Proximity Switch

This circuit is for an unusually sensitive and stable proximity alarm which may be built at very low cost. If the negative terminal is grounded, it will detect the presence of a hand at more than 200mm. If it is not grounded, this range is reduced to about one-third. The Proximity Switch emits a loud, falling siren when a body is detected within its range. A wide range of metal objects may be used for the sensor, including a metal plate, a doorknob, tin foil, a set of burglar bars — even a complete bicycle. Not only this, but any metal object which comes within range of the sensor, itself becomes a sensor.

Proximity Switch
For example, if a tin foil sensor is mounted underneath a table, metal items on top of the table, such as cutlery, or a dinner service, become sensors themselves. The touch plate connected to the free end of R1 detects the electric field surrounding the human body, and this is of a relatively constant value and can therefore be reliably picked up. R1 is not strictly necessary, but serves as some measure of protection against static charge on the body if the sensor should be touched directly. As a body approaches the sensor, the value of C1 effectively increases, causing the frequency of oscillator IC1.A to drop.

Consequently capacitor C2 has more time to discharge through P2, with the result that the inputs at IC1.B go Low, and the output goes High. As the output goes High, so C3 is charged through LED D2. D2 serves a dual purpose —namely as a visual indication of detection, and to lower the maximum charge on C3, thus facilitating a sharper distinction between High and Low states of capacitor C3. The value of R4 is chosen to enable C3 to discharge relatively quickly as pulses through D2 are no longer sufficient to maintain its charge. The value of C3 may be increased for a longer sounding of the siren, with a slight reduction in responsiveness at the sensor.

Proximity Switch circuit diagram
When C3 goes High, this triggers siren IC1.C and IC1.D. The two NAND gates drive piezo sounder X1 in push-pull fashion, thereby greatly increasing its volume. If a piezo tweeter is used here, the volume will be sufficient to make one’s ears sing. The current consumption of the circuit is so low a small 9-V alkaline PP3 battery would last for about one month. As battery voltage falls, so sensitivity drops off slightly, with the result that P1 may require occasional readjustment to maintain maximum sensitivity. On the down side of low cost, the hysteresis properties of the 4093 used in the circuit are critical to operation, adjustment and stability of the detector.

In some cases, particularly with extremely high sensitivity settings, it will be found that the circuit is best powered from a regulated voltage source. The PCB has an extra ground terminal to enable it to be easily connected to a large earthing system. Current consumption was measured at 3.5 mA stand-by or 7 mA with the buzzer activated. Usually, only P1 will require adjustment. P2 is used in place of a standard resistor in order to match temperature coefficients, and thus to enhance stability. P2 should be adjusted to around 50 k, and left that that setting.

Proximity Switch PCB
The circuit is ideally adjusted so that D2 ceases to light when no body is near the sensor. Multiturn presets must be used for P1 and P2. Since the piezo sounder is the part of the circuit which is least affected by body presence, a switch may be inserted in one of its leads to switch the alarm on and off after D2 has been used to check adjustment. Make sure that there is a secure connection between the circuit and any metal sensor which is used.

  • R1 = 10kΩ
  • R2 = 4kΩ7
  • R3 = 1kΩ
  • R4 = 47kΩ
  • R5 = 47kΩ
  • P1,P2 = 100kΩ multiturn cermet, horizontal
  • C1,C2 = 22pF
  • C3 = 22µF 40V radial
  • C4 = 10nF
  • C5 = 100µF 25V radial
  • D1 = 1N4148
  • D2 = LED, red
  • IC1 = 4093
  • BZ1 = AC buzzer

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