Solenoid Metronome

About: Our circuits are designed in Philippines and tested in Australia.

The square wave generator can be implemented with 555 timer and can have zero DC current. You will not damage the transistor unless you using MOSFET. I advice you not to use USB outputs unless you are en expert in electronic and electrical engineering. Poor wiring might short the USB output and cause permanent damage. However, this circuit draws very little current from USB output. (5 V - 0.7 V) /10,000 ohms = 430 uA.

I attached the heat sink to matrix board with thin 1 mm metal wire. I did not use any heat transfer paste. However, it is a good idea to use.

I used the 2 mm metal wire to attach the circuit to plastic base. You can use an old cardboard box or plastic base.

The circuit shown is not assuming a solenoid coil resistance. All coils have resistances, although in most coils those resistances are small.

I used 15 V power supply. However, some solenoids might drive the rod at a lower voltage.

The gravity is causing the rod with yellow blue tag ball to fall down with the supplied current to solenoid is zero. There are solenoid drivers with a spring available online.

The videos show slow and fast beats.

I used a TIP122 Darlington pair power transistor. You can calculate the maximum collector current. Icmax = (Vs - Vsat) / Rc = (15 V - 0.9 V) / 10 ohms = 1.4 Amps (approximately). Power Dissipation During Saturation = Vsat * Icmax = 0.9 V * 1.4 Amps = 1.4 Watts (approximately). Maximum power dissipation occurs with collector-emitter voltage is half the power supply. VRc / Rc * Vce = (7.5 V / 10 ohms) * 7.5 V = 750 mA * 7.5 V = 5.625 Watts. This occurs during the transition from on to off state. When selecting the power transistor and heat sink what you need to consider is the maximum values in the specifications. Average allowed power, average allowed voltage or average allowed current are irrelevant and thus are not usually specified in the datasheets because the component might be damaged in just a few milliseconds of exceeding the maximum characteristics.

In transistor Darlington pair circuit the minimum collector emitter voltage cannot fall to typical 0.2 V saturation voltage of single power transistor. During saturation of Darlington pair, the first transistor connected to Rb is saturated at collector emitter voltage of 0.2 V. The the second transistor connected to ground via its emitter terminal needs base emitter voltage of about 0.7 V to remain on. However, the base the second transistor connected to fully saturated first transistor. Thus the collector emitter voltage of second transistor and entire Darlingon pair via series voltage summation will be Vbe2 + Vce1 = 0.2 V + 0.7 V = 0.9 V. If the collector emitter voltage of the Darlington pair falls below 0.9 V, the base of second transistor will fall below 0.7 V and the second transistor will turn off because the first transistor cannot remain on without the second transistor because it needs emitter current from the first transistor. This is why the Darlington pair saturation voltage never falls to below 0.9 V.

You can try using two transistors instead of Darlington pair as shown in the second circuit. Then the second transistor will saturate to 0.2 V collector emitter voltage. 2N2222 is not a power transistor. You will need to use power transistor.

You can try making the circuit with just a typical single power transistor. Not Darlington pair that I used. Then you will have to use a 1 kohm Rb resistor instead of 10 kohm Rb resistor. However, there is a risk that the transistor might not saturate if the coil resistance is low. The coil might not turn on and lack of transistor saturation might burn the transistor because the power dissipation across the transistor is equal to collector current multiplied by collector emitter voltage as stated earlier. If the transistor is not saturated the collector emitter voltage will not be close to zero. Reducing Rb to below 1 kohm will increase the chances of transistor saturating but might case the base to exceed the maximum allowed value. Most BJT (Bipolar Junction) transistors have low maximum base current.

You can also implement the circuit with MOSFET. However, those components cost more money. MOSFET has a high input resistance and does not need base resistor Rb. Click on this link:


You will need:

- push type linear solenoid electromagnet driver,

- heat sink,

- heat transfer paste.

- power transistor or Darlington pair transistor,

- 10 ohm power resistor,

- 10 kohm resistor,

- soldering iron,

- solder,

- wire stripper (optional),

- matrix board,

- 2 mm metal wire,

- 1 mm metal wire,

- pliers,

- plastic base or piece of cardboard or wood,

- blue tag or Plasticine,

- square wave generator.

Teacher Notes

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

Make it Move

This is an entry in the
Make it Move

Be the First to Share


    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Cardboard Speed Challenge

      Cardboard Speed Challenge
    • Multi-Discipline Contest

      Multi-Discipline Contest