A voltage regulator maintains a constant output voltage no matter what types of variations in input or load may exist. They typically work by comparing the output voltage against a reference signal and then adjusting the resistance, current flow, or switching frequency to ensure that the output voltage remains stable. They also work as circuit protection devices, controlling against voltage spikes that could damage the circuit.

Linear and switching regulators are the most common types of active regulators. Linear voltage regulators are transistor-based regulators and are the most common type found in circuits. They work by using differential amplifiers and an internal feedback loop to adjust their resistance to maintain a desired output. These regulators are lower efficiency and tend to be cheaper and less reliable than switching regulators. Because they dissipate voltage as heat, switching regulators tend to be preferred.

Switching regulators use a switch to rapidly turn a power supply on and off. This high duty-cycle, on-off capability allows them to have better performance and reliability. Switching regulators are great power conveters, and compared to linear regulators, they are more energy efficient, too.


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