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Power Supplies
Types | Dual supplies | Transformer | Rectifier | Smoothing | Regulator

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Types of Power Supply
There are many types of power supply. Most are designed to convert high voltage AC mains electricity to a suitable low voltage supply for electronics circuits and other devices. A power supply can by broken down into a series of blocks, each of which performs a particular function. For example a 5V regulated supply:

Each of the blocks is described in more detail below:
   

Transformer - steps down high voltage AC mains to low voltage AC. Rectifier - converts AC to DC, but the DC output is varying. Smoothing - smooths the DC from varying greatly to a small ripple. Regulator - eliminates ripple by setting DC output to a fixed voltage.

Power supplies made from these blocks are described below with a circuit diagram and a graph of their output:
   

Transformer only Transformer + Rectifier Transformer + Rectifier + Smoothing Transformer + Rectifier + Smoothing + Regulator

for example a ±9V supply has +9V. This is called a 'dual supply' because it is like two ordinary supplies connected together as shown in the diagram. Dual supplies have three outputs. 0V and -9V outputs.Dual Supplies Some electronic circuits require a power supply with positive and negative outputs as well as zero volts (0V). Transformer only The low voltage AC output is suitable for lamps. heaters and special AC motors. It is not suitable for electronic circuits unless they include a rectifier and a smoothing capacitor. Further information: Transformer Transformer + Rectifier .

It is not suitable for electronic circuits unless they include a smoothing capacitor.The varying DC output is suitable for lamps. heaters and standard motors. It is suitable for most electronic circuits. Further information: Transformer | Rectifier Transformer + Rectifier + Smoothing The smooth DC output has a small ripple. Further information: Transformer | Rectifier | Smoothing Transformer + Rectifier + Smoothing + Regulator .

Further information: Transformer | Rectifier | Smoothing | Regulator Transformer Transformer circuit symbol Transformer Photograph © Rapid Electronics There is more information about transformers on the .The regulated DC output is very smooth with no ripple. It is suitable for all electronic circuits.

determines the ratio of the voltages. A single diode can be used as a rectifier but it only uses the positive (+) parts of the AC wave to produce half-wave varying DC. and a small number of turns on its secondary (output) coil to give a low output voltage. but this method is rarely used now that diodes are cheaper. also be made from just two diodes if a centre-tap transformer is used. The ratio of the number of turns on each coil.Transformers convert AC electricity from one voltage to another with little loss of power. turns ratio = Vp Np = Vs Ns and power out = power in Vs × Is = Vp × Ip Vs = secondary (output) voltage Ns = number of turns on secondary coil Is = secondary (output) current Vp = primary (input) voltage Np = number of turns on primary coil Ip = primary (input) current Rectifier There are several ways of connecting diodes to make a rectifier There is more information to convert AC to DC. Most power supplies use a step-down transformer to reduce the dangerously high mains voltage (230V in UK) to a safer low voltage. Step-up transformers increase voltage. step-down transformers reduce voltage. A step-down transformer has a large number of turns on its primary (input) coil which is connected to the high voltage mains supply. Transformers waste very little power so the power out is (almost) equal to the power in. Bridge rectifier . The input coil is called the primary and the output coil is called the secondary. Note that as voltage is stepped down current is stepped up. The two lines in the middle of the circuit symbol represent the core. Electronics in Meccano website. There is no electrical connection between the two coils. called the turns ratio. A full-wave rectifier can website. The bridge rectifier is the most important about rectifiers on the Electronics in Meccano and it produces full-wave varying DC. Transformers work only with AC and this is one of the reasons why mains electricity is AC. instead they are linked by an alternating magnetic field created in the soft-iron core of the transformer.

A bridge rectifier can be made using four individual diodes. Single diode rectifier Output: half-wave varying DC (using only half the AC wave) Smoothing . changing over the connections so the alternating directions of AC are converted to the one direction of DC. as shown in the diagram below. but it is also available in special packages containing the four diodes required. Please see the Diodes page for more details. 1.7V when conducting and there are always two diodes conducting. Please see the Diodes page for some examples of rectifier diodes. It is called a full-wave rectifier because it uses all the AC wave (both positive and negative sections).4V is used up in the bridge rectifier because each diode uses 0. Bridge rectifier Alternate pairs of diodes conduct. Bridge rectifiers are rated by the maximum current they can pass and the maximum reverse voltage they can withstand (this must be at least three times the supply RMS voltage so the rectifier can withstand the peak voltages). including pictures of bridge rectifiers. It is hard to smooth this sufficiently well to supply electronic circuits unless they require a very small current so the smoothing capacitor does not significantly discharge during the gaps. Output: full-wave varying DC (using all the AC wave) Single diode rectifier A single diode can be used as a rectifier but this produces half-wave varying DC which has gaps when the AC is negative.

