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I have (a chinese clone of) a Wemos D1 mini board, which uses the ESP8266 microprocessor. Since the ESP8266 has a 3.3V operating voltage, it includes a low dropout regulator for the USB 5V. According to the Wemos D1 mini schematic, it uses the RT9013 LDO .

According to the (RT9013 schematic), it has an operating voltage of 2.2V to 5.5V. This I do not understand, I thought the LDO could only drop to a lower voltage?

Also, it has a dropout of 250mV at 500mA, which I thought meant that there must be at least 3.55V. With that in mind, what's the best amount of AAA batteries I can use in series to power it?

I assume non-rechargeable batteries have an operating voltage of around 1.5V, which would mean that I would need three AAA batteries (4.5V). I've also read that the lowest the battery gets is 1.2V or so, which would mean that the total voltage would only be 3.6 V. This is still above the 3.55V minimum, so should it be OK?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ the esp can run at 2.8v, maybe less if you're lucky and the wifi AP is close. \$\endgroup\$ – dandavis Apr 22 '17 at 16:32
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According to the (RT9013 schematic), it has an operating voltage of 2.2V to 5.5V. This I do not understand, I thought the LDO could only drop to a lower voltage?

Yes, a linear regulator only drops voltage indeed.

The operating voltage range here refers to the INPUT supply (before the drop). However, this wide input range refers to all the devices in the family (fixed output). Some of them can output as low as 1.2 V, but will still need a minimum of 2.2 V, which is 4 times the +250 mV rated dropout and 2 times the + 0.5 V at which the electrical characteristics of the datasheet are rated.

In your case, you'll pick the 3.3 V out version, so don't worry about this spec.

I've also read that the lowest the battery get is 1.2V or so, which would mean that the total voltage would only be 3.6. This is still above the 3.55V minimum, so it should be OK?

It should be OK, but with no margin whatsoever. Any small drop in voltage would be passed to the output, and some of the specs in the datasheet may not be fully met (they're rated at +0.5 V). Do you actually foresee to draw 500 mA?

One thing you must take into account is the fact that the maximum dropout at 500 mA is 400 mV over the full operating temperature range. At 500 mA the regulator will start to raise its temperature, and the dropout performance will also degrade up to the point where it doesn't regulate anymore. See curves below:

Dropout specs

Dropout vs. Load, Temperature

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the comprehensive answer. The batteries will only be used to power a humidity sensor and the Wemos D1 mini. That is way below 500mA, so I assume 3 batteries are better than 4, since the excess power is dissipated via heat? \$\endgroup\$ – Whitebird Apr 20 '17 at 18:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes indeed. If you can keep current consumption low enough, you'll be better off with an input voltage as low as possible in order to avoid excess dissipation in the regulator. That has the extra benefit of keeping dropout low too. \$\endgroup\$ – Enric Blanco Apr 20 '17 at 18:38

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