's output changes to a high state this triggers the a cycle on the 4017 4017 decade counter telling it to output the next sequential output high. The outputs of the 4017 are connected to the LEDs turning them on and off. Schematic


This circuit can be used to manually turn a servo clockwise and anti-clockwise. By pushing the forward or reverse button for a short period of time you can control the rotation of the servo. It will also test a servo. Here is a photo of a kit from Cana Kit for $10.00 plus postage (it is a slightly different circuit) and a motor and gearbox, commonly called a "servo." The output shaft has a disk or wheel containing holes. A linkage or push-rod is fitted to a hole and when the disk rotates, the shaft is pushed and pulled. The shaft only rotates about 180 to actuate flaps or ailerons etc.

A pot can be used to control the position of the servo by using the following circuit. It produces a positive pulse between about 0.9 milliseconds and 2.1 milliseconds. The off period between pulses is about 40 milliseconds. This can be shortened by reducing the value of the 3M3 resistor.

ZENER DIODE TESTER Circuit This circuit will test zener diodes up to 56v. See Talking Electronics website, left index, 200 Transistor Circuits (circuits 1-100) and go to Zener Diode

(making) to see how to make a zener diode and how to create a zener voltage from a combination of zeners. Place the zener across the terminals in the circuit below and read the value across it with a multimeter set to 50v range.



A voltage higher than the supply can be created by a "Charge-Pump" circuit created with a 555, diodes and capacitors as shown in the following circuit. The output will deliver about 50mA

This circuit creates a rotating LED that starts very fast when a finger touches the TOUCH WIRES. When the finger is removed, the rotation slows down and finally stops.