Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The ULN2003

The ULN2003 IC is an extremely versatile part, and with the help of [Hulk]’s deep dive, you might just get some new ideas about how to use this part in your own projects.

Each of the seven outputs works like this simplified diagram.

Inside the ULN2003 you’ll find seven high-voltage and high-current NPN Darlington pairs capable of switching inductive loads. But like most such devices there are a variety of roles it can fill. The part can be used to drive relays or motors (either brushed or stepper), it can drive LED lighting, or simply act as a signal buffer. [Hulk] provides some great examples, so be sure to check it out if you’re curious.

Each of the Darlington pairs (which act as single NPN transistors) is configured as open collector, and the usual way this is used is to switch some kind of load to ground. Since the inputs can be driven directly from 5 V digital logic, this part allows something like a microcontroller to drive a high current (or high voltage, or both) device it wouldn’t normally be able to interface with.

While the circuitry to implement each of the transistor arrays isn’t particularly complex and can be easily built by hand, a part like this is a real space saver due to how it packs everything needed in a handy package. Each output can handle 500 mA, but this can be increased by connecting in parallel.

There’s a video (embedded below) which steps through everything you’d like to know about the ULN2003. Should you find yourself wanting a much, much closer look at the inner secrets of this chip, how about a gander at the decapped die?

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The Geometry Of Transistors

Building things in a lab is easy, at least when compared to scaling up for mass production. That’s why there are so many articles about fusion being right around the corner, or battery technology that’ll allow aviation to switch away from fossil fuels, or any number of other miraculous solutions that never come into being. They simply don’t scale or can’t be manufactured in a cost effective way. But even when they are miraculous and can be produced on a massive scale, as is the case for things like transistors, there are some oddities that come up as a result of the process of making so many. This video goes into some of the intricacies of a bipolar junction transistor (BJT) and why it looks the way it does.

The BJT in this video is a fairly standard NPN type, with three layers of silicon acting as emitter, base, and collector. Typically when learning about electronics devices the drawings of them are simplified two-dimensional block diagrams, but under a microscope this transistor at first appears nothing like the models shown in the textbook. Instead it resembles more of a bird’s foot with a few small wires attached. The bird’s foot shape is a result of attempting to lower the undesirable resistances of the device and improve its performance, and some of its other quirks are due to the manufacturing process. That process starts with a much larger layer of doped silicon that will eventually become the collector, and then the other two, much smaller, layers of the transistor deposited on top of the collector. This also explains while it looks like there are only two layers upon first glance, and also shows that the horizontal diagram used to model the device is actually positioned vertically in the real world.

For most of the processes in our daily lives, the transistor has largely been abstracted away. We don’t have to think about them in a computer that much anymore, and unless work is being done on high-wattage power electronics devices, radios, or audio amplifiers it’s not likely that an average person will run into a transistor. But this video goes a long way to explaining the basics of one of the fundamental building blocks of the modern world for those willing to take a dive into the physics. Take a look at this video as well for an intuitive explanation of the close cousin of the BJT, the field-effect transistor.

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555 Teardown Isn’t Just A Good Time, It’s To Die For

It seems only appropriate that hot on the heels of the conclusion of Hackaday’s 555 Timer Contest that [Ken Shirriff] posts a silicon die teardown of an early version of a hacker’s favorite chip, the 555.

A Microscopic View Of the 555 Die

Starting with a mystery chip from January 1973, [Eric Schlaepfer] painstakingly sanded down the package to reveal the die, which he deemed to be a 555 timer. Why didn’t they know it was a 555 timer to start? Because the package was not marked with “555” but rather some other marks that you can see in the blog post.

In addition to a great explanation of how the 555 works in general, [Ken] has taken a microscopic look at the 555 die itself. The schematic of a 555 is easily available, and [Ken] identifies not just sections of the die but individual components. He goes further yet by explaining how the PNP and NPN resistors are constructed in silicon. There’s also a nice and juicy bit of insight into the resistors in the IC, but we won’t spoil it here.

Be sure to show your love for the winners of the 555 contest, or at the very least check out the project that took the stop spot: a giant sized 555 that you don’t need a microscope to see inside of.

Check Your Pockets For Components

The ideal component tester is like a tricorder for electronics — it can measure whatever it is that you need it to, all the time. Maybe you have a few devices like an ohmmeter and maybe a transistor socket on our multimeter. But what do you do when you need to see if that thyristor is faulty? [Akshay Baweja] wants an everything-tester at the ready, so he’s building a comprehensive device that fits in a pocket. It will identify the type and size of: Continue reading “Check Your Pockets For Components”

Sidney Darlington

In a field where components and systems are often known by sterile strings of characters that manufacturers assign or by cutesy names that are clearly products of the marketing department and their focus groups, having your name attached to an innovation is rare. Rarer still is the case where the mere mention of an otherwise obscure inventor’s name brings up a complete schematic in the listener’s mind.

Given how rarely such an honor is bestowed, we’d be forgiven to think that Sidney Darlington’s only contribution to electronics is the paired transistor he invented in the 1950s that bears his name to this day. His long career yielded so much more, from network synthesis theory to rocket guidance systems that would eventually take us to the Moon. The irony is that the Darlington pair that made his name known to generations of engineers and hobbyists was almost an afterthought, developed after a weekend of tinkering.

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Preheat Alarm Added To A Basic Kitchen Oven

[Justin] didn’t want to keep checking if the ‘oven heating’ indicator light had gone off before popping his unbaked edibles into the oven. Many models offer a buzzer to let you know when the chosen temp is reached, but for folks who own a basic oven model there’s just a light that tells when the heating element is getting juice. Not to worry, he plied his circuit design skills and built a buzzer to alert him when the oven’s ready.

It only took a few components to accomplish the task. [Justin] uses a pair of NPN transistors triggered by a photoresistor. One transistor is responsible for switching on the buzzer, the other transistor is driven by the photoresistor and controls the base of its companion transistor (see the schematic for a better understanding).

He designed and etched a small PCB to host all the parts. As you can see above, it mounts over the indicator light and is powered by a 9V battery. There’s an on/off switch to the right so the buzzer doesn’t keep triggering while cooking, and a potentiometer allows him to fine-tune the photoresistor sensitivity.

Simple Transistor Tester Makes Sorting Easy


Hacker [Dino Segovis] is back with yet another installment of his Hack a Week series, and it’s looking like he isn’t too worse for wear after hunkering down to face hurricane Irene.

This week, it seems that [Dino] is having some problems separating his PNP transistors from his NPNs. After Albert Einstein proves to be less than useful when it comes to sorting electronic components, [Dino] decided to build a simple transistor tester to help him tell his PNPs and NPNs apart without having to resort to looking up product data sheets.

The tester itself is relatively simple to build. As you can see in the video below, it consists of a power supply, an LED, a few resistors, a pair of known transistors, and not much else. When everything is hooked together, the NPN/PNP pair causes the LED to light up, but the circuit is broken whenever one of the transistors is removed. Inserting a new transistor into the empty spot on the breadboard immediately lets you know which sort of transistor you have inserted.

Sure you can tell transistors apart with a multimeter, but if you have a whole drawer full of loose components, this is a far more efficient option.

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