On Make: Projects, Jason Poel Smith uses a pair of LM741 op amps to build an self-dimming night light that turns itself off after a period of time so you don’t waste electricity.
The timer is made from a 741 op amp (operational amplifier) wired as a comparator. It compares the voltage across a capacitor with a reference voltage that is set by the 2.2k resistor and the 5k potentiometer.
When S2 is pressed the capacitor is charged to the supply voltage. It then gradually discharges through the 1M resistor. As long as the voltage across the capacitor is greater than the reference voltage, the output of the op amp is high (about 8.7V). When the voltage across the capacitor drops below the reference, the output of the op amp goes low (about 1.9V). This can take 0-45 minutes depending on how the potentiometer is set.