For example 6V RMS AC is rectified to full wave DC of about 4. The capacitor charges quickly near the peak of the varying DC. supplying current to the output when the varying DC voltage from the rectifier is falling.4V is lost in the bridge rectifier). C = 5 × Io Vs × f There is more information about smoothing on the Electronics in Meccano website. Note that smoothing significantly increases the average DC voltage to almost the peak value (1.Smoothing is performed by a large value electrolytic capacitor connected across the DC supply to act as a reservoir.4 × RMS value). this is the peak value of the unsmoothed DC f = frequency of the AC supply in hertz (Hz).4 × 4.6 = 6.6V RMS (1. Smoothing capacitor for 10% ripple. The diagram shows the unsmoothed varying DC (dotted line) and the smoothed DC (solid line). For many circuits a ripple which is 10% of the supply voltage is satisfactory and the equation below gives the required value for the smoothing capacitor. giving a small ripple voltage.4V smooth DC. A larger capacitor will give less ripple. 50Hz in the UK Regulator . The capacitor value must be doubled when smoothing half-wave DC. and then discharges as it supplies current to the output. C = smoothing capacitance in farads (F) Io = output current from the supply in amps (A) Vs = supply voltage in volts (V). with smoothing this increases to almost the peak value giving 1. Smoothing is not perfect due to the capacitor voltage falling a little as it discharges.

5. The zener voltage Vz is the output voltage required 2.3W). Negative voltage regulators are available.Voltage regulator ICs are available with fixed (typically 5. Voltage regulator Photograph © Rapid Electronics Many of the fixed voltage regulator ICs have 3 leads and look like power transistors. Please see the Diodes page for more information about zener diodes. so when there is no output current all the current flows through the zener diode and its power rating Pz must be large enough to withstand this. The maximum current Imax is the output current required plus 10% The zener power Pz is determined by the maximum current: Pz > Vz × Imax The resistor resistance: R = (Vs . Please see the Electronics in Meccano website for more information about voltage regulator ICs. 4. The input voltage Vs must be a few volts greater than Vz (this is to allow for small fluctuations in Vs due to ripple) zener diode a = anode.Vz) × Imax . 6. They are also rated by the maximum current they can pass. They include a hole for attaching a heatsink if necessary. 12 and 15V) or variable output voltages. mainly for use in dual supplies. k = cathode 3. The resistor limits the current (like an LED resistor). such as the 7805 +5V 1A regulator shown on the right. Most regulators include some automatic protection from excessive current ('overload protection') and overheating ('thermal protection'). The current through the resistor is constant. Zener diode regulator For low current power supplies a simple voltage regulator can be made with a resistor and a zener diode connected in reverse as shown in the diagram.Vz) / Imax The resistor power rating: P > (Vs . Choosing a zener diode and resistor: 1. Zener diodes are rated by their breakdown voltage Vz and maximum power Pz (typically 400mW or 1.

The Electronics Club.Example: output voltage required is 5V. The operation and use of transistors is covered by the Transistor Circuits page. www. In many circuits a resistor is used to .05k = 50 . choose Pz = 400mW website. for example they can be used to amplify the small output current from a logic IC so that it can operate a lamp.7V (nearest value available) There is more information Vs = 8V (it must be a few volts greater than Vz) about regulators on the Imax = 66mA (output current plus 10%) Electronics in Meccano Pz > 4.4. Vz = 4. relay or other high current device. 2.freeuk. choose P = 0. R = (8V .5W Next Page: Transducers | Studying Electronics            Electronics Club Home Page Site Map Example Projects Construction of Projects Soldering Guide Study Electronics Electronic Components 555 Timer Circuit Symbols Frequently Asked Questions Links to other Electronics sites © John Hewes 2010. choose R = 47 Resistor power rating P > (8V .com Transistors This page covers practical matters such as precautions when soldering and identifying leads.7V) × 66mA = 218mW. 3.7V × 66mA = 310mW.kpsec. 1.4. Types | Connecting | Soldering | Heat sinks | Testing | Codes | Choosing | Darlington pair Also see: Heat sinks | Transistor Circuits Function Transistors amplify current. 6.7V) / 66mA = 0. 4. 5. output current required is 60mA.

symbol hFE. or fully off with no current) and as an amplifier (always partly on). there are field-effect transistors which are usually referred to as FETs. with different circuit symbols. Types of transistor There are two types of standard transistors. so the transistor is being used to amplify voltage. The leads are labelled base (B). NPN and PNP. . collector (C) and emitter (E). The letters refer to the layers of semiconductor material used to make the transistor. The amount of current amplification is called the current gain. If you are new to electronics it is best to start by learning how to use NPN transistors.convert the changing current to a changing voltage. A transistor may be used as a switch (either fully on with maximum current. For further information please see the Transistor Circuits page. Most transistors used today are NPN because this is the easiest type to make from silicon. so just treat them as labels! A Darlington pair is two transistors connected together to give a very high current gain. Transistor circuit symbols These terms refer to the internal operation of a transistor but they are not much help in understanding how a transistor is used. They have different circuit symbols and properties and they are not (yet) covered by this page. In addition to standard (bipolar junction) transistors.

