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Electrical Circuits Theory II

Basic AC Theory

Module 001 Basic AC Theory

At the end of this module you are expected to:

1. Familiarize the characteristics of a sinusoidal waveform, including its
general format, average value, and effective value.
2. Discuss and determine the phase relationship between two sinusoidal
waveforms of the same frequency.
3. Calculate the average and effective values of any waveform.

Basic AC Theory
From the previous module, “Electrical Circuits Theory I” the discussion focuses on dc
network. Direct Current (DC) as; Current having a single direction (unidirectional) and a fixed
magnitude over time (Boylestad, 2015). In this module, the discussion will focus on sources
with varying magnitude commonly known as AC network. Alternating Current (AC); voltage
or current that changes polarity or direction, respectively, over time (Theraja, 2005)

Alternating Current and Voltages

The terms DC and AC describes the flow of charge in a circuit. For DC the electric charge
only flows in one direction while the AC changes direction periodically. DC is
commonly used at home with battery-powered devices and home electronics, while
AC is used in transmitting electricity over long distances.
AC was generated in a power plant by a rotating machine called an alternator. DC was
generated by a machine called a dynamo. Thus, it becomes a significant issue to decide
which system would be superior during that time.
Both DC and AC are measured in ampere (A), their main difference is the waveform of
the transmitted electricity. The appearance of a DC waveform is that of a line and does
not vary as shown in Fig. 1, while AC as the term implies the current or voltage is
alternating, which means that the waveforms alternates between two levels (high and
low) in a set of time.

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Figure 1. DC Waveform
A. (2014, September 24). Waveforms – Explained! Retrieved August, 2018, from

To further understand how AC waveform works, suppose we have a simple circuit Fig
2. Where we can make the current flow in the positive and negative direction.

Figure 2. Simple Circuit

When the switch is open, no current will flow in the resistor. Then switch it on in the
positive direction, thus current will flow and the waveform will show it above the line.
Reverse the switch in the negative direction, a similar negative current will flow and a
waveform below the line. As shown in Fig.3 this is a simple alternating waveform.

Figure 3. Square Wave

A. (2017, December 24). AC Waveforms and Theory. Retrieved August, 2018, from
Electrical Circuits Theory II
Basic AC Theory

But most circuits does not instantaneously change from positive to negative. It
gradually builds up from 0 and decays back to 0, then gradually builds up again on the
opposite direction and decays again. Thus constituting a waveform called the sine
wave as shown in Fig. 4.

Figure 4. Sine Wave

A. (2017, December 24). Sinusoidal Waveform. Retrieved August, 2018, from

Waveforms may come in different shapes, the commonly known are square wave, sine
wave, sawtooth wave and triangle wave. The commonly use in the electric power is
the sinusoidal waveform. In the next chapter we will discuss the characteristics of sine
wave but first let us be familiar with the important parameters of a sinusoidal voltage
as discussed by Boylestad.

Figure 5. Parameters of a sinusoidal voltage

Boylestad, R. L. (2015). Introductory Circuit Analysis (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, US: Pearson Prentice Hall

Waveform: The path traced by a quantity, such as voltage, plotted as a function of

some variable, such as time, position, degrees, radians, temperature, and so on.
Instantaneous Value: The magnitude of a waveform at any instant of time; denoted
by the lowercase letters (e1, e2).
Peak amplitude: The maximum value of waveform as measured from its average, or
mean, value denoted by the uppercase letters (Em, Vm).
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Peak value: The maximum instantaneous value of a function as measured from zero
volt level. For the waveform in Fig. 5, the peak amplitude and peak value are the same
since the average value of the functions is zero volts.
Peak-to-peak value: Denoted by Ep or Vp, the full voltage between positive and
negative peaks of the waveform, that is the sum of the magnitude of the positive and
negative peaks.
Periodic waveform: A waveform that continually repeats itself after the same time
Period (T): The time of a periodic waveform.
Cycle: The portion of a waveform contained in one period of time.
Frequency (f): The number of cycles that occur in 1s. The unit of frequency is Hertz
(Hz) or cycle per second (cps).
𝐸𝑞 1: 𝑃𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑜𝑑 (𝑇) =
𝐹𝑟𝑒𝑞𝑢𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑦 (𝑓)

Sine Wave
According to the statement in the book of Boylestad:
“The sinusoidal waveform is the only alternating waveform whose shape is unaffected by
the response characteristics of R, L, and C elements.”
Thus, an input current or voltage with sinusoidal characteristics will result into an
output current or voltage with sinusoidal characteristic. Any response from the
resistor, inductor and capacitor will not affect the shape of the sinusoidal waveform.
However, this will not apply on the other shapes of waveforms.
In Trigonometry, if you have a right triangle (Fig.6) with an angle A, and sides a, b and
c, then sine of A will be equal to a over c or a will be equal to c multiply by sine of A as
shown in Eq. 2.
𝐸𝑞 2: sin 𝐴 = or 𝑎 = 𝑐 sin 𝐴

Figure 6. Pythagorean Triangle

Pythagoras and His Troubled Biography. (2016, March 13). Retrieved August, 2018, from
Electrical Circuits Theory II
Basic AC Theory

Let’s say that side c is a radius of a circle in a certain angle and as angle A changes
from 0 to 360, the length of c changes. If we plot the values of the length with respect
to the angle we will a sine wave as shown in Fig. 7.

