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Lab Experiments 41

Experiment-291 S

Dr Jeethendra Kumar P K
KamalJeeth Instrumentation & Service Unit, TATA Nagar Bangalore-560 092.INDIA.

Using a 4N35 optocoupler; input, output and transfer characteristics curves are
drawn and the type of emitter diode and photo detector are identified. The current
and voltage transfer ratios of the optocoupler are also determined.

Electrically isolated circuits that exchange signals between them are called Optocouplers or
Optoisolators. Such circuits are used to control different devices or apparatus that remain
electrically isolated from one another. Since there is an electrical isolation there can be a
different ground point, which is the advantage in opto-coupling. A PC to control industrial
process control unit having high voltage unit can be easily coupled through this optocoupler.

An IRLED - photo transistor matched pair forms a good optocoupler. Different types of
photo detectors result in different optocoupler, such as a phototransistor optocoupler, SCR or
TRIAC based optocoupler. Among the three, IR-LED-phototransistor based optocouplers are
most commonly used.

Both the IRLED and Photo transistors are placed inside an IC as shown in Figure-1. The base
terminal of the photo transistor is brought out as the 6th pin of the IC. However, it is not
connected electrically.

Figure-1: The 4N35 Optocoupler and its pin diagram

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Lab Experiments 42

The 4N35 Optocoupler

In the IRLEDPhoto transistor optocoupler shown in Figure-1, the diode emits IR radiation
(900-1200nm) that falls on the photosensitive part of the phototransistor making it to conduct.
Electrical devices connected to the collector-emitter junction of the photo transistor will be

4N35 is Motorola make optocoupler with IRLEDPhoto transistor module. It is a 6-pin IC

available in the DIP package as shown in Figure-1. It is a commonly available and frequently
used optocoupler. Figure-2 shows the normal manner of biasing an optocoupler [1].

Rd Rc
IR-LED Photo-Transistor IR-LED Photo-Transistor


Figure-2: Schematic symbols and normal biasing of the optocoupler

A series resistance is added to the input diode circuit to protect the IR emitter which fixes the
current through the emitter diode. For 4N35, the maximum diode current is 60mA. Hence Rd
is suitably chosen according to the supply voltage VDD. Similarly the resistor Rc protects the
photo transistor from excessive voltage that may burn it out. The collector-emitter voltage for
4N35 is 30V. It is a common practice to keep half the maximum rating as the diode current
photo detector voltage. The maximum power dissipation of 4N35 is 150mW. In no case one
should exceed this power rating. From Figure-2 it is seen that there are two power supplies
that are isolated fully. There is no common connection between the input and output circuits
which is the main advantage of the optocoupler.

Optocoupler Characteristics
Similar to discrete semiconductor device characteristics, optocoupler characteristics are set of
curves that relate the voltage and current flowing through it. In an optocoupler we see two
discrete devices, namely the diode at the input side and a photo transistor at the output side.
By drawing the individual characteristics curves one can identify the type of diode and photo
detector used inside the IC. The input diode will have forward knee voltage which depends
on its material. For example, a silicon diode has 0.6V knee voltage and LEDs of different
colors will have different knee voltages varying from 1V to 4V. Once the knee voltage and
the wavelength are known, the semiconductor material can be identified. On the output side
we have a photo transistor. The material of the photo transistor can be identified by its
saturation voltage. Hence by the characteristics curves the material used in the optocoupler
can be identified.

Current Transfer Ratio (CTR)

A npn or pnp device is characterized by its forward current gain hFE or . Since there is no
base current in the case of photo transistor, a new parameter similar to is defined for an

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optocoupler. The current transfer ratio (CTR) varies from 10% to 200% for devices of
different makes. An optocoupler with 50% CTR is found to be extremely good in practice.
CTR is defined as the ratio of saturated collector current to input diode current that produces
saturation of the photo detector.

CTR= 1

As the light intensity increases, the collector current increases proportionately and becomes
constant. Under this condition the transistor is conducting fully, or in other words it is
saturated. This maximum collector current is denoted Icsat.

CTR = 2

Voltage Transfer Ratio (VTR)

Similar to CTR, VTR is the ratio of output saturation voltage to input knee voltage

VTR = = =. = 0.24

This is constant for a given optocoupler. If the photo detector is not conducting fully this ratio
will be large.

Apparatus Used

Figure-3: Optocoupler experimental set-up

Optocoupler experimental set-up of KamalJeeth make, consisting of 0-5V variable power

supply, 5V fixed power supply, 0-200mA digital dc current meter, 0-20V digital dc

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The experiment consists of five parts:

Part-A: Determination of input characteristics curve

Part-B: Determination of output characteristics curve
Part-C: Determination of transfer characteristics curve
Part-D: Determination of CTR
Part-E: Determination of VTR

Part-A: Determination of input characteristics curve

The 0-5V variable power supply, 5V fixed power supply, volt- and current- meters provided
in the experimental set-up are identified.


Variable 1

Vin V

Figure-4: Input characteristics circuit connections

1. A 0-5V variable power supply is connected to the diode as shown in Figure-4.

2. The current meter is now connected in series with the diode to measure the diode
current ID.

3. The voltmeter is connected across Vin, to measure the voltage across the diode

Vin(V) ID(mA) Vin(V) ID(mA)
0 0 1.15 9.0
0.2 0 1.18 14.1
0.4 0 1.20 20.7
0.6 0 1.22 25.6
0.8 0 1.24 34.4
1.0 0.2 1.25 39.9
1.1 2.5 1.28 48.3
Input Characteristics curve

4. The voltage Vin is set to 0.2 volt and the current ID is recorded in Table-1.

5. The trial is repeated by varying Vin is steps of 0.1V and the corresponding current is
noted in Table-1.

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Forward diode current(mA)

0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2
Forward diode volatge (V)

Figure-5: IR-LED input characteristics

6. Figure-5 shows the input characteristics curve. From curve the knee voltage at which
the diode starts conducting is noted.

