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Transcript
Charging Capacitors
Apparatus
range of large capacitors and resistors connected in series to a low voltage power supply, oscilloscope
to view charging/discharging curves
Note – depending on the students experience in connecting circuits, the circuits can be set up in
advance or left for the students to connect.
Action
The students connect up the circuit to the oscilloscope and the power supply. They should observe the
charging curve for the RC circuit. They then connect a different resistor and observe the effect on the
charging time. If multiple capacitors (or a variable capacitor) are available they can also experiment with
varying the capacitance.
The Physics
t
RC
The voltage across the capacitor increases during the charging phase such that V (t )  V0 (1 - e ) .
The larger the capacitance or the resistance, the greater the time constant, RC, and the longer it takes for the
capacitor to charge. Many students find a fluid analogy helpful – the bigger the bucket or the narrower the
hose to fill it, the longer it takes to fill.
An RC circuit hooked
up to an oscilloscope at
the University of New
South Wales for an
Industrial Design
workshop.
Accompanying sheet
Charging Capacitors
Connect up different resistors
and observe the effect on the capacitor voltage, Vc, during charging.
What do you notice about the rate of charging with different resistors in the circuit?
Suppose instead that we kept the resistor fixed and changed the capacitor
would this produce a similar result?