**Fig. 1**

# Design LM317 Constant Current Circuits

by Lewis Loflin

A constant current source (CCS) in electronics is a device/circuit that produces a constant value of current regardless of source voltage or load resistance. A constant current circuit can also be used as a current limiter.

Earlier we discussed various constant current circuits using a PNP transistor, a LM741 OP-AMP and settled for a LM344 constant current source as the most stable. The downside is the LM334 can only source 10mA.

See Constant Current Circuits with the LM334.

The next series of circuits will use the LM317. While designed as a variable voltage regulator, it will double as a stable constant current source. With only three pins as shown above, one can produce a current of about 1-amp max. See LM317 Spec sheet.

Fig. 1 shows the LM317 used as a series pass constant current source with a single resistor. Resistor range is: 0.8 ohms < R1 < 120 ohms. The formula is IOUT = 1.25V / R1. The 10 ohm resistor produces and current output of 125mA. For the TO-220 package current max = 1A while the TO-92 package is 500mA.

See LM317 Constant Current Source for Lighting LEDs

**Fig. 2**

LM317 driving three high-power white LEDs at 120mA. One can vary VIN from 15 to 35 volts and IOUT will stay a constant 120mA.

**Fig. 3**

In Fig 3 the current has dropped below 120mA due to VIN of 12-volts - too two close to the output voltage for the load. In general VIN > Vload + 5V. This makes LM317 useless as a constant current source below 5-volts.

**Fig. 4**

In Fig 4 we removed a LED for a voltage drop on the load at 6.4V restoring current regulation. Once we have the proper VIN vs. VOUT the load has no effect on the current.

**Fig. 5**

In Fig. 5 we have only a single LED yet the current remains 120mA. The load doesn't change the current from a constant current source in fact I could short out the output and maintain 120mA.

Note the LM317 will get hot - power not consumed by the load will be dropped by the pass transistor, LM317 etc. Don't go wild with a large Vcc powering a small voltage load.

Remember this analog current regulator is in series with the load and power will divide.

**Fig. 6**

Fig. 5 shows the LM317 trickle charging a 5-volt NiCd battery pack.

This completes our introduction to the LM317 constant current source.

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- 3 Amp LM741 Op-Amp Constant Current Source
- Current Limiter Testing of Zener Diodes
- Current Limiter for Opto-Coupler Inputs
- LM317 CCS for Light Emitting Diodes

- Experiments with TL431 Shunt Regulator
- TL431A Precision Current Regulator Circuits
- TL431A Based Current Limiter Constant Current Source Circuits
- TL431A Shunt Regulator Circuits

## You Tube Videos

- Adjustable LM317 High Power Current Source
- Current Boost LM317 Adj. Power Supply
- LM317 Constant Current Source Circuits

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**Web site Copyright Lewis Loflin, All rights reserved. If using this material on another site, please provide a link back to my site.**