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Developing IR (Infra red) sensor modules - Basic


As you begin to delve deeper into the abstruse domain of sensors and varying methodology adopted for implementing
intelligence in your robot, IR sensors would definitely be one of the most easy to operate upon, simple yet instrumental
tool in your arsenal. This forms one of the most important topics of our robotic workshops, training and tutorials.

What questions this document addresses?

1. Detailed explanation of how IR modules can be prepared at minimum cost.

2. Concept of developing your own customized IR module for varying applications.

3. End to end working circuit diagram for using a typical IR module.

4. Troubleshooting an IR sensor module.

Infra red sensors are the most often used sensor by amateur roboteers. Understanding how they behave can help address
many of your requirements and would suffice to address most of the problem statements for various robotics events in
India. Be it a typical white/black line follower, a wall follower, obstacle avoidance, micro mouse, an advanced flavor of line
follower like red line follower, etc, all of these problem statements can be easily addressed and granular control can be
exercised upon your robots performance if you have a good operational understanding of Infra red sensors.

Infra red sensors are in the form of diodes with 2 terminals. You can buy a pair of such diode (one transmitter and one
receiver) at a very low cost of about 5 - 7 rupees only. Here onwards, we will use Tx to refer to a transmitter and Rx to refer
to a receiver diode.

This is how a typical Tx/Rx looks like:

Upon careful observation, you will notice that amongst the two ‘legs’, one has a much wider base within the diode. That is
normally the cathode (negative) whereas the leg having a smaller base would be the anode (positive terminal).

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ROBOSENSE training private ltd.
Success is not a coincidence; it’s a result of thoughtful planning, determined efforts and flawless execution.

Operation:

When the Tx is forward biased, it begins emitting infra red. Since its not in visible spectrum, you will not be able to see it
through naked eyes but you will be able to view it through an ordinary cell phone camera.

A typical transmitter circuit.

The resistance R1 in the above circuit can vary. It should not be a very high value (~ 1Kohm) as then the current flowing
through the diode would be very less and hence the intensity of emitted IR would be lesser. By increasing the current
flowing in the circuit, you can increase the effective distance of your IR sensor. However, there are drawbacks of reducing
the resistance. Firstly, it would increase the current consumption of your circuit and hence drain the battery (one of the few
‘precious’ resources for any embedded system) faster. Secondly, increasing the current might destroy the Tx. So, the final
choice should be a calculated trade off between these various factors.

You can also modulate the IR to achieve better distance and immunity.

The receiver diode has a very high resistance, typically of the order of mega Ohms when IR is not incident upon it. However,
when IR is incident upon it, the resistance decreases sharply to the order of a few kilo Ohms or even lesser. This feature
forms the basis of using IR as a sensor. You will need to connect a resistance of the order of a few mega Ohm in series with
the Rx. Then tap the output voltage at the point of connectivity of these two resistors. A complete Tx-Rx circuit is given
below.

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ROBOSENSE training private ltd.
Success is not a coincidence; it’s a result of thoughtful planning, determined efforts and flawless execution.

A Tx-Rx pair circuitry.

Remember, the value of R2 can vary depending upon the Rx diode you are working with. You are advised to first check the
resistance of Rx diode with no IR incident upon it and then select the value of R2 for decent performance.

Case1: when no IR is incident upon the Rx

Rx would be of the order of mega ohms and hence the output voltage would be around 2.6v – 3v depending upon your
choice of R2 and the Rx.

Case2: when IR is incident upon the Rx

The resistance of Rx will sharply fall and hence the output voltage would be around 1.8v - 1.5v depending upon your choice
of Rx and R2.

Once you obtain a neat difference between the output voltages in case1 and case2, your sensor is ready.

How to use this IR sensor?

So far, we had just prepared the sensor. Now, we will see 2 different methods of using this in your machine.

