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The 555

The 555 IC is one of the simplest and most rugged IC's on the market. It has been used in
thousands of applications and is extremely popular. This discussion will cover its numerous
modes of operation and present a number of circuits for these applications.
However I must point out one thing.
The 555 is not suited for battery applications and it is not really suited for combining with some
types of CMOS circuitry. The 555 is a very noisy chip and has a very nasty internal feature called
"crow-bar effect" that can put a lot of noise on the power rails of a circuit.
Its operation as an oscillator can be done by other chips and we have provided some alternatives
in the notes. The 555 has a number of derivatives that offer improvements (such as low-power,
low voltage, high speed operation) and these will also be covered.
This is the first time a number of comparisons and alternatives have been provided in a
discussion and this is needed for you to get a complete picture of its suitability for a particular
project. There are cheaper and better chips to carry out identical operations to a 555 and we
will leave it to you to decide.

THE 555 TIMER IC
The 555 is commonly called a TIMER IC. It is an 8-pin chip and has a number of different
identifications: LM555CN from National and SE555/NE555 from Signetics are just two
manufacturers. These numbers all refer to the most common and cheapest version, we will call
the 555.
The 555 contains more than 28 transistors and it is basically a chip containing a number of
building blocks that end up very similar to an oscillator without the TIMING COMPONENTS. It
needs two or three external components to produce an oscillator capable of operating at a
frequency from 1Hz to 500kHz. When it oscillates at a frequency less than 1Hz, the circuit is
called a Timer or Delay. The chip also has a pin (pin 2) that prevents the chip from starting the
Timing cycle until it is taken LOW. Another pin (pin 4) stops the chip from oscillating (or
continuing with a delay-time) when it is taken LOW and a pin (pin 5) that can adjust the markspace ratio of the waveform.
The diagrams below show the names of each pin and a simplified block diagram of the internal
workings.

THE FUNCTION OF EACH PIN
Pin 1 Ground
The ground (or common) pin is connected to the 0v rail - commonly called the negative rail or
EARTH rail.

Pin 2 Trigger

This pin connects to the lower comparator and is used to set the control flip flop. When it is
taken LOW, it causes the output to go HIGH. This is the beginning of the timing sequence for a
monostable operation. Triggering is accomplished by taking the pin below 1/3 of rail voltage - in
digital terms, this is called a LOW. The action of the trigger input is level-sensitive, allowing
slow rate-of-change waveforms, (as well as pulses), to be used as trigger sources. The trigger
pulse must be of shorter duration than the time interval determined by external R and C. If this
pin is held low for a longer period of time, the output will remain high until the trigger input is
high again.
If the trigger input remains lower than 1/3 rail voltage for longer than the timing cycle, the
timer will re-trigger upon termination of the first output pulse. When the timer is used in
monostable mode with trigger pulses longer than the output pulse, the trigger duration must be
shortened by external circuitry.
The minimum pulse-width for reliable triggering is about 10uS. If this pin is kept LOW, the output
remains HIGH and a high on pin 6 (Threshold) will not force the output LOW. In other words the
trigger pin is the dominant pin.

Pin 3 Output
The output of the 555 comes from a high-current totem-pole stage. This provides both sinking
and sourcing current. The high-state output voltage is about 1.7 volts less than the supply.
At 15 volt supply, the chip can sink 200mA with an output-low voltage level of 2 volts. High-state
level is 13.3 volts. Both rise and fall times of the output waveform are quite fast, typical
switching being 100nS.
To make the output HIGH, the TRIGGER PIN (pin 2) is momentarily taken from a HIGH to a LOW.
This causes the output to go HIGH. This is the only way the output can be made to go high.
The output can be returned to a LOW by making the THRESHOLD PIN (Pin 6) go from a LOW to a
HIGH.
The output can also be made to go LOW by taking the RESET PIN to a LOW state.

Pin 4 Reset

This pin is used to make the OUTPUT PIN (Pin 3)LOW. The reset pin must go below 0.7 volt and it
needs 0.1mA to reset the chip.
The RESET PIN is an overriding function. It will force the OUTPUT PIN to go LOW regardless of
the state of the TRIGGER PIN (Pin 2). It can be used to terminate an output pulse prematurely, to
gate oscillations from "on" to "off." The pin is active when a voltage level between 0v and 0.4
volt is applied to it. When not used, it is recommended that the RESET PIN be tied to the
positive rail to avoid the possibility of false resetting.

Pin 5 Control Voltage

This pin allows direct access to the 2/3 voltage-divider point. This is the reference level for the
upper comparator.
When the 555 timer is used in a voltage-controlled mode, the voltage-controlled operation
ranges from about 1 volt below rail-voltage to 2 volts above ground (0v). Voltages can be safely
applied outside these limits, but they should be confined to between 0v and rail voltage.
By applying a voltage to this pin, it is possible to vary the timing of the chip independently of
the RC network. The control voltage may be varied from 45 to 90% of the Vcc in the monostable
mode, making it possible to control the width of the output pulse independently of RC. When
used in the astable mode, the control voltage can be varied from 1.7v to the full Vcc. Varying
the voltage in the astable mode will produce a frequency modulated (FM) output.
If the control-voltage pin is not used, it should be bypassed to ground, with a 10n capacitor to
prevent noise entering the chip.

