what is a voltage regulator and how do they work?
What is a Voltage Regulator and How Do They Work?
Electronics and integrated circuits are typically sensitive components, requiring a constant voltage at a set value to efficiently operate without issue. As such, it is important that voltage is well managed within electrical systems so that each component may be properly powered. While a resistor may be used to control voltage, such components are dictated by the current flowing through them. As such, current may drop and voltage can spike, resulting in high amounts of damage. To better manage voltage without depending on load current, most electronics rely on a device known as a voltage regulator.
A typical voltage regulator is designed to manage voltage at a constant value, and they may use feed forward designs, negative feedback, electromechanical mechanisms, or electronics components in order to provide their functionality. To maintain stability, the voltage regulator is capable of dropping a larger voltage to a smaller one before providing energy to various components. As such, the device acts similar to an advanced emitter follower, utilizing transistor parts to supply a constant voltage.
The most simplistic electronic voltage regulators may be designed with a resistor in series with a diode. This permits small changes in current, that of which is beneficial for low voltage regulated output applications. For more robust operations and capabilities, one may take advantage of models that utilize a zener diode or a series of such diodes. Zener diode regulators are much more powerful due to the diode’s fixed reverse voltage which is sizable.
With an electromechanical voltage regulator assembly, the management of voltage is achieved through coiling the sensing wire to create an electromagnet. With the magnetic field, a movable ferrous core can be pulled back through magnetic attraction. As the voltage running through the power supply increases, so too does the strength of the magnetic field. This design allows for control over power, ensuring that components are provided with a safe amount of voltage.
Automatic voltage regulator components are also available, and such types are often used in power stations, standby power systems, and ship electrical power production systems. The automatic voltage regulator is a feedback control system which measures the generator’s output voltage so that it can be compared to a set point. Upon comparing the output voltage, the automatic voltage regulator will adjust the generator excitation as necessary. Automatic voltage regulators may also be used to control multiple generators that are connected in parallel, and they will rely on a circuit to manage the power factor of all equipment.
When searching for voltage regulator devices, the most common series is the 78XX line of positive voltage regulators. The final two digits of the series represents the output voltage of the device, and thus the 7805 series voltage regulator will provide a 5V output. Depending on the need, such voltage regulators may be procured with an output voltage ranging from 3.3V to 24V. The 78XX series is also beneficial for numerous applications, and they are fairly simple to use. Beyond such examples, numerous other voltage regulators are available to accommodate different needs.