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Power Control : Basic Lamp Dimmer

Power Control : Basic Lamp Dimmer

Lamp dimmers using traics can be quite simple, nothing more than a potentiometer, resistor, capacitor and triac with a built-in diac.The circuit below is similar to designs using unijunction transistors to generate the triggering pulse.
The unijunction is replaced by a two-transistor “flasher” circuit that drives a pulse transformer. This type of circuit gives a wide range of control while exhibiting little hysteresis or line voltage sensitivity. The two diodes rectify the line voltage such that the flasher sees a positive voltage pulse on each half-cycle and, after a delay set by R and the 0.1uF capacitor, the flasher circuit triggers the triac. The capacitor discharge is deep so the dimmer starts fresh on the next half-cycle. Note that the triac always gets the same polarity of trigger pulse.


The dimmer may be controlled in a number of ways. The first option for R shows a typical mechanical control and the second option shows the use of an opto-isolator for electrically controlling the dimmer. The electronic control would be useful in applications like computer control, color organs, power flashers, heaters, speed controllers, and other feedback systems. The base of the PNP is another sensitive spot to add control but the designer must remember that the whole circuit must be floating and large voltage swings are present.

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