If you find that a transistor is becoming too hot to touch it certainly needs a Heat sink heat sink! The heat sink helps to dissipate (remove) the heat by transferring it to the surrounding air. Please see below for a table showing the case styles of some common transistors. The drawings on the right show the leads for some of the most common case styles. Heat sinks are needed for power transistors because they pass large currents. Soldering Transistors can be damaged by heat when soldering so if you are not an expert it is wise to use a heat sink clipped to the lead between the joint and the transistor body. show the view from below with the leads towards you. Do not confuse this temporary heat sink with the permanent heat sink (described below) which may be required for a power transistor to prevent it overheating during operation. If you are lucky the orientation of the transistor will be clear from the PCB or stripboard layout diagram. Crocodile clip Photograph © Rapid Electronics. otherwise you will need to refer to a supplier's catalogue to identify the leads.Connecting Transistors have three leads which must be connected the correct way round. Please take care with this because a wrongly connected transistor may be damaged instantly when you switch on. Photograph © Rapid Electronics . Heat sinks Waste heat is produced in transistors due to the current flowing through them. A standard crocodile clip can be used as a heat sink. This is the opposite of IC (chip) pin diagrams which show the view from above. Please note that transistor lead diagrams Transistor leads for some common case styles.

The supply voltage is not critical. anything between 5 and 12V is suitable. To test a PNP transistor use the same circuit but reverse A simple switching circuit to test an NPN transistor . The base-collector (BC) junction should behave like a diode and conduct one way only. If you suspect that a transistor may be damaged there are two easy ways to test it: 1.For further information please see the Heat sinks page. The diodes are reversed in a PNP transistor but the same test procedure can be used. Testing with a multimeter Use a multimeter or a simple tester (battery. Test each pair of leads both ways (six tests in total):    The base-emitter (BE) junction should Testing an NPN transistor behave like a diode and conduct one way only. Testing a transistor Transistors can be damaged by heat when soldering or by misuse in a circuit. resistor and LED) to check each pair of leads for conduction. This circuit can be quickly built on breadboard for example. The diagram shows how the junctions behave in an NPN transistor. The collector-emitter (CE) should not conduct either way. Set a digital multimeter to diode test and an analogue multimeter to a low resistance range. Take care to include the 10k resistor in the base connection or you will destroy the transistor as you test it! If the transistor is OK the LED should light when the switch is pressed and not light when the switch is released. Testing in a simple switching circuit Connect the transistor into the circuit shown on the right which uses the transistor as a switch. 2.

but if necessary you can usually substitute an equivalent transistor from the wide range available. NPN transistors Code Structure Case IC VCE hFE Ptot Category Possible . for example C means low power audio frequency. There is no obvious logic to the numbering system. for example a higher current gain or a different case style. Transistor codes There are three main series of transistor codes used in the UK:  Codes beginning with B (or A). Codes beginning with 2N. D means high power audio frequency. The second letter indicates the type. The table below shows the most important technical data for some popular transistors. There is no obvious logic to the numbering system. The quantities shown in the table are explained below. The most important properties to look for are the maximum collector current IC and the current gain hFE. F means low power high frequency. but if the general code is given (BC108) any transistor with that code is suitable. Some multimeters have a 'transistor test' function which provides a known base current and measures the collector current so as to display the transistor's DC current gain hFE. The letter at the end identifies versions with different voltage ratings. for example 2N3053 The initial '2N' identifies the part as a transistor and the rest of the code identifies the particular transistor. They contain a great deal of useful information but they can be difficult to understand if you are not familiar with the abbreviations used.   Codes beginning with TIP. Choosing a transistor Most projects will specify a particular transistor. To make a final choice you will need to consult the tables of technical data which are normally provided in catalogues. for example TIP31A TIP refers to the manufacturer: Texas Instruments Power transistor. for example BC108. tables in catalogues and reference books will usually show additional information but this is unlikely to be useful unless you are experienced. BC478 The first letter B is for silicon. Sometimes a letter is added to the end (eg BC108C) to identify a special version of the main type.the LED and the supply voltage. The rest of the code identifies the particular transistor. To make selection easier most suppliers group their transistors in categories determined either by their typical use or maximum power rating. If a project specifies a higher gain version (BC108C) it must be used. A is for germanium (rarely used now).

