# DEALING WITH AC MAINS

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1 ARTICLE DEALING WITH AC MAINS D.MOHAN KUMAR One of the major problem that is to be solved in an electronic circuit design is the production of low voltage DC power supply from AC mains to power the circuit. The conventional method is the use of a step-down transformer to reduce the 250 V AC to a desired level of low voltage AC. A bridge rectifier with a smoothing capacitor will convert the low voltage AC to DC to power the circuit. But the major drawback of the transformer power supply is that it will consume large space and is also bulky making the gadget heavy. Transformer less power supply is used nowadays in many electronic gadgets to reduce cost, weight and size. A direct method of obtaining low volt AC from mains is the usage of a high watt resistor. But this will result in severe loss of electrical energy in the form of heat. The most suitable and low cost method is the use of a voltage dropping capacitor in series with the phase line. Selection of the dropping capacitor and the circuit design requires some technical knowledge and practical experience to get the desired voltage and current. An ordinary capacitor will not do the job since the device will be destroyed by the rushing current from the mains. Mains spikes will create holes in the dielectric and the capacitor will fail to work. X-rated disc capacitor specified for the use in AC mains is required for reducing AC voltage. Before selecting the dropping capacitor, it is necessary to understand the working principle of the operation of the dropping capacitor. The X rated capacitor is designed for 250, 400, 600 V.AC. Higher voltage versions are also available. The Effective Impedance ( Z ), Rectance ( X ) and the mains frequency ( Hz ) are the important parameters to be considered while selecting the capacitor. The reactance( X ) of the capacitor ( C )in the mains frequency ( f ) can be calculated using the formula X = 1 / ( 2 fc ) For example the reactance of a 0.22 mf capacitor running in the mains frequency 50Hz will be X = 1 / ( 2 x 50 x 0.22 x 10 ) = 14.4 ohms. Effective impedance ( Z ) of the capacitor is determined by taking the load resistance ( R ) as an important parameter. Impedance can be calculated using the formula 1

2 Z = R + X Suppose the current in the circuit is I and Mains voltage is V then the equation appears like I = V / X The final equation thus becomes I = 230 V / = 15.9 ma. Therefore if a 0.22 mf capacitor rated for 230 V is used, it can deliver around 15 ma current to the circuit. But this is not sufficient for many circuits. Therefore it is recommended to use a 470 nf capacitor rated for 400 V for such circuits to give required current. Designing a power supply using Dropping capacitor It is easy to construct a power supply using a capacitor to reduce the AC voltage to a safer level. Two versions of capacitive reactance power supply circuits are given in Fig.1 and Fig.2. Fig.1 shows the power supply with half rectification and Fig.2 is a full wave rectifier power supply. R1 C1 D1 R3 R4 P R V AC DC V out N C2 ZD LED - Fig.1. Half wave power supply using dropping capacitor C1 D1 R1 D2 R3 R4 R2 + P 230V AC D3 C1 ZD LED DC V out N - D4 Fig.2.Full wave power supply using dropping capacitor 2

3 Fig.1 shows how 230V AC is dropped and a 12 V DC is produced through half wave rectification. The design shown in Fig.2 is almost same but the full wave rectifier bridge comprising D1 to D4 is used that will use both positive and negative half cycles of AC mains. Capacitor C1 is the main element in the circuit and it must be X rated for mains operation. A 470 nf non polarized capacitor rated for 400 V AC is a suitable option. R1 ( 100 ohms 1W ) is an important part of the circuit and it will limit the rushing current when the circuit is switched on. R2 ( 4.7 K ) must be added to discharge the stored current from the capacitor when the circuit is switched off. When the capacitor drops AC voltage, its potential increases to 400 volts and will retain the charge even if the circuit is switched off for many weeks. If R2 is not used, it may cause a fatal shock when the live pin of the plug is accidentally touched. Diodes used for rectification should have sufficient Peak inverse voltage ( PIV ). The peak inverse voltage is the maximum voltage a diode can withstand when it is reverse biased. 1N 4001 diode can withstand up to 50 Volts and 1N 4007 has a toleration of 1000 Volts. The important characteristics of general purpose rectifier diodes are given in table 1. Table 1 Type of diode Repetitive peak reverse voltage V rrm Average forward current Vr Forward voltage Vf Reverse current - Ir 1N V 1A 1.1 V 10 ua 1N V 1A 1.1V 10uA 1N V 1A 1.1V 10uA 1N V 1A 1.1V 10uA 1N V 1A 1.1V 10uA 1N V 1A 1.1V 10uA So a suitable option is a rectifier diode 1N4007. Usually a silicon diode has a Forward voltage drop of 0.6 V. The current rating ( Forward current ) of rectifier diodes also vary. Most of the general purpose rectifier diodes in the 1N series have 1 ampere current rating. Capacitor C2 ( 1000uF 25 V ) is the smoothing capacitor to generate ripple free DC. Smoothing capacitor is also called Filter capacitor and its function is to convert half 3

