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Voltage Regulators
Dec 28, 2017

A more usual alternative to additional filter components, if the DC load requires very low ripple voltage, is to follow the input filter with a voltage regulator. A voltage regulator operates on a different principle than a filter, which is essentially a voltage divider that shunts voltage at the ripple frequency away from the load. Rather, a regulator increases or decreases current supplied to the load in order to maintain a constant output voltage.

A simple passive shunt voltage regulator may consist of a series resistor to drop source voltage to the required level and a zener diode shunt with reverse voltage equal to the set voltage. When input voltage rises, the diode dumps current to maintain the set output voltage. This kind of regulator is usually employed only in low voltage, low current circuits because SS diodes have both voltage and current limitations. It is also very inefficient, because it dumps excess current, which is not available to the load.

A more efficient alternative to a shunt voltage regulator is an active voltage regulator circuit. An active regulator employs reactive components to store and discharge energy, so that most or all current supplied by the rectifier is passed to the load. It may also use negative and positive feedback in conjunction with at least one voltage amplifying component like a transistor to maintain output voltage when source voltage drops. The input filter must prevent the troughs of the ripple dropping below the minimum voltage required by the regulator to produce the required output voltage. The regulator serves both to significantly reduce the ripple and to deal with variations in supply and load characteristics.