In this post we learn how to use a transistor emitter follower configuration in practical electronic circuits, we study this through a few different example application circuits. An emitter follower is one of the standard transistor configurations which is also referred to as common collector transistor configuration.
Let’s try to first understand what’s an emitter follower transistor and why it’s called a common collector transistor circuit.
What’s an Emitter Follower Transistor
As the name implies, in this type of transistor circuit the emitter seems to be following something, to be precise the emitter voltage follows the base voltage of the transistor which ultimately decides the conduction pattren of the transistor.
We know that normally when the emitter of a transistor (BJT) is connected to the ground rail or the zero supply rail, the base typically requires around 0.6V to enable complete triggering of the device across its collector to emitter. This operational mode of the transistor is called the common emitter mode, and the 0.6V value is termed as forward voltage value of the BJT. In this most popular form of configuration the load is always found to be at the collector of the device.
This also means that as long as the base voltage of the BJT is 0.6V higher than its emitter voltage, the device becomes forward biased or gets triggered into conduction, or gets optimally saturated.
Now, in an emitter follower transistor configuration as shown below, the load is connected at the emitter side of the transistor, that is between the emitter and the ground rail.
When this happens the emitter is not able to acquire a 0V potential, and the BJT is unable to turn ON with a regular 0.6V.
Suppose a 0.6V is applied to its base, due to the emitter load, the
transistor only just begins conducting which is not enough to trigger
As the base voltage is increased from 0.6V to 1.2V, the emitter
begins to conduct and allows a 0.6V to reach its emitter, now suppose
the base voltage is further increased to 2V….this prompts the emitter
voltage to reach around 1.6V.
From the above scenario we find that the emitter of the tramsistor is
always 0.6V behind the base voltage and this gives an impression that
the emitter is following the base, and hence the name.
The main features of an emitter follower transistor configuration can be studied as explained below:
- The emitter voltage is always around 0.6V lower than the base voltage.
- The emitter voltage can be varied by varying the base voltage accordingly.
- The emitter current is equivalent to the collector current. This
makes the configuration rich in current if the collector is directly
connected with the supply (+) rail.
- The load being attached between the emitter and the ground, the base
is attributed with a high impedance feature, meaning the base being not
vulnerable of getting connected to the ground rail through the emitter,
does not require high resistance to safeguard itself, and is normally
protected from high current.
How to use an Emitter Follower Transistor in a Circuit (Application Circuits)
An emitter follower configuration gives you the advantage of getting an output that becomes controllable at the base of the transistor. And therefore this can be implemented in various circuit applications
demanding a customized voltage controlled design.
The following few example circuits show how typically an emitter follower circuit can be used in circuits:
Simple Variable Power Supply:
The following simple high variable power supply exploits the emitter follower characteristic and successfully implements a neat 100V, 100 amp variable power supply which can be built and used by any new hobbyist quickly as a handy little bench power supply unit.
Adjustable Zener Diode:
Normally a zener diode comes with a fixed value which cannot be changed or altered as per a given circuit application need.
The following diagram which is actually a simple cell phone charger circuit is designed using an emitter follower circuit configuration. Here, simply by changing the indicated base zener diode with a 10K pot, the design can be transformed into an effective adjustable zener diode circuit, another cool emitter follower application circuit.
Hi Fi Power Amplifier:
Even wondered how amplifiers are able to replicate a sample music into an amplified version without disturbing the waveform or the content of the music signal? That becomes possible due to the many emitter follower stages involved within an amplifier circuit.
Here’s a simple 100 watt amplifier circuit where the output power devices can be seen configured in an source follower design which is an mosfet equivalent of a BJT emitter follower.
There can be possibly many more such emitter follower application circuits, I have just named the ones which were easily accessible to me from this website, if you have more info on this, please feel free to share through your valuable comments.