RLD-based astable 555 timer circuit

In the classic configuration and most variants of the astable 555 multivibrator circuit, the timing characteristics are based on the charging and discharging of a capacitor. However, it can be argued that since the exponential voltage of a capacitor is qualitatively similar to inductor current, the latter can be made an alternative timing element for the 555. This was shown in the “Inductor-based astable 555 timer circuit”. In Figure 1, we present another approach for an inductor-based astable 555 multivibrator.  

Figure 1 An astable 555 timer circuit based on an inductor, diode, and resistor. 

Wow the engineering world with your unique design: Design Ideas Submission Guide

At power-on, the inductor voltage (VL) spikes up and exceeds the 555’s trigger voltage of 2Vcc/3. Output (Vo) at pin 3 goes low and the discharge transistor at pin 7 turns on which provides a low-resistance path to ground. Inductor current (IL) begins to rise as VL and the voltage at pin 2 (V2) and pin 6 (V6) all fall exponentially.

When V6 gets below the 555’s threshold voltage of Vcc/3, Vo goes high, and the discharge transistor turns off. Because IL was interrupted, the inductor’s voltage reverses which forward-biases the flywheel diode (D). Pin 7 gets clamped to a diode forward voltage above Vcc. Both IL and VL start to fall towards zero while V2 climbs toward Vcc. 

When V2 crosses 2Vcc/3 again, Vo goes low, the discharge transistor turns on, and the train of regular high and low output pulses ensues. The expected waveforms are shown in Figure 2. 

Figure 2 The simulated waveforms using Tinkercad (setting: 15 µs/div).

For each state of Vo, we derived the first-order differential equation of the effective circuit. This led us to the Equation 1 for calculating the pulse widths:

The symbols are defined in Table 1 where the columns for TH and TL list specific values that the symbols take on. We also considered Rs as the inductor’s DC resistance, RON = 59.135 / Vcc0.8101 as the resistance of the discharge transistor at pin 7 (Refer to “Design low-duty-cycle timer circuits”), and VD=0.6 V as the diode forward voltage.

Table 1 Formulas to predict timing characteristics.

To test these ideas, we prepared a spreadsheet calculator that predicts TH, TL, and other output characteristics. Then we picked the components listed in Table 2, used a digital LCR tester (SZBJ BM4070) to measure their actual values, and plugged the numbers into the calculator. The predicted attributes of Vo are listed in Table 3.

Table 2 Components for the experimental circuit.

Table 3 Predicted versus measured values (Vcc=5.00 volts). 

Finally, we connected to our laptop, a USB-powered test and measurement device—the Digilent Analog Discovery 3 (AD3)—to supply +5 V to the experimental circuit (Figure 3) and observe the waveforms from pins 2 and 6, and 3 of the IC (Figure 4). We tested 8 chips from a bin of assorted 555s and noticed that while TH was consistent, the TL values annoyingly lacked precision. Nonetheless when we compared the AD3 Measurements with the Predicted values in Table 3, we saw that Equation 1 fairly modeled the output of the new multivibrator.  

Figure 3 Experimental set-up with the Digilent Analog Discovery 3 connected to the +5 V to the experimental circuit.

Figure 4 Waveforms of V2, V6, and Vo, and measurements for Vo.

Arthur Edang (M.Sc) taught Electronics and Communications Engineering courses at the Don Bosco Technical College (Mandaluyong, Philippines) for 25 years. His current interests include nonlinear phenomena and chaos in circuits, creative approaches to teaching and research, and adaptive e-books. He started Thinker*Tinker—the YouTube channel where viewers can “examine circuits, play with their equations, and make designs work.” 

Maria Lourdes Lacanilao-Edang (M.Engg) has instructed a diverse range of courses in the field of computer engineering, from Basic Electronics to Computer Design Interface Projects. Currently serving as faculty member at the University of Santo Tomas (Manila, Philippines), she specializes in the IT Automation track with particular interests in embedded systems, web and mobile app development, and IoT. 

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