low power General purpose. medium power General purpose. low power Audio (low noise). low power Audio (low noise). (typical use) Audio. low power General purpose. low power Audio. min. low power General purpose. low power General purpose. low power General purpose. max.style BC107 BC108 BC108C BC109 BC182 BC182L BC547B BC548B BC549B 2N3053 BFY51 BC639 TIP29A TIP31A TIP31C TIP41A NPN NPN NPN NPN NPN NPN NPN NPN NPN NPN NPN NPN NPN NPN NPN NPN max. high power General purpose. medium power General purpose. max. low power General purpose. high power substitutes BC182 BC547 BC108C BC183 BC548 TO18 100mA 45V 110 300mW TO18 100mA 20V 110 300mW TO18 100mA 20V 420 600mW TO18 200mA 20V 200 300mW TO92C 100mA 50V 100 350mW TO92A 100mA 50V 100 350mW TO92C 100mA 45V 200 500mW TO92C 100mA 30V 220 500mW TO92C 100mA 30V 240 625mW TO39 700mA 40V TO39 TO92A TO220 TO220 TO220 TO220 1A 1A 1A 3A 3A 6A 30V 80V 60V 60V 50 40 40 40 10 500mW 800mW 800mW 30W 40W 40W 65W BC184 BC549 BC107 BC182L BC107 BC182 BC107B BC108B BC109 BFY51 BC639 BFY51 TIP31C TIP41A 100V 10 60V 15 TIP31A TIP41A . high power General purpose. high power General purpose. low power General purpose.

VCE max. This information is also available in suppliers' catalogues. Structure This shows the type of transistor. high power BC177 BC178 Possible substitutes BC477 BC478 TO18 100mA 45V 125 300mW TO18 200mA 25V 120 600mW TO18 200mA 20V 180 600mW TO18 150mA 80V 125 360mW TO18 150mA 40V 125 360mW TO220 TO220 3A 3A 60V 25 40W 40W TIP32C 100V 10 TIP32A Please note: the data in this table was compiled from several sources which are not entirely consistent! Most of the discrepancies are minor. PNP transistors Code BC177 BC178 BC179 BC477 BC478 TIP32A TIP32C Structure PNP PNP PNP PNP PNP PNP PNP Case style IC max. NPN or PNP. low power General purpose. low power General purpose. Maximum voltage across the collector-emitter junction. but please consult information from your supplier if you require precise data. so if you are looking for a substitute it must be the same type. You can ignore this rating in low voltage circuits. high power Please note: the data in this table was compiled from several sources which are not entirely consistent! Most of the discrepancies are minor. The guaranteed minimum value is given because the actual value varies from transistor to transistor . VCE hFE max. high power General purpose. Maximum collector current. low power Audio. Case style IC max. There is a diagram showing the leads for some of the most common case styles in the Connecting section above.2N3055 NPN TO3 15A 60V 20 117W General purpose. min. Ptot max. hFE This is the current gain (strictly the DC current gain). low power General purpose. low power Audio (low noise). The polarities of the two types are different. but please consult information from your supplier if you require precise data. Category (typical use) Audio.even for those of the same .

Darlington pairs are sold as complete packages containing the two transistors.) is more important. note that a heat sink will be required to achieve the maximum rating. each with their own symbol. it is a good starting point when looking for a substitute. Why hFE? It is one of a whole series of parameters for transistors. Maximum total power which can be developed in the transistor. . For TR2 use BC639 with hFE2 = 40.type! Note that current gain is just a number so it has no units. they may have a different case style so you will need to take care when placing them on the circuit board. This gives the Darlington pair a very high current gain such as 10000. For transistors operating as switches the maximum collector current (IC max. C and E) which are equivalent to the leads of a standard individual transistor. This rating is important for transistors operating as amplifiers. for example '100@20mA' means the gain is at least 100 at 20mA. Since the gain is roughly constant for various currents but it varies from transistor to transistor this detail is only really of interest to experts. The overall gain of this pair is hFE1 × hFE2 = 220 × 40 = 8800. However. Darlington pair This is two transistors connected together so that the amplified current from the first is amplified further by the second transistor. You can make up your own Darlington pair from two transistors. For example:   For TR1 use BC548B with hFE1 = 220. Catalogues may have separate tables for different categories. There are too many to explain here. This shows the typical use for the transistor. the power is roughly IC × VCE. The pair's maximum collector current IC(max) is the same as TR2. Category Possible substitutes These are transistors with similar electrical properties which will be suitable substitutes in most circuits. They have three leads (B. Sometimes minimum and maximum values are given. The gain is often quoted at a particular collector current IC which is usually in the middle of the transistor's range. Ptot max.