The 555 timer IC can be used with a few simple components to build a monostable circuit which produces a single output pulse when triggered. It is called a monostable because it is stable in just one state: 'output low'. The 'output high' state is temporary.
Recommended book: IC 555 Projects
The duration of the pulse is called the time period (T) and this is determined by resistor R1 and capacitor C1:
|Time period, T = 1.1 × R1 × C1|
T = time period in seconds (s)
R1 = resistance in ohms ()
C1 = capacitance in farads (F)
The maximum reliable time period is about 10 minutes.
Why 1.1? The capacitor charges to 2/3 = 67% so it is a bit longer than the time constant (R1 × C1) which is the time taken to charge to 63%.
555 monostable output, a single pulse
555 monostable circuit with manual trigger
Choose C1 first because there are relatively few values available.
Choose R1 to give the time period you need. R1 should be in the range 1k to 1M, so use a fixed resistor of at least 1k in series if R1 is variable.
Beware that electrolytic capacitors do not have accurate values (errors of least 20% are common)
and they tend to leak charge which increases the time period (especially if you are using a high value resistor).
For example: the Timer Project should have a maximum time period of 266s (about 4½ minutes), but many electrolytic capacitors extend this to about 10 minutes!
There is more information about 555 timers and their circuits on the Electronics in Meccano website.
The timing period is triggered (started) when the trigger input (pin 2) is less than 1/3 Vs, this makes the output high (+Vs) and the capacitor C1 starts to charge through resistor R1. Once the time period has started further trigger pulses are ignored.
The threshold input (pin 6) monitors the voltage across C1 and when this reaches 2/3 Vs the time period is over and the output becomes low. At the same time discharge (pin 7) is connected internally to 0V, discharging the capacitor ready for the next trigger.
The reset input (pin 4) overrides all other inputs and the timing may be cancelled at any time by connecting reset to 0V, this instantly makes the output low and discharges the capacitor. If the reset function is not required the reset pin should be connected to +Vs directly with wire or with a resistor of about 10k (the value isn't critical).
It may be useful to ensure that a monostable circuit is reset or triggered automatically when the power supply is connected or switched on. This is achieved by using a capacitor instead of (or in addition to) a push switch as shown in the diagram.
The capacitor takes a short time to charge, briefly holding the input close to 0V when the circuit is switched on. A switch may be connected in parallel with the capacitor if manual operation is also required.
This arrangement is used for the trigger in the Timer Project.
If the trigger input is still less than 1/3 Vs at the end of the time period the output will remain high until the trigger is greater than 1/3 Vs. This situation can occur if the input signal is from an on-off switch or sensor.
The monostable can be made edge triggered, responding only to changes of an input signal, by connecting the trigger signal through a capacitor to the trigger input. The capacitor passes sudden changes (AC) but blocks a constant (DC) signal. For further information please see the page on capacitance. The circuit is 'negative edge triggered' because it responds to a sudden fall in the input signal.
The resistor between the trigger (pin 2) and +Vs ensures that the trigger is normally high (+Vs).