An optocoupler (optoelectronic coupler/optoisolator) is basically an interface between two circuits that operate at (usually) different voltage levels. With an optocoupler, the only contact between the input and the output is a beam of light. Although optocoupler has many advantages, it has disadvantages too. Let’s check them one by one.
Advantages of Optocoupler
The following are the benefits of an optocoupler:
- The key advantage of an optocoupler is the electrical isolation between the input and output circuits.
- Optocoupler can be employed in any situation where a signal must be passed between two circuits that are isolated from each other.
- It is possible to have an insulation resistance between the two circuits in the thousands of megohms.
- It is useful in high-voltage applications where the potentials of two circuits may differ by several thousand volts.
- The most common industrial use of the optocouplers (or optically-coupled isolators) is as a signal converter between high-voltage pitot devices (limit switches etc.) and low-voltage solid-state logic circuits.
- Complete electrical isolation between two circuits is often necessary to prevent noise generated in one circuit from being passed to the other circuit. This is especially necessary for the coupling between high-voltage information-gathering circuits and low-voltage digital logic circuits.
- The optocoupler eliminates the need for a relay-controlled contact or an isolating transformer, which are traditional methods of providing electrical isolation between circuits.
- The optocoupler works well on either AC or DC high-voltage signals.
- It is also used in a number of sensor applications to sense the presence of physical objects.
- The lifetime of optocouplers can exceed several decades.
- It offers a very good response at lower frequencies. It works very fast.
- No contact bounce, no interference caused by arcs, wear the circuitry.
- It is compact and lightweight.
- It is cheap. (Check price on Amazon)
- It consumes less power.
- It has a high switching frequency due to short switch-on and switch-off times.
Disadvantages of Optocoupler
The following are the drawbacks of the optocoupler:
- Optocoupler has a limited bandwidth, which means they cannot transmit high-frequency signals effectively.
- Optocoupler needs external biasing voltage for its operation.
- The High-frequency response is poor.
- Optocoupler is not capable to handle high current.
- Optocouplers using phototransistors do not have such good a linear relationship between the changes in light input and output current as photodiode types.
- Optocoupler is limited in terms of the distance they can transmit signals. This means that it is not suitable for long-distance signal transmission.
- Optocoupler has a limited temperature range and may not perform well in extreme temperatures.
In conclusion, optocouplers offer many advantages, particularly electrical isolation between circuits and compatibility with high-voltage applications. They can also eliminate the need for traditional methods of providing electrical isolation and are cheap, lightweight and consume less power. However, optocouplers have some limitations, such as limited bandwidth, poor high-frequency response and a limited distance for signal transmission. They also require external biasing voltage and have a limited temperature range. Despite these drawbacks, optocouplers remain a useful tool in many industrial and sensor applications, particularly where electrical isolation between circuits is essential.