While there are many circuits that will tolerate a smoothed power supply, some must have a completely regular supply with no ripple voltage. This article discusses regulator ICs which can provide this regular power supply.
The 78xx Series of Regulators
There are many types of regulator IC and each type will have different pin-outs and will need to be connected up slightly differently. Therefore, this article will only look at one of the common ranges of regulator, the 78xx series.
There are seven regulators in the 78xx series, and each can pass up to 1A to any connected circuit. There are also regulators with similar type numbers that can pass a higher or lower current, as shown in the table below. In addition, variable regulators are available, as are regulators that can provide negative regulation voltages for circuits that require them.
If you are using a regulator after the smoothing block of the power supply, then you shouldn't need to worry about the ripple voltage, since the whole point of using a regulator is to get a stable, accurate, known voltage for your circuits! However, if the ripple voltage is too large and the input voltage to the regulator falls below the regulated voltage of the regulator, then of course the regulator will not be able to produce the correct regulated voltage. In fact, the input voltage to a regulator should usually be at least 2V above the regulated voltage. In our power supply circuit, the input to the 7805 regulator is around 12V, and the regulation voltage is 5V, so there is plenty of headroom. The maximum input voltage to any 78xx regulator is 30V.
The 78xx, 78Mxx, and 78Sxx regulators all have the pin-out shown in the left of figure 1 and are normally supplied in a case style known as TO-220. The 78Lxx series, shown in the right of figure 1, also has the same pin-out but has a case style known as TO-92. They are all connected to the rest of the power supply in the same way, as shown in figure 2.
In use, a regulator IC will get quite hot, so a heatsink will need to be attached to it to dissipate the heat. The type of heatsink you choose depends on the regulator's case style, the amount of heat it must dissipate, and the way in which you wish to mount it.
The examples shown below all suit the 78xx, 78Mxx, and 78Sxx regulator series TO-220 case style. The first two are the simplest and are clip-on types. The third has a hole so it can be bolted to the regulator, and two legs that can be soldered to a piece of stripboard or PCB. The fourth again has a mounting hole for the regulator, and also has a mounting hole for fixing to a board. To be sure of good heat transfer from the regulator to the heatsink, you can sandwich heat transfer compound between them.
Choosing a Heatsink
Heatsinks are rated by their 'thermal resistance' (Rth) given in
°C/W. For example, a rating of 2°C/W means the heatsink (and therefore
the regulator attached to it) will be 2°C hotter than the surrounding air for
every 1W of heat it is dissipating. Note that a lower thermal resistance
means a better heatsink.
The heatsink shown on the far right above can dissipate 9.5°C/W and so would be ideal for use in this example.
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