Pin 6 Threshold

Pin 6 is one input to the upper comparator (the other is pin 5). It makes the OUTPUT PIN go
LOW.
To make the output go LOW, the Threshold pin is taken from a LOW to a level above 2/3 of rail
voltage. This pin is level-sensitive, allowing slow rate-of-change waveforms to be detected.
A dc current, termed the threshold current, must also flow into this pin from the external
circuit. This current is typically 0.1µA, and will determine the upper limit of total resistance
allowable from pin 6 to rail. For 5v operation the resistance is 16M. For 15v operation, the
maximum resistance is 20M.

Pin 7 Discharge
This pin is connected to the open collector of an NPN transistor. The emitter goes to ground.
When the transistor is turned "on,'" pin 7 is effectively shorted to ground. The timing capacitor is
connected between pin 7 and ground and is discharged when the transistor turns "on". The
conduction state of this transistor is identical in timing to that of the output stage. It is "on" (low
resistance to ground) when the output is LOW and "off" (high resistance to ground) when the
output is HIGH.
Maximum collector current is internally limited by design, so that any size capacitor can be used
without damage to the chip. In certain applications, this open collector output can be used as an
auxiliary output terminal, with current-sinking capability similar to the OUTPUT (pin 3).

Pin 8 Rail

This pin (also referred to as Vcc) is the positive supply voltage pin for the 555. Supply-voltage
operating range is +4.5 volts to +16 volts. The chip will operate over this voltage range without
change in timing period. The only change is the output drive capability, which increases in
current as the supply voltage is increased.

USING THE 555
A 555 can be wired:
1. As a TIMER (monostable operation - also called a DELAY),
2. As an OSCILLATOR (also called a MULTIVIBRATOR - or astable operation)
3. As a ONE-SHOT (also called monostable operation).
The 555 IC is an extremely popular IC. It is simple to use and very rugged. It comes in a single,
dual or quad package with part numbers such as LM555, NE555, LM556, NE556. It is ideal for
astable (free-running) oscillators as well as the one-shot monostable mode.
The 555 can be triggered and reset on falling waveforms and the output can source or sink up to
200mA. The HIGH output is about 1.7v less than supply. The NE555 operates 3v - 16v DC.
Maximum operating frequency is 500kHz.

THE 7555
7555 is a CMOS version of the 555. It is exactly the same as the 555 but consumes less power.
The 555 consumes 10mA, while the 7555 consumes 80uA (1/120th). The CMOS version comes
with different identifications according to the manufacturer.
LMC555 or LM555CN is made by National Semiconductors, TLC555 is made by Texas
Instruments,ICM7555 is supplied by Philips, ZSCT1555 comes from Zetex and ICM7555 is made
by Maxim. The main feature to note is the inclusion of the number "7" or the letter "C" to
identify the CMOS version.
They use less power than the older (555, NE555, LM555) versions and don't require a capacitor on
the control pin. Although pin and functionally compatible, the component values differ between
the low-power CMOS and older versions.
The Exar XR-L555 timer is a micro-power version of the standard 555 offering a direct, pin-forpin substitute with the advantage of lower power operation. It is capable of operation from 2.7v
to 18v. At 5v, the L555 will consume about 900 microwatts, making it ideally suitable for battery
operated circuits. The internal schematic of the L555 is similar to the standard 555 but with
current-spiking filtering, lower output drive capability, higher nodal impedances, and better
noise reduction system

