I recently found a doorknob touch alarm schematic while browsing Discover Circuits’ archives. The project was originally intended as a present for my brother’s dorm room, but a bad capacitor and the lack of a proper oscilloscope caused delays. It has not made it off the breadboard, and it probably will not until his next semester. The circuit contains a few basic elements, an flip-flop based oscillator, a set of delays, a flip-flop as a sensor, and the audible alarm.
The first section of the circuit is an oscillator based on a flip-flop. Clock and D are both grounded while Reset is tied high. Hence, the output Q will only be high if Set (node 6) is high. When the output is low, the transistor Q1 is cutoff. This allows node 6 to be charged with a delay relating to the system of impedances R1, R2, R3, and C3. Once the voltage at node 6 triggers Set, the output changes to high and Q1 is opened. Node 6 then discharges out through the capacitor. Once node 6 is low enough, Set is no longer triggered and the output is automatically reset (because R is tied high) to low and the process is repeated.
The screen capture below shows node 6 charging and discharging as the blue trace. The yellow trace is the output at node 1. You can see that the output turns high when node 6 reaches the switching threshold of the flip-flop (about 1.8 volts). Right afterwards it spikes up due to feedback through C2, but quickly starts discharging. The oscillator switches off when node 6 returns below the 1.8volt switching voltage. Feedback through C2 draws node 6 to ground before the process repeats itself.
In order to change the period of oscillation, adjust the value at C3. If you would like to make the pulses longer, adjust C2. The circuit works best right where it is at, though.
The delay and ‘sensor’
The output of the oscillator is divided down two paths. The time constants of the two delays are nearly equal and can be adjusted with the sensitivity potentiometer. The path to node 11 is the Clock input of the flip-flop, and the path to node 9 determines if there is an alarm or not.
In the capture above, node 9 high than the the clock. Hence, the flip-flop stays high when the leading clock edge triggers it to lock. When the doorknob is touched, your body absorbs some of the charge and node 9 charges slower. This can be seen in the capture below. When the clock edge rises, node 9 is not high yet and low value is locked into the flip-flop.
The designer uses an audible buzzer in order to relay the alarm. This is also my intent for the circuit, but I use a LED in my photos because you cannot see sound. They are both attached to the inverting output of the second op-amp (Q-bar) because it is high when the alarm is triggered.
There is an endless number of uses for this circuit, but I will just name a few crazy ideas:
- Using the intended buzzer for your hotel or dorm room. (This is a bit more impressive than the old sock trick.)
- Connecting the output to a relay that triggers the doorbell for you house. Just make sure to put it in parallel with your standard doorbell switch. That way you can still hear the Fed-Ex man. (This one has a major cool factor when someone opens your door.)
- Tying the output into a security or home automation system. You could have the lights turn on as soon as you touch the door handle to scare the dog away from laying on the door.