Knee voltage = 1.1V

This voltage corresponds to the wavelength which can be calculated as [2]

= = = 1127

As this wavelength lies in the IR region, the diode is an IR emitter or it is IR-LED.

Part-B: Determination of output characteristics curve

To determine output characteristics of optocoupler only the photo transistor is connected to 0-
5V power supply, as shown in Figure-6.

7. The voltmeter is connected across collector-emitter junction to measure VCE and

current meter is also connected across the IC to measure collector current.

8. The voltage VCE is set to 0.05V by varying the power supply, and the current IC is
noted in Table-2.

9. The trial is repeated by varying VCE in suitable steps and in each case IC is noted in

10. A graph showing the variation of IC with VCE is shown in Figure-7. From the graph,
which resembles a transistor output characteristics curve, the saturation voltage,
VCEsat, from the curve is

VCEsat = 0.3V. This saturation voltage indicates that the photo detector is a silicon
photo transistor.

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IC 220


Figure-6: Circuit connection for the output characteristics curve

0 0 0.35 21.6
0.05 1.8 0.40 22.8
0.1 5 0.45 23.5
0.15 9.6 0.50 24.2
0.2 13.8 0.55 24.8
0.25 17.7 0.60 25.4
0.3 20.1 0.62 25.6
Output characteristics

Collector current IC(mA)

0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8
Collector-emitter voltage VCE(V)

Figure-7: Output characteristics curve of the optocoupler

Part-C: Determination of the transfer characteristics curve

To determine transfer characteristics curve both the input and output of the optocoupler are
made use of. The 0-5V variable power supply is connected to the diode or the input. The 5V
fixed supply is connected to the phototransistor or the output. The milli-ammeter is connected
across ID to measure diode current. IC is shorted using a patch cord. The voltmeter is
connected across the collector-emitter to measure VCE. The circuit connections are made
shown in Figure-8.

11. Current ID is set by varying variable power supply in the range of 0-5V.

12. Voltage VCE is recorded in Table-3 for different ID values.

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13. A curve is drawn as shown in Figure-9. This is the transfer characteristics curve
which resembles a switching curve and it indicates that the optocoupler acts like a
switch, similar to a transistor switch.


220 IC 220

5V 1 5V

Figure-8: Circuit connection for determining the transfer characteristics

0 4.97 7 1.32 14 0.83
1 4.69 8 1.21 16 0.74
2 4.00 9 1.13 18 0.65
3 3.32 10 1.06 20 0.60
4 2.64 11 0.99 28 0.39
5 1.92 12 0.93 30 0.36
6 1.39 13 0.88 49 0.26
Transfer characteristics

Collector-emitter Volatge


0 10 20 30 40 50
Doide current (mA)

Figure-9: Transfer characteristics curve

Part-D: Determination of CTR

14. With same circuit diagram, ID is reduced to the minimum and increased slowly
watching the voltmeter. The voltmeter now reads VCE.

15. ID is increased until VCE = 0.30V. This indicated that the transistor is conducting fully
or it is saturated. The diode current that produces saturation is noted.

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ID =37.3mA.

At this point, the collector current IC is noted by opening the short across IC sockets
and inserting the current meter. (When the current meter is shifted from the diode
circuit to phototransistor circuit, terminal across ID has to be shorted).

Icsat =21.5mA

CTR =. = 0.576 = 57%

The trial is repeated once again to find consistent values, as shown in Table-4. The
average value is taken as CTR.

Icsat(mA) ID(mA) CTR
21.5 37.3 0.576
21.5 37.7 0.570
21.5 39.0 0.551
21.5 38.4 0.559
Average CTR 0.564
CTR calculations

Part-E: Determination of VTR

To determine VTR, the average knee voltage is noted from the input curve corresponding to


VD = 1.23V

VCEsat = 0.3V
VTR =. = 0.24= 24%

Parameters Expt. Standard
Emitter diode IR LED -
Emitter Wavelength (nm) 1127 900-1200
CTR (%) 56 10-200
VTR (%) 24 24
Detector Saturation Voltage(V) 0.3 0.3
Emitter knee voltage (V) 1.1 1.25
Detector transistor Silicon phototransistor
Experimental results

The results obtained are summarized in Table-5.

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From this experimental study we conclude the following:

1. The emitter diode is an IR LED and its wavelength is around 1127nm.

2. The saturation voltage of 0.3V indicates that the photo detector is a silicon photo

3. The maximum power transmitted by the IR-LED is = 1.28Vx48.3mA= 62mW and the
saturated maximum power of photo detector is 0.3x20mA =6mW. These values
indicate that when one is linking the signal through an optocoupler, there is a loss of
power. Not all the electrical power given to the diode is reflected at the photo
detector. Only 10% of the input power is converted into output power in the photo
detector. The remaining 90% of the input power is lost in the process of coupling.
This 10% power produced is sufficient for switch applications.


[2] Dr Jeethendra Kumar P K, Plancks constant and IR LED wavelength determination,

LE Vol-4, No-1, March-2004, Page-11.

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