USING THE 7555

The ICM7555 is a CMOS timer providing significantly improved performance over the standard
NE/SE555 timer, while at the same time being a direct replacement in most applications.
Improved parameters include low supply current, wide operating supply voltage range, low
THRESHOLD, TRIGGER, and RESET currents, no crow-barring of the supply current during output
transitions, higher frequency performance and no requirement to decouple CONTROL VOLTAGE
for stable operation.
The ICM7555 is a stable controller capable of producing accurate time delays or frequencies.
In the one-shot mode, the pulse width of each duration is precisely controlled by one external
resistor and capacitor.
For astable operation as an oscillator, the free-running frequency and the duty cycle are both
accurately controlled by two external resistors and one capacitor. Unlike the bipolar 555 device,
the CONTROL VOLTAGE pin does not have to be decoupled with a capacitor.
The output can source or sink currents large enough to drive TTL loads or provide minimal
offsets to drive CMOS loads. Maximum output current 50 – 80mA.
• Exact equivalent in most applications for NE/SE555
• Low supply current: 80µA (typical)
• Extremely low trigger, threshold, and reset currents: 20pA (typical)
• High-speed operation: 500kHz guaranteed
• Wide operating supply voltage: 3v to 16v
• Normal reset function. No crow-barring of supply during output transition
• Can be used with higher-impedance timing elements than the bipolar 555 for longer
time constants
• Timing from microseconds to hours
• Operates in both astable and monostable modes
• Adjustable duty cycle
• Output source/sink driver can drive TTL/CMOS. Maximum output current 50 - 80mA.
• Typical temperature stability of 0.005%/°C at 25°C
• Rail-to-rail outputs
An improvement on the CMOS 7555 is the ZSCT1555 from Zetex. It is guaranteed to work down to
to 0.9 volts with bipolar technology. It has been designed for portable applications, by offering
single battery cell operation. (See end of P3 for a technician's difficulty with getting this chip to
oscillate.) It provides the same precision timing capabilities as its predecessors, (the 555 and
7555) it has the same 8 legged pin-out. With the simple adjustment of external passive
components to set the frequency, the device's function is just the same, whether it be
generating accurate time delays or oscillations.
A
Assuming a 5v supply, a typical CMOS part draws 170uA while the new timer pulls 140uA, and at
1.5v just 75uA.

555 Vs 7555

The choice between the standard 555 and CMOS version (7555) or ZSCT1555 will depend on cost,
availability, load current required and frequency of operation. It will mainly come down to
battery or mains operation for the project.
A
Normally, when we change from a TTL chip to a CMOS chip, the component values change by a
factor of 10x or 100x. This is because the TTL chips are very low impedance and CMOS is very
high impedance.
But if a 555 is substituted for a CMOS version, the timing components remain the SAME!
This is very convenient. Chips can be substituted without having to alter the surrounding
circuitry. The only change will be the current consumption of the chip. In general, the
consumption will reduce from about 10mA to approx 0.5mA. (A LED Voltmeter circuit made the
following circuit-current comparison: using 555 = 7mA, using 7555 = 0.35mA). This is typical of
the current-saving of a CMOS version.
This article covers most types and provides a number of comparisons and substitutions.
A typical 7555 circuit is shown below:

Note the need for the driver transistor in the circuit above, as the 7555 has an output capability
of about 50mA.

DRAWING 555 "BLOCKS"
One of the most important points when drawing a 555 "block" is maintaining a standard layout.
Diagrammatic blocks on a circuit diagram are not supposed to show the pins in the same order as
the legs on a chip. The wiring to the chip should be placed in positions to represent their
function. The power is placed at the top, ground at he bottom, input at the left and output at
the right. The other lines are also placed in appropriate positions.
The layout should be positioned to aid in the interpretation of a diagram. The end result should
be to provide the maximum information and make it easy to interpret the symbol.
Many of the 555 circuit diagrams place the lines to the 555 block so you have to interpret every
diagram individually. This makes reading a circuit diagram very slow.
The first thing you need to know is the function of each pin. See the picture below:

The 555 can be used for a number of applications. It can be wired as an OSCILLATOR or a
MONOSTABLE or DELAY and many different circuits can be produced with these modes of
operation.

THE 555 AS AN OSCILLATOR

The 555 can be wired as an OSCILLATOR. It needs 2 external components - a resistor R and a
capacitor C. These are called TIMING COMPONENTS. The diagram below shows these two
components:

The capacitor charges via R and when it reaches 2/3 of rail voltage, pin 7 shorts the capacitor to
ground. This means the capacitor charges slowly but discharges very quickly. An improved layout
is shown below:

The capacitor charges via R (plus the top resistor) and discharges via R (only). If the top resistor
is small compared with R, we can neglect it, so that C charges via R and discharges via R at
about the same rate.
a
The top resistor simply separates pin 7 from the positive rail as pin 7 shorts to ground to
discharge the capacitor during part of the cycle.
1.

2.

3.

4.

These are the three points to note:

1. Pin 2 detect the low voltage on the capacitor, and makes pin 7 and the output go HIGH
2. Pin 6 detects the high voltage on the capacitor and makes pin 7 and the output go LOW
3. Pin 7 is "in-phase" with the output. (both are low at the same time)
An improved oscillator is shown in the diagram below. It uses only one resistor to charge and
discharge the capacitor and the circuit does not have the wasteful top resistor. The circuit draws
less current than the circuit above but the only difference is the frequency of operation will be
lower for the same value of components because the voltage delivered by the output line is 1.7v
less than the supply rail. The output can deliver up to 200mA but if it is delivering a high
current, the output voltage may be reduced and this will affect the frequency of operation. If a
reliable frequency is needed, this is not the circuit to choose.

THE ACTION OF PIN 4
Pin 4 is called the RESET PIN. It is called an ACTIVE LOW pin. When pin 4 is HIGH, the chip
operates normally. When pin 4 is taken LOW, the output of the chip is INHIBITED - it remains
LOW. Pin 7 is also taken low and the chip is prevented from oscillating.
1.
2.

