The Zener diode is often used to create a reference voltage. In tutorials and even college texts, there are mentions of creating a Zener diode based regulator. The idea is that the Zener maintains a known voltage drop. The problem is that current matters. This post looks a quick Zener diode overview and shows what happened when I tried to power a microcontroller using a “Zener diode regulator.”
Here are some ideas of what you can do with the humble voltage divider. This elementary circuit has a few inventive uses. To be upfront, one of these uses is NOT as a voltage regulator. If you need a voltage regulated, get a voltage regulator! At some point or another, I’ve built all five of these voltage divider circuits. For me, the voltage level shifter is the most common.
- Measure Battery Voltage
- Signal Level Shifter
- Reference Voltage
- R-2R Ladder
- One Analog Input with Many Buttons
Digital ICs like microcontrollers, memory, and shift registers need a stable voltage source to make sure they work as expected. Most circuits are designed with a voltage regulator to accomplish this stability. In theory voltage regulators will vary their output to stay at a set voltage, regardless of how much current the load is drawing. As a load draws a little bit more current, the supply voltage will begin to sag. Conversely when the load is…