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Intro to Circuits Lab

Anatomy of a Breadboard:
The breadboard is where you will be assembling your circuits. The
breadboard is composed of rows and columns of metal clips. These
clips are housed in a plastic covering with holes that allow for pin

Pinholes are electrically connected in these rows

Each row of 5 pinholes is electrically isolated from all
other rows.
Pinholes are electrically connected in these columns
Each column of pin holes is electrically isolated from all other

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Circuit components whose pins are in the same

row set, are electrically connected. Therefore,
in the figure to the left, components 1 and 2
are electrically connected. Current flowing
through component 1 will flow through
component 2 as well.
However, Components 3 and 4 are not placed
in the same row set, therefore current flowing
through component 3 will not flow through
component 4.

Likewise, components 5 and 6 are placed in

the same column, so they are electrically
connected, while component 7 is placed in an isolated column and is
not electrically connected to components 5 or 6.
If however, a wire is placed between
components 3 and 4, an electric connection
is made between the two isolated rows of
pins, and now components 3 and 4 are
electrically connected.

Powering up your circuit

In order to provide power to your circuit, connections to the power
supply should be made. Banana plug cables can be used to form
connections between the power supply and the three voltage source
connections at the far end of the breadboard, as seen in the
illustration on the bottom right. The three necessary connections are
V+ and V- which provide positive and negative voltage levels to the
breadboard, as well as ground ( ) which provides a common
reference for the voltage potential.
Note that according to convention, leads used to
connect to ground are black, while those used to supply
a +/- voltage from the power supply are red.
In order to supply these voltages to the entire
breadboard, wires should be used to connect the source
connection at the far end of the breadboard, to the
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sequence of columns of vertically connected pins. This is indicated in

the breadboard schematic below. With this, Hi and Lo voltage levels
are easily accessible along the entire breadboard.

Different Lead Types

Depending on the type of connection that needs to be made between
lab equipment and the protoboard, different leads can be used.
Always use the appropriate lead when making connections. The
following is an illustration of the various types:

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The Bioinstrumentation Lab does not use Oscilloscope Probes. BNC

cables can carry two signals. The center pin is used to carry a signal
of interest (such as a waveform from the breadboard) and is
surrounded by an outer sheath that is at ground voltage (the sheath is
covered by wire insulation except at the ends where the metal
connectors are exposed).

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Basic Circuit Components

Resistors A resistor is an electronic component that resists
electric current by producing a voltage drop between its terminals.
The value of the resistance is equal to the voltage drop across the
resistor divided by the current through the resistor. This is also known
as Ohms Law, given by:

Usually, resistors are color-coded to represent their value and

tolerance. The first two bands are a numerical value, the third band is
a power of ten multiplier and the fourth band indicates the tolerance
within which the actual resistance is given.

For example, a resistor with color code red, violet, yellow gold is a
resistor with a value of 270k and a 5% tolerance. Thus the actual
value of the resistor is between 256.5k and 283.5k. More
expensive resistors have lower tolerance.

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Designing and building simple circuits requires full understanding of

the properties of resistors when placed in series or parallel with each
Series and Parallel Resistor Circuits:
Resistors in parallel have the same voltage across them. To find the
equivalent value of several parallel resistors the following expression

is used:
A shortcut for two resistors in parallel is:

Unlike resistors in parallel, current through resistors in series stays

the same though the voltage across each resistor can be different.
However, the voltage drop across all of the resistors is equal to the
sum of the voltage drops across each of the resistors.

A capacitor is an electrical device that stores
the energy in the electric field between a pair
of conductive plates. Charges of equal
magnitude but opposite polarity build up on
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these plates when a voltage is applied to the capacitor. Therefore,

capacitors are used as energy-storage devices in circuits. Capacitors
are also useful in making electronic filters. Simple filter designs will
be discussed later.

