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IC Voltage Regulators

A voltage regulator is one of the most widely used electronic circuitry in any device. A regulated voltage (without fluctuations & noise levels) is very important for the smooth functioning of many digital electronic devices. A common case is with micro controllers, where a smooth regulated input voltage must be supplied for the micro controller to function smoothly.

Voltage regulators are of different types. In this article, our interest is only with IC based voltage regulator. An example of IC based voltage regulator available in market is the popular 7805 IC which regulates the output voltage at 5 volts. Now lets come to the basic definition of an IC voltage regulator. It is an integrated circuit whose basic purpose is to regulate the unregulated input voltage (definitely over a predefined range) and provide with a constant, regulated output voltage.

An IC based voltage regulator can be classified in different ways. A common type of classification is 3 terminal voltage regulator and 5 or multi terminal voltage regulator. Another popular way of classifying IC voltage regulators is by identifying them as linear voltage regulator & switching voltage regulator. There is a third set of classification as 1) Fixed voltage regulators (positive & negative) 2) Adjustable voltage regulators (positive & negative) and finally 3) Switching regulators. In the third classification, fixed & adjustable regulators are basically versions of linear voltage regulators.

Fixed Voltage Regulators

These regulators provide a constant output voltage. A popular example is the 7805 IC which provides a constant 5 volts output. A fixed voltage regulator can be a positive voltage regulator or a negative voltage regulator. A positive voltage regulator provides with constant positive output voltage. All those IC’s in the 78XX series are fixed positive voltage regulators. In the IC nomenclature – 78XX ; the part XX denotes the regulated output voltage the IC is designed for. Examples:- 7805, 7806, 7809 etc.

A negative fixed voltage regulator is same as the positive fixed voltage regulator in design, construction & operation. The only difference is in the polarity of output voltages. These IC’s are designed to provide a negative output voltage. Example:- 7905, 7906 and all those IC’s in the 79XX series.

Adjustable Voltage Regulators

An adjustable voltage regulator is a kind of regulator whose regulated output voltage can be varied over a range. There are two variations of the same; known as positive adjustable voltage regulator and negative adjustable regulator. LM317 is a classic example of positive adjustable voltage regulator, whose output voltage can be varied over a range of 1.2 volts to 57 volts. LM337 is an example of negative adjustable voltage regulator. LM337 is actually a complement of LM317 which are similar in operation & design; with the only difference being polarity of regulated output voltage.

Switching Voltage Regulators

Switching regulators differ in design,construction & operation compared to linear voltage regulators. In switching regulators the output voltage is regulated by controlling the switching time of feedback circuitry (which includes a reference voltage); that is by adjusting the duty cycle. Note:- This article is an incomplete version of IC voltage regulators. We will be updating this article very soon with respective circuit diagrams & graphical representations. Stay tuned!

Block Diagram of 3 Terminal IC based Voltage Regulator

IC Voltage Regulator Block Diagram