4 wave / full wave output of the rectifier into smooth DC. The power rating and the capacitance are two important aspects to be considered while selecting the smoothing capacitor. The power rating must be greater than the off load output voltage of the power supply. The capacitance value determines the amount of ripples that appear in the DC output when the load takes current. For example, a full wave rectified DC output obtained from 50Hz AC mains operating a circuit that is drawing 100 ma current will have a ripple of 700 mv peak-to-peak in the filter capacitor rated 1000 uf. The ripple that appears in the capacitor is directly proportional to the load current and is inversely proportional to the capacitance value. It is better to keep the ripple below 1.5 V peak-to-peak under full load condition. So a high value capacitor ( 1000 uf or 2200 uf ) rated 25 volts or more must be used to get a ripple free DC output. If ripple is excess it will affect the functioning of the circuit especially RF and IR circuits. Zener diode ZD is used to generate a regulated DC output. A Zener diode is designed to operate in the reverse breakdown region. If a silicon diode is reverse biased a point reached where its reverse current suddenly increases. The voltage at which this occurs is known as Avalanche or Zener value of the diode. Zener diodes are specially made to exploit the avalanche effect for use in Reference voltage regulators. A zener diode can be used to generate a fixed voltage by passing a limited current through it using the series resistor ( R3 ). The zener output voltage is not seriously affected by R3 and the output remains as a stable reference voltage. But the limiting resistor R3 is important, without which the zener diode will be destroyed. Even if the supply voltage varies, R3 will take up any excess voltage. The value of R3 can be calculated using the formula R = Vin Vz / Iz Where Vin is the input voltage, Vz output voltage and Iz current through the zener In most circuits, Iz is kept as low as 5mA. If the supply voltage is 18V, the voltage that is to be dropped across R3 to get 12V output is 6volts. If the maximum zener current allowed is 100 ma, then R3 will pass the maximum desired output current plus 5 ma. So the value of R3 appears as R3 = / 105 ma = 6 / 105 x 1000 = 57 ohms Power rating of the Zener is also an important factor to be considered while selecting the Zener diode. According to the formula P = IV. P is the power in watts, I current in Amps and V, the voltage. So the maximum power dissipation that can be allowed in a Zener is the Zener voltage multiplied by the current flowing through it. For example, if a 12V Zener passes 12 V DC and 100 ma current, its power dissipation will be 1.2 Watts. So a Zener diode rated 1.3W should be used. 4

5 LED along with the limiting resistor R4 is the power on status indicator. A significant voltage drop ( about 2 volts ) occurs across the LED when it passes forward current. The forward voltage drops of various LEDs are shown in Table 2. Table 2 Red Orange Yellow Green Blue White 1.8 V 2 V 2.1 V 2.2 V 3.6 V 3.6 V A typical LED can pass ma current without destroying the device. Normal current that gives sufficient brightness to a standard Red LED is 20 ma. But this may be 40 ma for Blue and White LEDs. Current limiting resistor R4 protect LED from excess current that is flowing through it. The value of R4 should be carefully selected to prevent damage to LED and also to get sufficient brightness at 20 ma current. The current limiting resistor can be selected using the formula R = V / I Where R is the value of resistor in ohms, V is the supply voltage and I is the allowable current in Amps. For a typical Red LED, the voltage drop is 1.8 volts. So if the supply voltage is 12 V ( Vs ), voltage drop across the LED is 1.8 V ( Vf ) and the allowable current is 20 ma ( If ) then the value of R4 will be Vs Vf / If = / 20 ma = 10.2 / 0.02 A = 510 Ohms. A suitable available value of resistor is 470 Ohms. But is advisable to use 1 K resistor to increase the life of the LED even though there will be a slight reduction in the brightness. Since the LED takes 1.8 volts, the output voltage will be around 10 volts. So if the circuit requires 12 volts, it is necessary to increase the value of Zener slightly. Table 3 is a ready reckoner for selecting limiting resistor for various versions of LEDs at different voltages. 5

6 Table 3 Supply Red Orange Yellow Green Blue White voltage 12 V 470 E 470 E 470 E 470 E 390 E 390 E 9 V 330 E 330 E 330 E 330 E 270 E 270 E 6 V 180 E 180 E 180 E 180 E 120 E 120 E 5 V 180 E 150 E 150 E 150 E 68 E 68 E 3 V 56 E 47 E 47 E 33 E - - * Available resistor values in ohms Great care must be taken while testing the power supply using a dropping resistor. Do not touch at any points in the PCB since some points are at mains potential. Even after switching off the circuit, avoid touching the points around the dropping capacitor to prevent electric shock. Extreme care should be taken to construct the circuit to avoid short circuits and fire. Sufficient spacing must be given between the components. The high value smoothing capacitor will explode, if is connected in the reverse polarity. The dropping capacitor is non- polarized so that it can be connected either way round. The power supply unit must be isolated from the remaining part of the circuit using insulators. The circuit should be housed in metal case without touching any part of the PCB in the metal case. The metal case should be properly earthed. Construction of this form of power supply is recommended only to those persons experienced or competent in handling AC mains. 6

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