Sensor Circuits With a MOSFET

Introduction: Sensor Circuits With a MOSFET

You can create a variety of sensing circuits based on voltage divider as the input to the Gate of the MOSFET, this input signal is then amplified by the MOSFET allowing you to interface many devices and even an entirely different circuit. 

MOSFET - Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor

The MOSFET is a voltage operated device this means its mode of operation is dependant of the voltage at the Gate. It has 3 operating regions saturation, linear and cut-off. The MOSFET has a very small linear region and mainly amplifiers operate in this region. Power switching is between the cut-off region and the saturation region.

Gate- The gate for the MOSFET has a very high input impedance in the order of Giga ohms (x10^9) so no need for a protection resistor. the gate has a threshold voltage when it is passed the MOSFET switches and allows current to flow from the positive terminal of the supply into the drain of the MOSFET.
Drain - Essentially the output, on an N-channel MOSFET the drain is at the top, you connect your output here where it may be a motor or an LED for sensitive components don't forget a protection resistor. In a P-Channel MOSFET the drain is at the bottom and connected to the negative rail of the supply. For polarity sensitive components like an LED the cathode is connected to the positive rail.
Source - This pin is connected to 0v.

Double check the datasheet for your MOSFET and make sure that you connect the pins in the correct places otherwise the MOSFET will get really hot and probably break. The MOSFET I will be using is an "STP36NF06 Power switching MOSFET".

The Schematic- Light Sensor

The potentiometer is used to vary the input voltage into the gate, as the light level increases on the LDR the resistance decreases causing the voltage across the potentiometer to increase, this is the voltage that goes into the gate of the MOSFET. The voltage divider formula is V= (Vs*R1) / (R1+R2) where Vs is the voltage of the supply and R1 is the resistor in which you want to find the voltage across.
This Circuit is so that when light level increases the Motor is activated, the LDR and potentiometer can be swapped around so that when light level decrease the motor is activated. (Picture 1 and Picture 2).

* Almost any LDR can be used
* 50k or 47k Potentiometer works best with an LDR in this configuration
* There is a Diode above the Drain to protect the MOSFET against reverse voltage from the Motor, the cathode of the Diode is connected to the positive rail.
* Nearly any power supply can be used, look at a MOSFET datasheet if your are unsure. Make sure the output device you are using can handle the full amount of power from the power supply. (The MOSFET switches all the power from the supply and pumps it through your output device) 

Laser Trip circuit

(Picture 3 and Picture 4)
You can make a laser trip circuit by swapping the LDR with the potentiometer so that when light level decrease i.e the laser beam is broken, the motor is activated. Point the Laser beam at the LDR, takes a bit of fiddling to get into position, I used blu-tack. 
The protection resistor for the laser can be calculated by R= (Vs-VL) / IL where Vs is the voltage of the supply, VL is the voltage drop across the laser and IL is the amount of current which can safely flow through the laser. Look for the datasheet of your laser, I used a 5mw laser, it draws about 15-20mA and has a voltage drop of about 2.7v.  
Adjust the Potentiometer until you find the point where when the laser is broken the motor activates.

You can experiment with the input and output devices, for example a phototransistor which is used to detect infra-red beams, this could be used as the input device and a motor as the output device, point a TV remote at the phototransistor press some buttons and the motor is activated.
You can use these circuits as a foundation and expand on it making it more complex to fulfil a variety of specifications. 

Picture 5 shows a range of input and output devices/ components (input components on the top & output components on the bottom) that can be interfaced with a MOSFET. The flexibility of MOSFET and its capabilities make it a popular and useful component in electronics systems. 

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Electronics Tips and Tricks

Participated in the
Electronics Tips and Tricks

Be the First to Share


    • Trash to Treasure Contest

      Trash to Treasure Contest
    • Raspberry Pi Contest 2020

      Raspberry Pi Contest 2020
    • Wearables Contest

      Wearables Contest

    5 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    can u mention which channel mosfet you are using and its number ?? And can the motor be replaced by a buzzer and how muct should be the supply voltage ??


    Reply 1 year ago

    This schematic is using a N-Channel MOSFET, and an irfz44n should work fine. The supply voltage should be 5 volts. The motor can be replaced by a buzzer, as long as the buzzer is a 5 volt model.

    Jarez Patel
    Jarez Patel

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    You can also swap the LDR with a phototransistor or an infra-red receiver, change the laser for a IR emitter and you have an infra-red trip circuit !!

    (Read the datasheet beforehand so you can meet the current and voltage requirements for the input and output component)