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A voltage regulator is a system designed to automatically maintain a constant voltage level.

A
voltage regulator may use a simple feed-forward design or may include negative feedback. It may
use an electromechanical mechanism, or electronic components. Depending on the design, it may
be used to regulate one or more AC or DC voltages.
Electronic voltage regulators are found in devices such as computer power supplies where they
stabilize the DC voltages used by the processor and other elements. In automobile alternators and
central power station generator plants, voltage regulators control the output of the plant. In
an electric power distribution system, voltage regulators may be installed at a substation or
along distribution lines so that all customers receive steady voltage independent of how much power
is drawn from the line.

linear regulator is a system used to maintain a steady voltage. The resistance of the regulator
varies in accordance with the load resulting in a constant output voltage. The regulating device is
made to act like a variable resistor, continuously adjusting a voltage divider network to maintain a
constant output voltage and continually dissipating the difference between the input and regulated
voltages as waste heat. By contrast, a switching regulator uses an active device that switches on
and off to maintain an average value of output. Because the regulated voltage of a linear regulator
must always be lower than input voltage, efficiency is limited and the input voltage must be high
enough to always allow the active device to drop some voltage.
Overview
The transistor (or other device) is used as one half of a potential divider to establish the regulated
output voltage. The output voltage is compared to a reference voltage to produce a control signal to
the transistor which will drive its gate or base. With negative feedback and good choice
of compensation, the output voltage is kept reasonably constant. Linear regulators are often
inefficient: since the transistor is acting like a resistor, it will waste electrical energy by converting it
to heat. In fact, the power loss due to heating in the transistor is the current multiplied by
the voltage difference between input and output voltage. The same function can often be performed
much more efficiently by a switched-mode power supply, but a linear regulator may be preferred for
light loads or where the desired output voltage approaches the source voltage. In these cases, the
linear regulator may dissipate less power than a switcher. The linear regulator also has the
advantage of not requiring magnetic devices (inductors or transformers) which can be relatively
expensive or bulky, being often of simpler design, and cause less electromagnetic interference.
Some designs of linear regulators use only transistors, diodes and resistors, which are easier to
fabricate into an integrated circuit, further reducing their weight, footprint on a PCB, and price.
All linear regulators require an input voltage at least some minimum amount higher than the desired
output voltage. That minimum amount is called the dropout voltage. For example, a common
regulator such as the 7805 has an output voltage of 5V, but can only maintain this if the input voltage
remains above about 7V, before the output voltage begins sagging below the rated output. Its
dropout voltage is therefore 7V − 5V = 2V. When the supply voltage is less than about 2V above the
desired output voltage, as is the case in low-voltage microprocessor power supplies, so-called low
dropout regulators (LDOs) must be used.
When the output regulated voltage must be higher than the available input voltage, no linear
regulator will work (not even a Low dropout regulator). In this situation, something like a switched-
mode power supply of the "boost" type or a charge pump must be used. Most linear regulators will
continue to provide some output voltage approximately the dropout voltage below the input voltage
for inputs below the nominal output voltage until the input voltage drops significantly.
Linear regulators exist in two basic forms: shunt regulators and series regulators. Most linear
regulators have a maximum rated output current. This is generally limited by either power dissipation
capability, or by the current carrying capability of the output transistor.
Simple shunt regulator
The image shows a simple shunt voltage regulator that operates by way of the Zener diode's action
of maintaining a constant voltage across itself when the current through it is sufficient to take it into

the Zener breakdown region. The resistor R1 supplies the Zener current as well as the load

current IR2 (R2 is the load). R1 can be calculated as , where is the Zener voltage, and IR2 is
the required load current.
This regulator is used for very simple low-power applications where the currents involved are very
small and the load is permanently connected across the Zener diode (such as voltage
reference or voltage source circuits). Once R1 has been calculated, removing R2 will allow the full
load current (plus the Zener current) through the diode and may exceed the diode's maximum
current rating, thereby damaging it. The regulation of this circuit is also not very good because the

Zener current (and hence the Zener voltage) will vary depending on and inversely depending
on the load current. In some designs, the Zener diode may be replaced with another similarly
functioning device, especially in an ultra-low-voltage scenario, like (under forward bias) several
normal diodes or LEDs in series.[1]

Simple series regulator


Adding an emitter follower stage to the simple shunt regulator forms a simple series voltage
regulator and substantially improves the regulation of the circuit. Here, the load current IR2 is supplied
by the transistor whose base is now connected to the Zener diode. Thus the transistor's base current
(IB) forms the load current for the Zener diode and is much smaller than the current through R2. This
regulator is classified as "series" because the regulating element, viz., the transistor, appears in

series with the load. R1 sets the Zener current (IZ) and is determined as where, VZ is the Zener
voltage, IB is the transistor's base current, K = 1.2 to 2 (to ensure that R1 is low enough for adequate

IB) and where, IR2 is the required load current and is also the transistor's emitter current
(assumed to be equal to the collector current) and hFE(min) is the minimum acceptable DC current gain
for the transistor.
This circuit has much better regulation than the simple shunt regulator, since the base current of the
transistor forms a very light load on the Zener, thereby minimising variation in Zener voltage due to
variation in the load. Note that the output voltage will always be about 0.65V less than the Zener due
to the transistor's VBE drop. Although this circuit has good regulation, it is still sensitive to the load
and supply variation. This can be resolved by incorporating negative feedback circuitry into it. This
regulator is often used as a "pre-regulator" in more advanced series voltage regulator circuits.
The circuit is readily made adjustable by adding a potentiometer across the Zener, moving the
transistor base connection from the top of the Zener to the pot wiper. It may be made step adjustable
by switching in different Zeners. Finally it is occasionally made microadjustable by adding a low
value pot in series with the Zener; this allows a little voltage adjustment, but degrades regulation
(see also capacitance multiplier).

Fixed regulators
"Fixed" three-terminal linear regulators are commonly available to generate fixed voltages of plus 3
V, and plus or minus 5 V, 6V, 9 V, 12 V, or 15 V, when the load is less than 1.5 A.
The "78xx" series (7805, 7812, etc.) regulate positive voltages while the "79xx" series (7905, 7912,
etc.) regulate negative voltages. Often, the last two digits of the device number are the output
voltage (e.g., a 7805 is a +5 V regulator, while a 7915 is a −15 V regulator). There are variants on
the 78xx series ICs, such as 78L and 78S, some of which can supply up to 2 Amps.[2]
Adjusting fixed regulators

ICs

"Fixed" three-terminal linear regulators are commonly available to generate fixed voltages of plus 3
V, and plus or minus 5 V, 6V, 9 V, 12 V, or 15 V, when the load is less than 1.5 A.
The "78xx" series (7805, 7812, etc.) regulate positive voltages while the "79xx" series (7905, 7912,
etc.) regulate negative voltages. Often, the last two digits of the device number are the output
voltage (e.g., a 7805 is a +5 V regulator, while a 7915 is a −15 V regulator). There are variants on
the 78xx series ICs, such as 78L and 78S, some of which can supply up to 2 Amps.[2]

Adjusting fixed regulators[edit]


By adding another circuit element to a fixed voltage IC regulator, it is possible to adjust the output
voltage. Two example methods are:

1. A Zener diode or resistor may be added between the IC's ground terminal and ground.
Resistors are acceptable where ground current is constant, but are ill-suited to regulators
with varying ground current. By switching in different Zener diodes, diodes or resistors, the
output voltage can be adjusted in a step-wise fashion.
2. potentiometer can be placed in series with the ground terminal to increase the output voltage
variably. However, this method degrades regulation, and is not suitable for regulators with
varying ground current.