Method1:

The output voltage is in the form of analog voltage. You would need to convert it into digital format so that whenever IR is
incident upon the Rx, the final conditioned output voltage is a logic high (binary 1) and whenever IR is not incident upon the
Rx, the conditioned output voltage should be a logic low (binary 0).

You can use a comparator IC to serve this purpose. A comparator IC compares 2 input voltages using an op-amp and gives a
logic high or a logic low as the final output. LM324 is one such comparator. Lets see how it can be used here:

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ROBOSENSE training private ltd.
Success is not a coincidence; it’s a result of thoughtful planning, determined efforts and flawless execution.

Pin diagram of LM324

It has 4 separate channels meaning it can compare 4 pairs of voltages. For a single IR sensor, only one channel is enough.
Here we would be using pin 1,2 and 3 for our sensor.

Input voltage at pin2 > input voltage at pin3 ; Output1=> logic 0

Input voltage at pin2 < input voltage at pin3 ; Output1=> logic 1

Connect the output of our sensor circuit to pin2 of this IC. Generate 2v from a potential divider circuit of multiple resistance
and feed that 2v to pin3 of the IC. Therefore, Vin at pin3 = 2v (constant).

Case1: when IR is not incident upon the Rx.

When the IR Tx is above a black line, the black line will absorb all the IR and will not reflect an appreciable amount of IR for
the Rx to receive. If you are making an obstacle avoiding robot, then when there is no obstacle in front of the IR Tx, Rx will
not receive back the transmitted IR. However, when an obstacle comes in front of the Tx, it will reflect the IR incident upon
it and hence Rx will receive the IR.

In this case, the output voltage of the sensor = 2.5v. Hence the input voltage at pin2 =2.5v.

Input voltage at pin2 > input voltage at pin3 ; Output1=> logic 0

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ROBOSENSE training private ltd.
Success is not a coincidence; it’s a result of thoughtful planning, determined efforts and flawless execution.

Case2: when IR is incident upon the Rx, the output voltage of the sensor = 1.8v. Hence the input voltage at pin2 =1.8v.

Input voltage at pin2 < input voltage at pin3 ; Output1=> logic 1

Now you can easily use the digital logic level outputs to drive any logic circuit as well as couple it with a microcontroller to
decide the future course of action.

Method2:

Using ADC to convert the analog output voltage from sensor into a digital format. This is a little tedious way of
implementing the similar logic but can give you great granular control over the distance/range of your IR sensor. You can
use the built in ADC channels of a microcontroller also.

The program section in the tutorial of robosense covers the program required to use the adc channels of a microcontroller
as well as program for implementing a simple line follower or obstacle avoiding robot.

Robosense training private ltd; #311 Indus Innova, 4th floor; Mahadevpura ; Bangalore -560048 www.robosense.in
ROBOSENSE training private ltd.
Success is not a coincidence; it’s a result of thoughtful planning, determined efforts and flawless execution.

Troubleshooting:

What happens if you are in the middle of a crucial competition and suddenly your robot begins to malfunction? The once
reliable IR sensor seems to have ditched you just when it’s needed the most. Being sound in quickly troubleshooting a IR
sensor circuit is as crucial as developing the sensor itself. Here are some of the recommended steps you can adopt to
troubleshoot your sensor circuit:

Step1: first check if the Tx is glowing or not. You will not be able to view IR through naked eyes but a typical cell phone
camera should be a good useful tool here.

Snap taken from a cell phone camera.

Step2: Once you have verified that the IR TX are working fine, check if the output at the receiver side is showing correct
expected voltages when IR is incident upon it and when it is absent.

Step3: if the Tx and Rx are behaving correctly, please check the LM324 comparator and check if it is giving correct outputs
in different scenarios.

For any suggestions or questions, please write to info.robosense@gmail.com or scribble in our forum.

Robosense training private ltd; #311 Indus Innova, 4th floor; Mahadevpura ; Bangalore -560048 www.robosense.in