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EE 223 Laboratory #3
First-Order Circuits
1) Gain an intuitive understanding of the concept of a time constant
2) Practice and learn new oscilloscope skills
3) Gain an intuitive understanding of the step response of first order (RC and RL) circuits
4) Determine the Thevenin resistance of the function generator
5) Learn how to create and analyze time-varying circuits in LTspice
1. Consider the following circuit. Assume the output resistance of the function generator
(RTH in Figure 1 below) is 50. The function generator doesn’t behave as an ideal
voltage source with 0 resistance, but instead as an ideal voltage source in series with
a 50 resistor. You could use an oscilloscope to set the function generator to create a
10Vpp (Volts peak-to-peak, meaning 5V) squarewave with no load resistor attached.
Then attach a 1k load resistor across the function generator,
a. If you attach 1 1k load resistor across the function generator, what will the
voltage Vpp be across the load resistor?
b. How about if you use a 10 resistor instead?
Moral of the story
1. In general, as long as the load resistance is at least ten times the source resistance, you
can think of the function generator as a reasonably perfect voltage source and ignore
the source resistance.
2. Don’t ignore the Thevenin equivalent model of your test instruments…if your load
resistance is less than 10 times the instrument’s Thevenin equivalent, you need to
Function generator
Figure 1: The function generator and load resistor
Function generator
0.1 uF
Figure 2: Prelab LTspice circuit
2. Now add a capacitor in series with the circuit as shown in Figure 2. Calculate the
period of the squarewave necessary to be about 10 times longer than the RC time
constant of the circuit (remember to include the function generator’s R TH on the RC time
constant). You can round the result; what is important is that each leg of the squarewave
(positive and negative) will be about 5 times longer than the circuit’s time constant, so the
exponentially-decaying transients on each squarewave transition will have nearly
completely decayed by the time the next squarewave transition occurs.
3. Use the transient analysis on LTspice to determine the voltage vc(t) over two
periods of the squarewave generator. Use a symmetric 10Vpp square wave, and print a
graph of the voltage across the capacitor over two complete cycles of the squarewave
generator. (You’ll have to experiment a little with this; don’t wait until the day of the lab!)
Not sure how to make a squarewave? Look at the transient analysis section of my LTspice
There are a large number of types of analyses that may be applied to circuits. In EE122
you worked with non-switched DC sources; in LTspice the DC Operating Point Analysis
type can find the steady-state voltages and currents everywhere in such a circuit. Now in
EE223 you need to analyze circuits with sources that are not constant; this analysis type is
called Transient Analysis. Simulate between t=0 and whatever time you computed is
necessary to view two complete squarewave cycles. If you don’t remember how to do this,
I’ve compiled everything you need to know about creating schematics, running analyses,
and plotting results in my LTspice Walkthrough handout.
Page 2
1. Determine the Thevenin resistance of the function generator. Use a decade resistance
box (they are the small beige boxes with the thumbwheel counters in the lab drawer) as the
variable resistor. First, set the function generator to deliver a 1kHz square wave at
Vpp=10V with the variable resistor set to a higher resistance than the function generator
(say, 1k) as shown in Figure 3 below. Next, lower the resistance until the scope shows
the square wave’s amplitude has been cut in half. This means half the voltage is being
dropped by the internal resistance of the function generator, and the other half by the
external variable resistor, so they must be equal. Disconnect, measure, and record the
external resistor’s resistance; this is the Thevenin resistance of the function generator.
Function generator
Figure 3: Circuit to determine the Thevenin equivalent resistance of the function generator
2. Record one complete cycle of the voltage across and current through the capacitor in
Figure 4. First, ensure that the function generator is set to output a squarewave of the
frequency you determined in the prelab, with a V pp = 10V and no voltage offset (measure
all these characteristics using the scope. The markings on the function generator are only
approximate). Next, connect the circuit shown in Figure 4 by connecting the positive lead
of the scope probe to B and the ground lead to C. If necessary, use AUTOSCALE to get
an initial display.
Function generator
0.1 uF
Figure 4.
Since our interest is in recording one complete cycle of V c, change the scope timebase
control to view one cycle only. Adjust the vertical and horizontal position controls so that
the step begins at the far left edge of the screen and adjust the vertical scale so the
waveform fills the screen. Record vc(t). Be quantitative; label the horizontal and vertical
axes, and any key information (e.g. max/min waveform height, time between peaks, …).
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3. To measure the current through the capacitor you must get creative since the scope only
measures voltage. To do this, note that the current through the capacitor is the same as the
current through the resistor, and that the current through the resistor generates a
proportional voltage across the resistor. By measuring the voltage across the resistor and
multiplying by a scaling factor you therefore measure the current through the capacitor.
Determine the scale factor and do this… but first remember: to measure the voltage across
the resistor you CANNOT connect the positive probe tip to point A and the ground lead to
point B, since inside the scope the ground lead is connected to point C and you will short
out the capacitor. You could simply move the resistor to the other side of the capacitor so
one end of the resistor becomes grounded (that will not change the current that flows), but
instead take the opportunity to discover the oscilloscope’s math function. To do this,
connect one probe to Channel 1 and the other probe to Channel 2. As always, make sure
both probe’s ground leads are connected to ground (here, point C). Connect channel 1’s
positive probe to point A and channel 2’s positive lead to point B and use the subtract math
function on the scope to find the difference of the signals (that’s the minus key between the
channel 1 and 2 selectors) to find the voltage difference across the resistor.
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Discussion Questions:
1. You can regard the function generator as a perfect voltage source if the load resistance
is at least ten times higher than the source resistance. You wish to test your car’s audio
amplifier with a signal from the function generator. The input resistance of the audio
amplifier is 10k. Will the audio amplifier load (i.e. change) the function generator’s
output when connected? How about if you connect an 8 speaker to the function
generator? What could you put between the function generator and speaker to correct this?
2. In the prelab you analyzed the first-order RC circuit using LTspice. In the lab you built
it and took experimental measures that should have agreed with your LTspice simulations.
Now analyze it one more way: analytically, by deriving the ( ) equation using the plug
and chug formula ( )
. To do this, just analyze the circuit over
one charging cycle rather than multiple periods. Specifically,
using the schematic to the right, assume the capacitor is
0.1 uF
initially charged to -5V at t=0 and at that time the function
generator becomes +5V. Solve for
and graph this using
Matlab, and attach a printout of the solution to your lab report. It should look like the
solution you created in LTspice in your prelab. Hint: to plot ( )
over 1
millisecond you could enter
t=linspace(0,0.001, 500); % vector of 500 points b/n 0 and 0.001
% creates the vector v
plot(t,v) % plots the result
You can also use xlabel, ylabel, and title to make it look nicer. If unsure about these
functions, type “help plot” at the Matlab prompt.
3. If you wanted to make the system decay 10 times more slowly and could only change
the resistor, what resistance would you choose?
In your report include the sketches you made from the oscilloscope, the Matlab plot, and
the LTspice results you obtained in the prelab. Examine possible reasons for disagreement
between your experimental results, LTspice results, and Matlab plot. Be quantitative!
For example, don’t say “looks similar”, but instead “the rise time of the simulation is 4.5%
greater than the actual rise time, which follows from the measured resistor tolerance…”
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