3.

4.

THE 555 AS A MONOSTABLE

The 555 can be wired as a monostable. A monostable has one stable state and that is the OFF
state. The unstable state is called the ON or HIGH state.
When it is triggered by an input pulse, the monostable switches to its temporary or ON state. It
remains in that state for a period of time determined by an RC network and returns to its stable
state. In other words, the monostable circuit generates a single pulse of a fixed time duration
each time it receives and input trigger pulse.
The monostable circuit can also be called a ONE-SHOT due to the single-pulse it creates. This
type of circuit can be used for activating an external device for a specific length of time. They
can also be used to generate delays. Another use for this type of circuit is to take the brief pulse
of a push-button and activate a device. This is called a PULSE-EXTENDER. It can also be used to
clean-up the noisy output of a push-button and this is called SWITCH DEBOUNCING.
The diagram below shows a push-button connected to a 555. When the button is pressed, the
relay operates for 5 seconds. The button must be released before the time-interval has expired
otherwise the time is extended. This is the only limitation of this circuit.

The next circuit is an improved design. The switch can be pressed for any length of time and the
circuit will only produce a 5 second output. The circuit is prevented from re-triggering by the
addition of a 470k and 100n capacitor. When the switch is pressed, the uncharged capacitor
takes pin 2 low and triggers the circuit. If the button is kept pressed the 100n charges and takes
pin 2 high. The potential across the voltage divider formed by the 47k and 470k resistors is
insufficient to re-trigger the monostable. The circuit "times-out" and the output goes low. When
the button is released, the 100n discharges through the 470k and is ready for the next press.
A monostable (one-shot) can be connected to an astable (free-running oscillator) so that it gates
(or inhibits) the oscillator to produce an output tone for a short duration. The circuit below can
be used for an application such as doorbell. It is not suitable for battery operation as the 555 IC's
are connected to the supply and draw current at all times.

This circuit can be used for a doorbell.

Pin 2 of the first 555 is HIGH and thus it is "non-operational" as it detects a LOW. Pin 6 is
detecting a HIGH and thus the output of the IC is LOW. The output of the first 555 goes to the
INHIBIT pin of the second 555. When pin 4 is LOW, the output of the chip is kept LOW.

HOW THE 555 WORKS

Here's a circuit to help you understand how the 555 works.

In the circuit above, the trigger input is HIGH and a 22u and 2k2 are connected to the chip.
When the power is connected, the trigger input will be high and the threshold line will be low.
The internal circuitry of the chip will cause it to produce a HIGH and the Discharge pin will be
effectively not connected.
The 22u will charge via the 2k2 and when pin 6 (threshold) sees 2/3 rail voltage, the output goes
LOW and the discharge pin goes LOW and discharges the 22u.
This is how the chip sits.
If the trigger input goes low for a short period of time, the output pin goes HIGH and the
discharge pin goes high and the22u charges. When the threshold pin sees 2/3 rail voltage the
output pin goes LOW and the chip remains in this state. If the trigger line remains LOW, the
output pin remains HIGH as the trigger pin controls the state of the output. The 22u will be fully
charged and the chip will change state immediately the trigger line goes high.

NORMALLY CLOSED TRIGGER

Here is a circuit that uses the features we have just discussed:

Normally-closed trigger

Here is the circuit rearranged so that the function of the pins are obvious. A circuit diagram
does not follow the pin-out of the chip, (that's the function of a wiring diagram). A circuit
diagram conforms to the functions of the chip.

One-Shot Using A Normally-Closed Switch

In the circuit above, the trigger input (pin 2) is HIGH and a 22u and 100k are connected to the
threshold pin (pin 6) of the chip. When the power is connected, the trigger input will be high
and the threshold line will be low. The internal circuitry of the chip will cause it to produce a
HIGH and the Discharge pin will be effectively not connected.
The 22u will charge via the 100k and when pin 6 (threshold) sees 2/3 rail voltage, the output
goes LOW and the discharge pin goes LOW and discharges the 22u.
This is how the chip sits – with the 22u discharged.
If the n.c. switch opens, the trigger input goes low. The output pin goes HIGH, the discharge pin
goes high (it actually goes to a condition of high-impedance – or more accurately it goes to a
state where it disconnects from the 100k and 22u) and the 22u charges via the 100k. When the
threshold pin sees 2/3 rail voltage the output pin goes LOW and the chip remains in this state.
If the trigger line remains LOW, the output pin remains HIGH as the trigger pin controls the state
of the output. This is most important to remember. But in our case the trigger line is connected
via a 1u capacitor and it does not remain low. It has a short low period as determined by the
timing of the 10k, 1u and 100k and ideally this low period is shorter than the timing on pin 6.

