How to Build a Simple Current Limiter Circuit with a 555 Timer

Introduction

A current limiter circuit is a useful circuit that can protect other parts of an electrical system from overcurrent damage. In this article, I will show you how to build a simple current limiter circuit using a 555 timer chip.

The 555 timer is a versatile integrated circuit that can be configured as an astable multivibrator to generate a pulse waveform. By using the output of the 555 to control a transistor, we can build a basic current limiter.

Here are the key points I will cover:

So if you need a simple way to limit current in your next electronics project, read on to learn how to build one with a 555!

How a Current Limiter Works

The key purpose of a current limiter is to regulate the current in a circuit so it does not exceed a preset maximum value. This protects the circuit components from excessive current flow that can cause overheating and damage.

The current limiter works by monitoring the current and actively limiting it if it starts to increase above the desired threshold. There are a few different ways a basic current limiter can achieve this:

The 555 timer circuit we will build uses the second approach. The 555 produces a PWM (pulse width modulation) signal that switches a transistor on and off rapidly. By adjusting the PWM duty cycle, we can limit the average current to the desired value.

The benefit of this approach is that it reacts quickly to changes in current draw. It can restrict the current efficiently without dissipating much power as heat.

Parts Needed

We only need a few parts to build the 555 current limiter:

The 555 serves as the PWM signal generator. The transistor acts as a switch to turn current flow on and off. The resistors help shape the waveform and sensitivity. The capacitor smooths the output. The LED acts as an indicator and sample load.

These are all very common components that should be easy to source. If needed, the values can be tweaked slightly for different performance.

Circuit Diagram

Here is the full schematic diagram for the 555 timer current limiter:

How to Build a Simple Current Limiter Circuit with a 555 Timer

Let's break down how it works:

Building the Circuit

With the design understood, let's look at actually constructing the current limiter circuit:

Step 1 - Insert the 555 Chip

Place the 555 timer chip on the breadboard. Insert it straddling the center divide with a GND pin on each side. This gives access to all pins.

Step 2 - Add Support Components

Install the 1 kΩ and 10 kΩ resistors, 100 μF capacitor, and LED with a series resistor onto the breadboard around the 555 chip.

Connect them to the 555 according to the circuit diagram using jumper wires.

Step 3 - Add the Transistor

Place the 2N2222 NPN transistor on the breadboard near the 555.

Wire the collector and emitter leads to complete the circuit as shown in the diagram.

Step 4 - Connect Power Supply

Connect a 5V or 9V power supply to provide power for the circuit.

The positive lead goes to pin 8 on the 555 chip. The negative lead goes to a ground pin.

Testing and Usage

After construction, test the current limiter circuit by powering it up and observing the LED brightness.

Initially the duty cycle will be high, and the LED bright. To reduce the average current, turn the 10 kΩ tuning resistor slowly. At some point the LED will begin to blink more slowly.

Find the adjustment range where the LED blinks slowly. In this mode, the circuit is actively limiting current.

To use the current limiter in a real circuit, connect the power supply and load between the transistor collector and emitter. The load current will now follow the duty cycle set by the 555 and 10 kΩ resistor.

Conclusion

Building a basic current limiter with a 555 timer is an easy weekend project using common components. The steps are straightforward and build a useful circuit with many applications.

With this design, you can quickly add controllable current limiting to protect circuits and loads. You can also modify the values to tune performance for different loads.

I hope this guide has given you a good overview of how to put together your own 555 timer based current limiter. Let me know if you have any other questions!