Electronics Components: How the 555 Timer Chip Works
The 555 is a single-chip version of a commonly used circuit called a multivibrator, which is useful in a wide variety of electronic circuits. The 555 timer chipis probably the most popular integrated circuit ever made.
You can use the 555 chips for basic timing functions, such as turning a light on for a certain length of time, or you can use it to create a warning light that flashes on and off. You can use it to produce musical notes of a particular frequency, or you can use it to control positioning of a servo device.
Here is the arrangement of the eight pins in a standard 555 IC. The 555 comes in an 8-pin DIP package.
Here are the functions of each of the eight pins:
Ground: Pin 1 is connected to ground.
VCC: Pin 8 is connected to the positive supply voltage. This voltage must be at least 4.5 V and no greater than 15 V. It's common to run 555 circuits using four AA or AAA batteries, providing 6 V, or a single 9 V battery.
Output: Pin 3 is the output pin. The output is either low, which is very close to 0 V, or high, which is close to the supply voltage that’s placed on pin 8. The exact shape of the output — that is, how long it's high and how long it's low, depends on the connections to the remaining five pins.
Trigger: Pin 2 is the trigger, which works like a starter’s pistol to start the 555 timer running. The trigger is an active low trigger, which means that the timer starts when voltage on pin 2 drops to below one-third of the supply voltage. When the 555 is triggered via pin 2, the output on pin 3 goes high.
Discharge: Pin 7 is called the discharge. This pin is used to discharge an external capacitor that works in conjunction with a resistor to control the timing interval. In most circuits, pin 7 is connected to the supply voltage through a resistor and to ground through a capacitor.
Threshold: Pin 6 is called the threshold. The purpose of this pin is to monitor the voltage across the capacitor that's discharged by pin 7. When this voltage reaches two thirds of the supply voltage (Vcc), the timing cycle ends, and the output on pin 3 goes low.
Control: Pin 5 is the control pin. In most 555 circuits, this pin is simply connected to ground, usually through a small 0.01 μF capacitor. (The purpose of the capacitor is to level out any fluctuations in the supply voltage that might affect the operation of the timer.)
Reset: Pin 4 is the reset pin, which can be used to restart the 555’s timing operation. Like the trigger input, reset is an active low input. Thus, pin 4 must be connected to the supply voltage for the 555 timer to operate. If pin 4 is momentarily grounded, the 555 timer’s operation is interrupted and won't start again until it's triggered again via pin 2.
When used in a schematic diagram, the pins of a 555 timer chip are almost always shown in the arrangement depicted here. Supply voltage is at the top, ground is at the bottom, inputs are at the left, and outputs are at the right.