If the switch is kept open, the 1u will charge and it will take a short period of time for pin 2 to
see a voltage 2/3 of rail voltage. Providing this time is shorter than the time-delay created by
the 22u and 100k (it is), the timing will depend on the 22u and 100k, otherwise the 10k, 1u and
100k will create the time-delay.
To explain the trigger-line again:
When the switch is opened, the 1u will have no voltage across it (as it is discharged by the 100k
when the switch is closed) and the 100k and 10k will form a voltage divider of approx 10:1 so
that pin 2 will see a voltage less than 1v. This will start the time-delay of the chip and the 1u
will charge via the 10k and 100k so that the voltage on pin 2 will rise at a rate allowed by these
resistors. This means pin 2 (which is the CONTROLLER of the chip!!) will be at its high value VERY
QUICKLY and will no longer control the chip. The chip will now be looking for a HIGH on the
threshold line to perform the next part of the sequence.
If we keep pin 2 LOW for an extended period of time, the output will immediately go HIGH. Pin 7
will immediately go open (it was previously LOW and drawing current through the resistor
connected between pin 7 and rail) and the cap will charge. When pin 6 sees 2/3Vcc it will try to
make the output go LOW but pin 2 will keep it HIGH. If pin 2 is taken HIGH, the output will go
LOW immediately.

ONE-SHOT USING A NEGATIVE-GOING TRIGGER

One-Shot Using A Negative-Going Trigger

The circuit above shows the 555 with a discharged 22u. The discharge pin will be connected to
0v and the output will be LOW. When the negative-going trigger pulse is detected by pin 2, the
discharge pin (pin7) "opens" and the 22u is charged via the 100k. At the same time pin 3 goes
HIGH. The threshold pin (pin 6) detects when the voltage on the 22u is 2/3Vcc and makes the
output pin 3 LOW. The trigger pulse must be shorter than the delay-time for this sequence to
work.

ONE-SHOT USING A POSITIVE-GOING TRIGGER

One-Shot Using Positive-Going Trigger

If a positive-going trigger pulse is available, the above circuit can be used.

THE 556
The 556 is a DUAL 555. It contains two identical 555 timer circuits. The NE556/SE556 timers can
be directly replaced by the CMOS types MC3456/MC3556.
The following three pin-outs identify the 556 dual timer IC and the function of each pin.

Discharge is "in-phase" with the Output. (both are low at the same time)
Threshold detects the high voltage on the capacitor and makes Discharge and Output go LOW.
Trigger detect the low voltage on the capacitor and makes Discharge and Output go HIGH.

HIGH Interval (T1) = 0.693 x (R1+ R2) x C
LOW Interval (T2) = 0.693 x R2 x C
Frequency = 1.44 / [ (R1+R2+R2) x C]

SUBSTITUTING A 555
A 555 (and the 556 varieties) can be replaced by low-power 555's such as TLC555, LMC555,
ICM7555. This has been covered above.
In this section we will show how to replace any of the 555 or 7555 devices with a building block
called a SCHMITT TRIGGER. The Schmitt Trigger chip we suggest is a 74c14 (40106 -CD 40106).
This chip contains six Schmitt Triggers. It allows up to 6 building blocks to be created, similar to
the capabilities of a 555.
This is a much-more economical and professional way to designing a circuit and two other very
important features are also provided.
The Schmitt Trigger consumes less current and battery designs can be created. A Schmitt Trigger
does not put noise on the power rails of a project and it can be used with other digital blocks
without creating interference problems. Six gates in a single hex Schmitt trigger chip allows the
designer to produce 6 different building blocks and quite complex circuits can be produced.
The type of 555 circuit we are suggesting be replaced with a Schmitt design is one that meets
one of more of the following criteria:
1. A design that needs to be upgraded and improved in "professionalism."
2. A design that needs to be reduced in quiescent current,
3. A design that uses more than one 555
4. A design that employs 555 IC's with digital IC's.
A simple 555 design for a car, for example, does not need to be converted.

THE 555 OSCILLATOR
The following diagrams show a free-running 555 oscillator and its Schmitt Trigger equivalent.
The circuit can be called an OSCILLATOR, SQUARE-WAVE OSCILLATOR or FREE-RUNNING
OSCILLATOR.

The 555 can sink or source 200mA and the two diagrams show this:

The only difference between the two circuits is the Schmitt version will draw about 10mA -15mA
less. The 555 draws about 10mA for its internal operation and about 1mA - 5mA will be "wasted"
through R2.
If the load is less than 25mA, the following circuits can be used:

The output of a single Schmitt Oscillator will drive a load up to 25mA, depending on the
frequency of oscillation and the voltage of the supply. As the voltage decreases, the load current
reduces. At 5v, the load will be a maximum of 10mA.
As the load current increases, the output will not rise to 66% of rail voltage and the oscillator
will "freeze."

PULSE GENERATOR

Another name for "oscillator" is PULSE GENERATOR. The following circuit shows a 555 wired as a
square-wave oscillator called a MULTIVIBRATOR. The output waveform is adjustable and is ideal
for injecting into RF and IF stages. The square-wave is rich in harmonics and will pass through
both RF and IF stages to produce a tone or "buzz" in the speaker.

