I have been working on a project in which I have been using an Howland AC current source (it has an AC voltage source in it) as a current source. But as an upgrade, I need a current of same sort which can be made using a 5VDC source (battery) and other components.

Objective is to make the equipment portable. Load is variable, so constant current over a wide range of output load is preferred.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Why cant you use the howland current source you mention? \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy aka
    Apr 5, 2017 at 14:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the range of load current? \$\endgroup\$
    – JCM II
    Apr 5, 2017 at 14:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ To add to Andyaka and JCMII's questions, does this need to produce negative currents also, for a range +10mA to -10mA? Also, any source from a 5V supply can only provide 10mA into loads which are 500Ω or less. Is there any chance you'll have a load above 500Ω, requiring more than 5V? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19, 2021 at 10:29

2 Answers 2


It depends on your design specs and depends on output ESR of Op Amp which limtis the load regulation error of your Howland CC sink due to the Value of feedback R's

(Ballpark) I would expect CMOS Howland CC has a 2mA limit gives you 10% load regulation and << 1mA gives you almost perfect CC even if device specifies short circuit current much higher.

BJT 5V Op Amps will improve Icc limit, if you can satisfy the CM input range and Vout drop to rails.

Here is my poor example with an ideal OA degraded with an example of CMOS OA 1k open loop output resistance for 1.5mA CC. Then see how current changes when you push switch. BJT types may be towards 300 Ohms. Read specs carefully for Vol/Iol.

You can improve this by careful selection of OA with critical input<>output specs.

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I suggest you use a DC-DC converter, a charge pump or a rail splitter to get a bipolar power supply for your Howland circuit. It will be easier than some kind of bridging current source/sink.


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