Figure 7. Sine Wave Plot

Math Scene - Trigonometry functions - Graphs of trig functions lesson 3. (n.d.). Retrieved August, 2018, from

The horizontal axis of a waveform can be measured either by Time, Degrees or

Radians. Degree is usually denoted by ° (the degree symbol), is a measurement of a plane
angle, defined so that a full rotation is 360 degrees. While radians is the SI unit used for
measuring angles.

Figure 8. Radian
What Are Radians? (n.d.). Retrieved August, 2018, from https://www.mathematics-

Boylestad defined radian as the angle resulting to the portion of circumference of a

circle by a length equal to the radius of a circle as shown in Fig. 8 and is measured as
57.296° or approximately 57.3°. A one full circle is equivalent to 2π rad, therefore the
following equation applies:
𝐸𝑞 3: 2π rad = 360°
The conversion equations between the two are the following:
𝐸𝑞 4: 𝑅𝑎𝑑𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑠 = ( ) 𝑥 (𝑑𝑒𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑒𝑠)
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𝐸𝑞 5: 𝐷𝑒𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑒𝑠 = ( ) 𝑥 (𝑟𝑎𝑑𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑠)
From Fig. 8 we can also derive the equation for angular velocity. Let’s say a point in
the circumference of the circle travel around to circle in 1 revolution per second and
we know from Eq. 3 that there is 2π rad in 1 revolution. Therefore:
1 𝑟𝑒𝑣 2𝜋 𝑟𝑎𝑑 𝑟𝑎𝑑
𝐴𝑛𝑔𝑢𝑙𝑎𝑟 𝑉𝑒𝑙𝑜𝑐𝑖𝑡𝑦 = ( )𝑥 ( ) = 2𝜋
𝑠𝑒𝑐 1 𝑟𝑒𝑣 𝑠𝑒𝑐
or by equation we get:
𝑑𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑐𝑒 (𝑟𝑎𝑑𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑠 𝑜𝑟 𝑑𝑒𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑒𝑠)
𝐸𝑞 6: 𝐴𝑛𝑔𝑢𝑙𝑎𝑟 𝑉𝑒𝑙𝑜𝑐𝑖𝑡𝑦 =
𝑡𝑖𝑚𝑒 (𝑠𝑒𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑑𝑠)
𝐸𝑞 7: 𝜔 =
Where Angular Velocity is represented by the symbol ω (omega), distance is α (alpha).
Going back to a sinusoidal waveform we already know that 1 cycle is equivalent to 2π
rad for a certain time (T), using Eq. 1 we can further derive the following equation:
2𝜋 𝑟𝑎𝑑
𝐸𝑞 8: 𝜔= = 2𝜋𝑓 ( )
𝑇 𝑠
The equation tells that frequency is directly proportional to angular velocity. The
higher the frequency generated the higher the angular velocity.

Sinusoidal Voltage or Current

π , 180° 2π , 360°
0 (° or rad)

Figure 9. Basic Sinusoidal

In Fig. 9 above we can see a basic sinusoidal waveform with horizontal axis express
in α (degree or radians) and the peak value in Am. A sinusoidal waveform can be
express in a mathematical equation:
𝐸𝑞 9: 𝐴𝑚 sin 𝛼
Due to Eq. 7 we can further express the equation as:
𝐸𝑞 10: 𝐴𝑚 sin 𝜔𝑡
With this equation the characteristics of the sinusoidal waveform will be affected by
the angular velocity and time. Thus for a fixed angular velocity, the longer time will
result to a greater number of cycles. And, for a fixed time, with greater angular velocity,
it will result also to a greater number of cycles.
We can express Eq. 10 in terms of electrical quantities:
𝐸𝑞 11: 𝑖(𝑡) = 𝐼𝑚 sin 𝜔𝑡 = 𝐼𝑚 sin 𝛼
𝐸𝑞 12: 𝑒(𝑡) = 𝐸𝑚 sin 𝜔𝑡 = 𝐸𝑚 sin 𝛼
Electrical Circuits Theory II
Basic AC Theory