Series and Parallel Capacitor Circuits:

Note that capacitors in series are summed up in the same manner as
resistors in parallel, while the expression for capacitors in parallel is
similar to that for resistors in series.
Capacitors in parallel each have the same
voltage drop across them, therefore total
capacitance for several capacitors in parallel
is given by the following expression:

Meanwhile, each capacitor in a series set up has a different voltage

across it. Therefore the current through series capacitors stays the
same. Total capacitance for a set of series capacitors is given by:

Capacitor Behavior as a Function of Signal Frequency

Capacitor behavior is related to the frequency at which the signal
flows through. For very high-frequency alternating current, the
capacitor behaves as a wire or short. On the other hand, for very low
frequency alternating currents, the capacitor approximately behaves
as an open circuit. This property of capacitors is what makes them a
fundamental component of filter design. Further details on the impact
of these characteristics on filter type will be discussed in a later

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A diode is an electronic component that
restricts the direction of movement of
charge. Therefore, it allows current to
flow in only one direction, and blocks it
in the opposite direction.

A first order model for diode behavior is illustrated in the plot below.

If the voltage across the diode is less than a threshold voltage VF,
which is usually 0.7V for silicon junction diodes, then the diode is
considered off and no current flows through it. In the event that the
voltage across the diode reaches Vf, the diode turns on and current
flows through the diode in the specified direction (A C).
Note that the magnitude of the current is not defined by the diode,
but rather by the rest of the circuit, which the diode is a part of. Also,
since current can only flow in one direction, the current can only be
zero or any positive value, but not negative. Finally, because an
unlimited amount of current could flow though the diode, the circuit
the diode is a part of cannot cause VAC to become larger than Vf. Thus,
the diode clamps VAC to VF and no higher.

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A unique type of diodes made from materials other than silicon, and
that typically have a VF of 1.0 to 2.0V, dissipate power in the form of
light. These diodes are known as Light Emitting Diodes, or LEDs, and
are available in red, yellow, green and blue. These diodes are useful to
use as indicators in electronic circuits.

Making Measurements
A multimeter is a device that is able to measure
current (ammeter), potential difference between two
locations (voltmeter), and resistance (ohmmeter)
amongst other things.
The purpose for which you are using the multimeter (i.e to measure
current, voltage, or resistance) dictates the method in which you
connect it to the rest of your circuit.
To measure current, the multimeter should
be connected in series with the rest of the
components in your circuit. This allows the
current flowing through the circuit to pass
through the ammeter as well. However,
meters should not alter the behavior of the
circuit whose current they are measuring,
thus, to avoid causing a voltage drop
across them, ammeter should have very low resistance.
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In order to measure voltage across a

given component in your circuit, the
voltmeter is connected in parallel to
that component. Because the voltmeter
provides a parallel pathway, it should
pass as little current as possible, so as
not to short circuit the component
across which it is measuring. That
being said, a voltmeter should have very high resistance.
Unlike ammeters and
voltmeters, ohmmeters cannot
function if the circuit is
connected to a power supply.
In order to measure the
resistance of a given circuit
component, it must be
removed from the circuit and
probed independently. The
ohmmeter then passes a small current through the circuit component
of interest and subsequently measures the voltage produced, and
using principles based on Ohms law, displays the resistance of the
component. Probing a powered circuit with an ohmmeter will likely
damage the meter.
Generally multimeters have a central knob with
various positions to which it can be rotated. Where you
position the knob will be dependent on the purpose for
which you will use it. If you circuit is operating from a
constant voltage source such as a battery, current flow
will always be in the same direction, and thus it is
referred to as direct current or DC.
In this case,
you could set the meter to 10V DC, and with this the
maximum voltage that can be measured at this setting
is 10V. If you know that the measurement you will be
making is in the millivolt range, then you will achieve
more accuracy if you set the multimeter to make
measurements in the 10V to 100mV range. If the
current you have flowing through the circuit
periodically switches direction from positive to negative, then you are
dealing with an alternating current or AC power supply, and you
should adjust your multimeter knob to take AC measurements.

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The multimeter will display the RMS, or root mean square, voltage of
the AC signal.

Measurements Practice:
For the following 3 steps, use a 12 V DC source voltage from the
power supply, then repeat with a 12 V AC source voltage from the
function generator.

