Learning Electronics

Learning Electronics

Learn to build electronic circuits

Low-Drop 5V Regulator

A 4-cell pack is a convenient, popular battery size. Alkaline manganese batteries are sold in retail stores in packs of four, which usually provide sufficient energy to keep battery replacement frequency at a reasonable level. Generating 5 V from four batteries is, however, a bit tricky. A fresh set of four batteries has a terminal voltage of 6.4 V, but at the end of their life, this voltage is down to 3.2 V. Therefore, the voltage needs to be stepped up or down, depending on the state of the batteries. A flyback topology with a costly, custom designed transformer could be used, but the circuit in the diagram gets around the problem by using a flying capacitor together with a second inductor.

Circuit diagram:
Low-Drop 5V Regulator Circuit Diagram

The circuit also isolates the input from the output, allowing the output to go to 0 V during shutdown. The circuit can be divided conceptually into boost and buck sections. Inductor L1 and switch IC1 comprise the boost or step-up section, and inductor L2, diode D1 and capacitor C3 form the buck or step-down section. Capacitor C2 is charged to the input voltage, Vin, and acts as a level shift between the two sections. The switch toggles between ground and Vin+Vout , while the junction of L2, C2 and D1 toggles between –Vin and Vout +Vd1. Efficiency is directly related to the quality of the capacitors and inductors used.

Better quality capacitors are more expensive. Better quality inductors need not cost more, but normally take up more space. The Sanyo capacitors used in the prototype (C1–C3) specify a maximum ESR (effective series resistance) of 0.045 ½ and a maximum ripple current rating of 2.1 A. The inductors used specify a maximum DCR (direct current resistance) of 0.058 ½. Worst-case r.m.s. current through capacitor C2 occurs at minimum input voltage, that is, 400 mA at full load with an input voltage of 3 V.