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What is relay?

A relay is electro mechanical switch which is used in industrial application to provide

isolation between high voltage and low voltage circuits. These two circuits have different
voltage rating. One might be a low voltage side and other high voltage side. A relay is
electrical mechanical switch which is used for switching between 5 volt circuits and 220/
120 Volt AC circuits. For example, in microcontrollers based circuits, relay is used to isolate
microcontrollers from 220 volt AC supply.

Components of electro mechanical relay?

Electrical mechanical relay have three main components:

1. Coil
2. spring
3. contacts
A five volt signal at the coil can turn on relay. When coil is energize with 5 volt signal,
current flows through the coil. When current flows through the coil, a magnetic field is
created in the coil which attract causes the armature ( contacts) to attract towards spring.
When no current flows through coil, spring causes the contacts to pull towards normal
position. Circuit diagram of electro mechanical relay with components are given below:

how to use relay

In above circuit diagram 5 volt signal is given to coil of electro mechanical relay, when
switch is closed, current flows through the coil and energize the coil. When coil energize
through 5 volt signal, spring attracts contact form normally open position to closed position.
On Left hand side of coil is normally open position of contact. Because circuit is no complete
or in other words current flow path is not complete. When coil is energized with the help of 5
volt signal, internal spring of electro mechanical relay attract or pulls contact towards other
point and complete the circuit. A electro mechanical relay can be either normally open or
normally closed. In above circuit diagram, Normally open electro mechanical relay is used. A
voltage required to energize the coil, vary from relay to relay. Voltage may vary from 5 volt
to 50 volt and current may very from mA to 20mA. The relays also have minimum voltage
rating. Its means below voltage rating relay will not operate. One can check minimum
operating voltage o relay in its data sheet. But current requirements are not specified in date
sheets. Coil resistance is usually provided in data sheet of relay which can be used to find
current requirement of relay using Ohms law formula V= IR. After getting basics
understanding of relay, now you can understand what is relay driver and how to use relay
driver circuit IC ULN2003?

What is relay driver circuits IC?

Relays are used mostly interfaced with microcontrollers and digital systems. But
microcontroller usually can not provide enough current to drive relays. Microcontrollers pins
usually provide maximum current of 1-2 mA per pin which is not enough o operate relay.
The circuits which are used to derive relays are called relay driver circuits. Therefore Relay
driver circuits using ULN2003 is used to drive relays. There are many other ways to operate
relays. I will also discuss other methods of relay driver circuits in later part of this article.

Why we need to use relay driver circuits?

While working on electronics projects which used microcontroller, we need to use relays to
control AC loads or high voltage loads. Relays are used to provide isolation between
microcontrollers circuits and high voltage operating loads. Microcontrollers are only used to
provide on/off signals to relays. Microcontrollers dont have enough current sourcing ability
to derive relays. Therefore relay driver circuits IC is used to derive relays properly. There are
many ways to design relay driver circuits. But dedicated relay driver circuits integrated
circuits are available which serve the purpose of relay driver IC. Relay driver circuit IC
ULN2003 is one of popular realy driver circuits. I will disucss relay driver IC ULN2003 in
this article. Following types of relay driver circuit ICs are also available in market:

Relay driver circuit using Transistor
Relay driver circuit using NPN transistor is given below. Transistor is used as a switch in this
circuit. Microcontroller provides High or low input signals to NPN transistor. NPN transistor
provide high driving current to electro mechanical relay through 12 volt external power
relay driver cricuit using transistor
Following components are used in relay driver circuit using transistor:

Base current limiter resistor R1 = 1K

zener diode of 12 volt used as a free wheeling diode
NPN transistor
12 volt dc power supply
Electro mechanical relay rating depend on your requirement of load
Relay driver circuit using ULN2003
ULN2003 is very famous relay driver integrated circuit. Relay driver IC uln2003 is high
voltage and high current integrated IC which used Darlington array. Its contains seven
Darlington pair of transistor which have high voltage and high current carrying capability. Its
mean ULN3002 can drive up to seven relay at a time. Diode is used with each pair of NPN
Darlington transistor. Diode makes it easily useable with inductive loads.

pin configuration of ULN2003

Applications of relay driver IC using ULN2003
There are many applications of relay driver circuit using uln2003, but some of famous
applications are given below:

relay drivers circuits

motor drivers circuits
lamp drivers
line drivers
hammer drivers
logic buffers and many others
Diagram of relay driver circuit using uln2003:
Relay driver circuit using uln2003 is given below. In this circuit diagram, pic microcontroller
is providing signal to 4 relays through relay driver IC uln2003.

relay driver circuit using uln2003

if we make above circuit diagram using transistors, it will be very difficult to
design this circuit. Single ULN2003 can be easily used int this circuit to drive
upto five relays. Microcontrollers can easily provide high or low signal to relays
through its output port D. Simple programming instructions tells
microcontroller to provide either high or low signal to relays. According to
signals provided by microcontroller, ULN2003 IC drive relays.

I have posted a project on green house system in which relay driver circuit using
uln2003 is used to drive four relays. Four relays are connected with four
different relays. Check following link to to know more about practical use of
relay driver circuit:

Intelligent green house control system

Stepper motor interfacing using Uln2003
While interfacing stepper motor with microcontrollers, relay driver circuit using
uln2003 is also used. Its circuit diagram using pic microcontroller is given

stepper motor interfacing with pic microcontroller

Schematic of relay driver circuit using uln2003:
Internal circuit diagram of relay driver ic Darlington pairs is given below.
Clamped diode is used as a free wheeling diode to avoid back emf effect in case
of inductive loads.

schamtic of
darlington pair of transistor in uln2003
Each output pin of ULN2003 provide upto 500mA current and peak current of
600mA. So this is all about relay driver circuit using uln2003. If you feel any
issue while using uln2003 IC in your project, can you write in comments.