High Current Voltage Regulation
High Current Voltage Regulation
Connect voltage regulators in parallel to increase the current which can be regulatedelectric circuit | electronics | generalVoltage regulators
are available as easy to use three terminal integrated circuits - one terminal for the input voltage, one for the output voltage, and one for the ground (0V). The most commonly used are from the 78XX series
- 7812 for 12 Volts, and 7805 for 5 Volts etc. Also of particular use for renewable energy
generators are very efficient low dropout regulators
such as the LM2940 series
- LM2940CT-12 for 12 Volt etc.
One common shortfall of these common regulators is they are rated at just 1 Amp
output current. It is usually possible to use them with higher currents, but a large heatsink and/or fan is essential. Regulators for higher currents than 1 Amp are available, but tend to be expensive, and still require good heatsinking.
Pictured above is a circuit from the Fairchild LM7812 datasheet
. This uses a power transistor
and a power resistor
to take on some of the workload enabling higher currents to be regulated. With this set up, the power transistor and power resistor need heatsinking
, and selecting the correct specification of transistor and resistor, and getting everything set up is not particularly easy.
One alternative is instead to parallel connect
multiple three terminal regulators, with each regulator handling up to 1 Amp of current.
Parallel Connecting Mulitple Voltage Regulators
such as the LM7812 cannot just be connected in parallel without additional circuitry. Each voltage regulator, though nominally rated at the same voltage, will in practice output a slightly different voltage - for example, three LM7812's could output 11.98, 12.01, and 12.06 respectively.
This tiny difference in voltage has the disastrous consequence of making the regulator with the lowest output voltage trying to carry all
of the current. This will cause it's internal thermal protection
to trigger (as the regulator overheats)
effectively removing that regulator from the circuit and kicking off a chain reaction up through the remaining parallel-connected regulators.
The circuit shown above* (from the EDN
article High-Current Supply uses Standard Three-terminal Regulator
) has two LM7812
voltage regulators connected in parallel for a maximum total output current of 2 Amps - double the rated current of one LM7812.
* Diodes D1, D2, and D are 1N4007; C=47,000uF, C1 and C2 are 4,700uF.
An even simpler way to parallel multiple voltage regulators together is to add very low (below 1 Ohm) ballast
resistors in series with the regulator outputs. Doing so should make the regulators share current equally
and therefore operate together without problems. It is worth noting however that this approach to load balancing
makes regulation a bit less accurate.
An example of this simplistic approach in use can be seen on the following web page Experimental 12V/6A Power Supply
in which six LM7812 regulators were connected in parallel with 0.25 Ohm
load balancing resistors (made up of four 1 Ohm resistors in parallel) connected in series with the output from each 7812 regulator. The above image shows the key elements in this 6 Amp 12 Volt regulator.
Article Last Modified: 17:16, 5th Dec 2007
Comment on this Article
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|Hello from Kentucky USA!|
In regard to this page, I have drawn up a couple of 78xx high current circuits you might like to consider. I've used them for a 30amp power supply with a 7815 regulator.
REUK Added Info: The MJE3055 is an NPN silicon power transistor rated at up to 60V, up to 75 Watts, and up to 10 Amps. Click here to view the MJE3055 Datasheet for more information.
If you are unable to find the MJE3055, any NPN power transistor with a similar rating can be used instead. Click here to view a selection of NPN power transistors.
I have since switched to using the better LM723 regulator so that I can adjust the voltage and it is far more reliable than the 78xx. I have used the LM723 for a 105amp supply.
REUK Added Info:The LM723 is a voltage regulator rated for outputs of 150mA at an adjustable voltage from 2V to 37V. By adding transistors as shown in the schematics above high output currents at the regulated voltage can be output. Click here to view the LM723 datasheet.
The LM723 is available in the UK from around 30 pence. Click here to buy an LM723 now.
I've learned a few things on your site so I thought I'd pass along a little in return.
Ken Weaver, 17th August 2009
The benefit of this first schematic is that the output is actually regulated; the PNP is fully in the feedback loop.
However in Ken's circuit, the bases of the 3055 are regulated, but not the emitters, where the output is taken. Thus for every current ratio of 2.7 the voltage drops by 25mV.
Nick, 10th July 2012
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