CHANGING THE MARK-SPACE RATIO

The MARK and SPACE are the HIGH and LOW values of a waveform. When a waveform is HIGH, it
is called the MARK.

The diagram above shows MARK and SPACE durations of different lengths. Marks and spaces can
be any length and can change during the production of a waveform. If the length of the mark is
equal to the space, the waveform is said to have a 50:50 Mark:Space ratio, as shown below:

A waveform with a 50:50 Mark:Space ratio is produced by a 555 when the top resistor (called the
DISCHARGE resistor) is very small compared to the TIMING resistor. This is shown in the diagram
below:

To increase the MARK, the Discharge resistor must be LARGE compared to the Timing resistor.

To increase the SPACE, a diode is needed as shown in the diagram below:

The MARK:SPACE ratio can be adjusted without altering the frequency by connecting two diodes
as shown in the diagram below:

The two circuits above adjust the output from about 3% to 97% at a frequency of approximately
1kHz.
You can use either pin 3 or pin 7 as they are "in phase" with each other. Pin 7 needs a pull-up
resistor as the transistor connected to this pin is in an open-collector configuration.

GATING THE OSCILLATOR

The 555 oscillator can be turned on and off via a control line. This is called "Gating the
Oscillator" or "Controlling the Oscillator."
When designing this type of circuit, two things need to be considered:
1. The oscillator to be switched off with the output HIGH
2. The oscillator to be switched off with the output LOW
The next consideration is:
3. The oscillator (block) to be switched off
4. The oscillator (block) to remain in circuit.
There is an enormous difference between these designs. The main difference is the current
consumption of the load, but the actual consumption of the chip can also be important.

Take for example, these two circuits:

In the first circuit, the key is in the output and the chip draws current all the time. If the
project is battery operated, it will need an on-off switch. The second circuit uses the key as the
switch and the circuit will not need a switch. The difference is only 10mA but if the first circuit
is left on, the battery will be dead in a few weeks.

The next circuit shows one way to turn off a 555 after a period of activation:

The only problem with this circuit is the gradual lowering in volume as the electrolytic
discharges. The 1,000u to 4700u determines the length of time the circuit is activated AFTER the
Bell-Push is pressed. The circuit drops to zero current (the only current is the leakage of the
1,000u electrolytic).
In the following circuit the first 555 gates the second 555.

The second 555 is not turned off. The circuit inside both 555's are always drawing current.
It is not practical to "turn off" a 555 as shown in the next diagram:

The output of a 555 is 1.7v less than rail voltage. This means the second 555 is receiving 10.3v
from the output line of the first 555 if the rail voltage is 12v. The maximum output of the second
555 will be 10.3 - 1.7 = 8.6v. This may be too low for many output devices and the result may be
disappointing.
The Schmitt Trigger can be gated too. The first point to note is the hex Schmitt trigger IC
contains 6 identical gates and the chip is normally permanently connected to the supply rail. If
any of the unused inputs are tied HIGH, the particular gate draws very little current (less than
1uA), making the total for the chip about 6uA.
There are two ways to GATE a Schmitt Trigger and prevent it from oscillating.
The diagrams below show a Schmitt Trigger being gated so that the output is:
1. LOW
2. HIGH

Diagram below shows how the GATING LINE inhibits the oscillator:
1.
2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

For the left circuit, if the gating diode is taken HIGH, the capacitor charges quickly. This inhibits
the operation of the oscillator and the output goes LOW. If a load is connected to the output of
this gate, it will not be driven and the gate will consume the least current.
For the right circuit, when the gating diode is taken HIGH it does not have any effect on the
operation of the circuit and the oscillator continues to operate.

1.

2.

3.

3.

4.

6.

7.

8.

For the left circuit, if the gating diode is taken LOW, it does not have any effect on the
operation of the circuit and the oscillator continues to operate.
For the right circuit, if the gating diode is taken LOW, the capacitor is discharged and the
oscillator is INHIBITED. The output goes HIGH and the load will be driven. The circuit will draw
maximum current.
If NO LOAD is connected to the output, an inhibited gate will draw more current than when it is
oscillating. Both arrangements will draw a similar current when inhibited. The current taken will
be about 1uA for the gate plus the current through R.

THE 555 AS A DELAY

The 555 can be used as a timer up to 10 minutes. This circuit is also called a DELAY.
To start timing, the START button is pressed briefly and the output of the chip goes LOW. At the
expiration of 10 minutes, the output goes HIGH and the red LED illuminates.
A simple application may be for a cooking operation in a shop. If a product needs to be cooked
or heated etc, the button can be pressed and the LED illuminates when the time has expired.

When calculating the time-duration for the circuit above, the capacitor charges from 0v to 2/3
rail voltage.

