PWM power controller

Posted on Feb 5, 2014

This circuit uses a 555 timer to generate a sawtooth voltage waveform across a capacitor, then compares that signal against a steady voltage provided by a potentiometer, using an op-amp as a comparator. The comparison of these two voltage signals produces a square-wave output from the op-amp, varying in duty cycle according to the potentiometer`s

PWM power controller
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position. This variable duty cycle signal then drives the base of a power transistor, switching current on and off through the load. The 555`s oscillation frequency is much higher than the lamp filament`s ability to thermally cycle (heat and cool), so any variation in duty cycle, or pulse width, has the effect of controlling the total power dissipated by the load over time. Controlling electrical power through a load by means of quickly switching it on and off, and varying the "on" time, is known as pulse-width modulation, or PWM. It is a very efficient means of controlling electrical power because the controlling element (the power transistor) dissipates comparatively little power in switching on and off, especially if compared to the wasted power dissipated of a rheostat in a similar situation. When the transistor is in cutoff, its power dissipation is zero because there is no current through it. When the transistor is saturated, its dissipation is very low because there is little voltage dropped between collector and emitter while it is conducting current. PWM is a concept easier understood through experimentation than reading. It would be nice to view the capacitor voltage, potentiometer voltage, and op-amp output waveforms all on one (triple-trace) oscilloscope to see how they relate to one another, and to the load power. However, most of us have no access to a triple-trace oscilloscope, much less any oscilloscope at...

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