Relays are traditionally electro-mechanical devices used for switching electronic circuits. There now exists “sold-state relays”, which are purely electronic and contain no moving parts.
- Turing on mains voltage devices from 5-12V circuits, while providing isolation
- Switching large currents
Relays with built in timers.
- The Coil: The windings which turn the relay on when you apply a voltage
- The Contacts: The output pins when get connected or disconnected when the relay turns on
- Rated Coil Voltage: The recommended voltage that should be applied to the coil to turn the relay on.
- Rated Coil Current: The current the relay coil will draw when the rated coil voltage is applied to it.
- Contact Current Rating: The maximum current that the relay can conduct through the contacts
Solid-state relays are relay’s that don’t have any moving mechanical parts involved in the switching. They use semi-conductor devices to perform the switching instead.
The normal way of doing this is to perform the switching with back-to-back N-channel MOSFETs whose gates are activated by a isolating opto-coupler (LED and receiver).
Below is the typical schematic symbol for a solid-state relay, along with a resistor connected to the input to limit the current through the internal LED.
Normally Open vs. Normally Closed
Single-pole, single-throw (1A)
Double-pole, single-throw (1C)
The following diagram shows three of the most common contact arrangements for relays.
Protect with diode in anti-parallel. This diode can keep the relay turned on for longer than expected, and this turn-off time is called the relay drop-out time. This slower off-time can decrease the life of the relay due to arcing.
With a little bit of clever (in design, not in the components themselves) external componentry, a mechanical relay can be made to latch-on, and will only reset once the load has been disconnected.
Common Relay Packages
Most PCB-mount relays have an asymmetric lead configuration so that it cannot be installed incorrectly.