DRIVING HIGH-CURRENT LOADS

The output drive-current for a 555 is 200mA maximum. The output voltage is 1.7v less than rail
voltage.
A driver transistor can be connected to the output pin to improve the output current to 1amp (or
more) and deliver an output voltage that is near rail voltage. Globes are a typical example of a
high-current load. They require up to 6 times the normal current when starting. This is due to
the cold filament having a very low resistance. The same applies to motors. They have a high
start-up current requirement.
Any driver transistor can be fitted as shown in the diagram below:

Use a driver transistor for loads greater than 200mA

The CMOS 7555 has an output current capability of 50mA and will need a driver transistor for
currents above 80mA.

MISTAKES
Here are some mistakes in a 555 circuit. They are "technical." Can you spot them?

1. Pin 2 must be taken LOW for it to activate the 555. The circuit shows a positive voltage
being applied to pin 2. This will do nothing.
2. Connecting pin 2 to pin 4 and leaving them "open" as shown in the diagram above is very
dangerous. These are fairly high-impedance pins and the consequences of leaving them
open will be unpredictable.
3. Pin 2 cannot be left "open." The 10u will initially charge to 2/3 rail voltage and the
voltage will be detected by pin 6. Pin 7 will then discharge the 10u and wait for a low to
be detected by pin 2. Pin 2 will actually have no voltage on it but the pin requires a very
small current (about 500 nano-amp) to activate the chip. If a static charge delivers this
current, the chip will cycle. The outcome is unpredictable.
4. Pin 4 cannot be left "open." For pin 4 to reset the chip, it must be taken below 0.7v and
supplied a current of 100uA. If it is left open you cannot guarantee the chip will operate.

POSITIVE TRIGGERING
The only way to trigger a 555 with a positive pulse is to have the output sitting HIGH. A
positive pulse on pin 6 will change the output to LOW. The voltage on pin 6 must be
greater than 2/3 supply voltage. When the 555 detects the trigger pulse, the output goes
low and a transistor inside the 555 takes pin 7 to the 0v rail. This starts to discharge the
10u via the 1M resistor and when pin2 detects a LOW, the output goes HIGH again. See
Positive and negative triggering of this discussion.

555 PROJECTS
KNIGHT RIDER
1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

In the Knight Rider circuit, the 555 is wired as an oscillator. It can be adjusted to give the
desired speed for the display. The output of the 555 is directly connected to the input of a
Johnson Counter (CD 4017). The input of the 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 current-limiting resistor (330R in the circuit above).
The first 6 outputs of the chip are connected directly to the 6 LEDs and these "move" across the
display. The next 4 outputs move the effect in the opposite direction and the cycle repeats. The
animation above shows how the effect appears on the display.
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.

SEQUENCER WITH 3 SECOND HALT

The circuit runs 9 LEDs and the 10th output goes to the 555 via a transistor. The 10th output
takes the 100u HIGH and this turns on the BC547 to inhibit the 555 for approx 3 seconds. The
100u gradually charges via the 10k and the voltage on the base of the BC547 drops to a point
were the transistor turns off and the 555 oscillates 10 cycles and halts again.

LIGHT DETECTOR

The Light Detector circuit detects light falling on the Photo-cell (Light Dependent Resistor) to
turn on the 555. Pin 4 must be held below 0.7v to turn the 555 off. Any voltage above 0.7v will
activate the circuit. The adjustable sensitivity control is need to set the level at which the
circuit is activated.

When the sensitivity pot is turned so that it has the lowest resistance (as shown in red), a large
amount of light must be detected by the LDR so that its resistance is low. This produces a
voltage-divider made up of the LDR and 4k7 resistor. As the resistance of the LDR decreases, the
voltage across the 4k7 increases and the circuit is activated.
When the sensitivity control is taken to the 0v rail, its resistance increases and this effectively
adds resistance to the 4k7. The lower-part of the voltage-divider now has a larger resistance and
this is in series with the LDR. Less light is needed on the LDR for it to raise the voltage on pin 4
to turn the 555 on.

DARK DETECTOR

For the Dark Detector circuit above, when the level of light on the photo-cell decreases, the
555 is activated. Photo-cells (Photo-resistors) have a wide range of specifications. Some cells go
down to 100R in full sunlight while others only go down to 1k. Some have a HIGH resistance of
between 1M and others are 10M in total darkness. For the circuit above, the LOW resistance (the
resistance in sunlight) is the critical value.
More accurately, the value for a particular level of illumination, is the critical. The sensitivity
pot adjusts the level at which the circuit turns on and allows almost any type of photo-cell to be
used.

POLICE SIREN

The Police Siren circuit uses two 555's to produce and up-down wailing sound. The first 555 is
wired as a low-frequency oscillator to control the VOLTAGE CONTROL pin 5 of the second 555.
The voltage shift on pin 5 causes the frequency of the second oscillator to rise and fall.

