Posted with permission of Frank Rivard

It is quite a simple circuit but rather more effective than the one using the 741. It uses a simple comparator LM311 as the master piece. This comparator is powered from a +12V DC supply and does not require negative supply to work efficiently. The feedback given to the comparator provides some hysteresis and the potentiometer allows to adjust the sensitivity of the detector for darkness. I am quite sure you could inverse R1 and R2 positions to inverse the action of the detector but I haven't tried it!

by Frank Rivard

The resistance of the light sensitive resistor is a trial and error game but I have been using values around 300 ohms under visible light and 3k under darkness... but as I repeat, you must try several types of photocell before it works correctly and you have enough span to adjust it correctly. It all depends what you have in your "junk" box!

The magic thing about this light sensor is that it does not trigger on and off at the same level of darkness (hence the purpose of hysteresis) and it makes it good for everyday uses. It will trigger from one state to the other when it is dark enough but will not trigger back and forth several times when you are on the edge of darkness. It requires a higher level of light to trigger back to the previous state.

So, if you use it to control outdoor lighting for example, it will produce a single clean trigger from on to off ... It will turn off one at dawn and will turn back on only once in the morning when light will be strong enough to energize the comparator. This is quite good because it avoids the relay to trigger several times under high currents...

If you have questions or design improvement upon the above circuit, please contact Frank Rivard

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