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Voltage Divider
In electronics, the voltage divider rule is a very useful design
technique used to supply a voltage that is a fraction of that provided
by the power supply.
Build the following circuit and use the following equations to
determine the voltage across Resistor 2, for some power supply
voltage V1.

Note that if the voltage divider is supplying a load resistance RL, the
output voltage you detect would be different than a setup in which
there is no load hooked up to the divider circuit.
Current Divider
If two or more impedances are in parallel, the current that enters
them will be split between them in inverse proportion to their
resistance. As we have seen, if the impedances that are in parallel are
equal, then the incoming current will be evenly split across each
Build the following circuit and determine the current across each of
the three resistors:

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Note that since R1 is half of R3, the current through R1 will be twice
that through R3.
Since the voltage across all the components in a parallel circuit are
the same, we can calculate the current through each branch using
Ohms law (I=V/R).
Then, knowing that in parallel circuits, branch currents add up to
equal the total current, you can determine the total current for the
circuit using the branch currents previously calculated.
Finally, knowing the power supply voltage, and having just determined
the total current, the total resistance for this circuit can be
determined, again using Ohms law.
Use the following table to help guide you through the above calculations:






Current through any resistor: I//=V///R//
Voltage in parallel circuit: Vtotal=V//=ItotalRtotal

So, substituting ItotalRtotal for V// in the first equation gives the current
through any parallel resistor:
This equation is the current divider formula.
Since Rtotal/R// will always be a number less than one, you can see that
this parallel circuit is able to proportion, or divide, the total current
into fractional parts through the parallel resistors, hence the term
current divider.

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Voltage divider: V//=Vtotal(R///Rtotal)
Current divider: I//=Itotal(Rtotal/R//)

Practice with Resistors in Series and Parallel

Remember that in a series circuit, the
current flowing is the same all
throughout. Build the following circuit
and verify the values of voltage and
current across each resistor.
Important expressions to remember: Rtotal
= R1 + R2
Here, Rtotal = 1+1=2k
Using Ohms Law, I=V/R, the current I
flowing through this circuit, given a
power supply providing 6V is, I=6V/2 k
= 3mA. This current flows through each of the two resistors.

With this, the voltage across R1 is, V1=IR1= (3mA)(1k) = 3V

Since R2=R1, the voltage across R2 is also 3V. Note that the voltage
supplied to the circuit is equal to the sum of the voltages across the
two components of the circuit. This follows in line with the law of
conservation of energy.

Now consider this circuit with

resistors in parallel:

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Probe this circuit and verify the voltages and currents across the two
Calculate the total resistance in this circuit using the expression for
Rtotal for parallel resistors.
Using this value, compute the total current for this circuit using
Ohms Law.
Note that the current calculated for this parallel resistor set up is
greater than that for the series circuit because in this case,
connecting the resistors in parallel provides alternative pathways for
the current and makes its flow easier. The current that goes through
each resistor is equal since they have the same resistance value.
Therefore, the Itotal you computed gets evenly split between the two

Finally, compute the voltage across each resistor. This voltage value
should be equal to the voltage provided by the power supply.
Conceptually, this makes sense since the top of R1 is connected to the
positive terminal of the battery while the bottom end of the resistor is
connected to the negative terminal, with no other circuit components
in the way. Following the same logic, the voltage across R2 is equal to
that across R1 and to that provided by the power supply.
Remember that components in parallel have the same voltage across
Consider the following circuit with both series and parallel parts.
First, determine the total
resistance of the entire circuit by
adding the combined resistance of
the parallel setup to the resistor
R1 in series. Then, determine the
current through this Rtotal. This
current is the I that flows through
R1. Since R2 and R3 have the same
magnitude, this Itotal value is evenly
split between the two resistors.
Use Ohms law to determine the
voltage across R1. The difference
between the power supply voltage
and the voltage drop across R1
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gives the voltage difference across R2, which is the same as that
across R3, thus Vtotal-V1= V23.

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