555 AMPLIFIER

The 555 can be used as an amplifier. It operates very similar to pulse-width modulation. The
component values cause the 555 to oscillate at approx 66kHz and the speaker does not respond
to this high frequency. Instead it responds to the average CD value of the modulated output. The
output is low but demonstrates the concept of pulse-width modulation.

IR LED TRANSMITTER

The Infra-Red Transmitter circuit produces a low for about 40uS and has a duty-cycle of 90%
HIGH and 10% LOW. It delivers a pulse of 150mA at a frequency of about 2kHz to the infra-red
LED.

SCHMITT TRIGGER

A 555 can be wired as a Schmitt Trigger to clean up noise signals.

TOUCH SWITCH

The Touch Switch circuit will detect stray voltages produced by mains voltages and electrostatic
build-up in a room. Pin 2 must see a LOW for the circuit to activate. The circuit can be made 100
times more sensitive by adding a transistor to the front-end as shown in the diagram below:

555 AS A FLIP FLOP

A 555 contains a flip flop along with a couple of comparators. When the output at pin 3 is 'high',
C1 slowly charges through R1 up to 12V; when it is 'low' C1 discharges through R1 down to 0V.
Pressing switch S1 upsets the 6v balance between R2 and R3 on pins 2 & 6 for a split second,
triggering the flip flop and changing the state of the output from 'high' to 'low' or vice-versa. The
wide hysteresis of the 555 (between 1/3 supply voltage and 2/3 supply voltage) limits false
switching from switch bounce.

NEGATIVE SUPPLY

A negative supply can be generated with a 555 operating in astable mode. The generated voltage
is approximately 3v less than the rail voltage due to pin 3 rising to about 1.7v below rail voltage,
plus the loss in the power diode. A small loss is produced by the electrolytic in the diode-pump
design, creating an overall loss of approx 3v. The output current should be kept to below 50mA,
otherwise the output voltage will drop further.

FLASHING INDICATORS

Flashing the "TURN INDICATORS"

This is a flash "turn indicators" using a 555 and a single 20 amp relay. The timing resistor needs to
be selected for the appropriate flash-rate.

BICYCLE LIGHT

This circuit will alternately flash two 4.5v globes.

1.5v LED FLASHER
The 1.5v LED Flasher circuit will flash a LED at approx 1 flash per second. The ZSCT1555 IC from
Zetex is designed to operate from a single 1.5v cell and will continue to operate to a terminal
voltage of 0.9v. The circuit was originally presented by A J De-Guerin.
The first thing we note is the 1.5v supply voltage. From our previous discussions we know that a
LED will not illuminate until the voltage across it reaches 1.7v. This means the circuit will not
work unless the output is generating a voltage higher than 1.7v.
And that is exactly what happens.
The circuit charges the 47u via the 330R resistor when the output of the chip is HIGH. This puts a
voltage of 1.5v on the electrolytic.
We will now replace the electrolytic by a 1.5v battery to make the discussion easier to
understand. We have a 1.5v battery connected to the output of the chip with the positive of the
battery connected to the output of the chip.
When the output goes LOW, the left-hand-side of the battery falls by 1.5v and this causes the
right-hand-side to fall by the same amount.
The negative lead of the "battery" is actually 1.5v BELOW the 0v rail and this puts a total of 3v
(in theory) across the LED.
We have already learnt that the voltage across a LED will never rise above 1.7v (for a red LED)
and so the voltage on the electrolytic creates a voltage higher than 1.7v across the LED and the
energy flows into the LED to make it flash. The circuit is called a VOLTAGE DOUBLER.

I have just received a comment from a design engineer. He has built a similar circuit to the one
above and it has failed to oscillate.
He comments:

I've even tried different values for the components (lower values for the capacitor and
higher resistor values) with the same results. When I turn it on, the output stays low and
the voltage on the capacitor stays at around 1.1-1.2v with a supply voltage of 1.5v. I've
replaced the ZSCT1555 with another one, with the same results.
With this type of uncertainty about reliability, I would give this circuit a MISS! The problem could
be the low voltage. The circuit may work at a higher voltage but this would negate its purpose. A
1.5v LED flasher circuit can be created with a "3909" chip (LM 3909 - now obsolete, but you may
find one in a junk store) or by using the discrete 3-transistor oscillator/driver circuit, shown
below:

LM 3909 Flasher circuit

3-Transistor Flasher circuit on 1.5v supply

Here is another 1.5v flasher circuit using 2 transistors:

SUMMARY
Hundreds of projects have been designed around the 555 and its dual and quad versions.
Some of the projects will be presented in this e-magazine from time to time but in general the
consideration of the author is to design a circuit with a chip that consumes less current. The
7555 meets this requirement but has a very low drive capability.
The 555 (7555) is suitable for a circuit needing a single building-block but if it requires more
than one "block," it it suggested to go to the 74c14 (Hex Schmitt Trigger IC) where 6 separate
gates are available. For an equivalent cost you get six times more value!
The versatility of the 74c14 Hex Schmitt Trigger will be covered in a future issue.