Where i(t) and e(t) are instantaneous value of current and voltage, respectively, with
respect to time. While Im and Em are the amplitude value of current and voltage.
We can further rearranged the equation to get the equation of angle for a specified
value of current or voltage.
𝐸𝑞 13: 𝛼 = sin−1
𝐸𝑞 14: 𝛼 = sin−1

Phase Relations
We considered with the previous chapters, sine waves that typically starts at the 0°
axis, reach its positive peak value at π/2, back to 0 at π, negative peak value at 3π/2
and back to 0 again at 2π. But, this is not the usual case, waveforms may shift to the
right or left of the 0°. And the equation can be express as:
𝐸𝑞 9: 𝐴𝑚 sin(𝜔𝑡 ± Φ)
where Φ is the angle in degrees or radians that the waveform is shifted. As shown in
Fig. 10.

Figure 10. Positive Phase Shift

Phase Difference and Phase Shift in an AC Circuit. (2018, April 20). Retrieved August, 2018, from

If the waveform shifted before the 0° axis, the expression will be positive and if the
waveform shifter after the 0° axis, the expression will be negative. If the waveform
shifted 90° before 0° axis as shown in Fig. 10, it is called cosine wave and is express
𝐸𝑞 10: sin(𝜔𝑡 + 90°) = sin (𝜔𝑡 + ) = cos 𝜔𝑡
𝐸𝑞 11: sin 𝜔𝑡 = cos(𝜔𝑡 − 90°) = cos(𝜔𝑡 − )

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In the analysis of waveforms, we often compare multiple waveforms relationship to
each other. Let’s consider Fig. 11 below, with two alternating quantities, voltage and
current respectively.

Figure 11. In Phase

Phase Difference and Phase Shift in an AC Circuit. (2018, April 20). Retrieved August, 2018, from

The voltage and the current have the same frequency, thus they have the same angular
velocity. If this is the case, at any point in time, the phase voltage will be the same with
the phase current. And the phase difference therefore is equal to zero (Φ = 0). This
waveform is said to be “in phase”. Now let’s consider Fig. 12 where phase current
shifted 30° after the 0° axis.

Figure 12. Out of Phase

Phase Difference and Phase Shift in an AC Circuit. (2018, April 20). Retrieved August, 2018, from

The phase voltage just like with the previous image started at the zero axis, however
in the same period of time the phase current has a negative value and cross the axis
after 30°. Therefore a phase difference exist between the phase voltage and phase
current. The two waveforms are no longer in phase with each other, and are now “out
of phase” at angle Φ. The terms leading and lagging can be used to describe the
relationship between the two waveforms, depending on your reference. It can be
Electrical Circuits Theory II
Basic AC Theory

express as “the phase voltage leads phase current by 30°” or “the phase current lags the
phase voltage by 30°”.

Figure 13. Sine and Cosine Relationship

Boylestad, R. L. (2015). Introductory Circuit Analysis (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, US: Pearson Prentice Hall

In the book of Boylestad, he use Fig. 13 to derive the geometric relationship between
cosine and sine functions. Starting at the +sin α, we can see that a 90°
counterclockwise direction shift will give you +cos α. Thus giving an expression of cos
α = sin (α+90°). We can also see that there is a 180° difference between the +sin α and
the -sin α, -sin α = -sin (α ±180°). From this, Boylestad derives the following
𝐸𝑞 12: cos 𝛼 = sin(𝛼 + 90°)
𝐸𝑞 13: sin 𝛼 = cos(𝛼 − 90°)
𝐸𝑞 14: −sin 𝛼 = sin( 𝛼 ± 180°)
𝐸𝑞 15: −cos 𝛼 = sin( 𝛼 + 270°) = sin(𝛼 − 90°)
We should also take note of the following relationships:
𝐸𝑞 16: sin(−𝛼) = −sin 𝛼
𝐸𝑞 17: cos(−𝛼) = cos 𝛼

Average and Effective Value

Now let us discuss the average and effective value of a sinusoidal waveform. By
definition an average value is the average of all the instantaneous values of an
alternating parameter over on complete cycle. We should remember that any
waveforms are plot of values or events during a specific instant. Let G denote the
average value so we can express it as
𝐴𝑙𝑔𝑒𝑏𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑐 𝑠𝑢𝑚 𝑜𝑓 𝑎𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑠
𝐸𝑞 19: 𝐺 (𝑎𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑔𝑒 𝑣𝑎𝑙𝑢𝑒) =
𝑙𝑒𝑛𝑔𝑡ℎ 𝑜𝑓 𝑐𝑢𝑟𝑣𝑒
It should be noted that areas above the axis are assigned as positive and areas below
are negative. So if we consider a symmetrical sinusoidal waveform, the positive half
cycle will be equal to the negative half cycle, thus giving as a zero average value.
For a square wave, triangular wave and sawtooth wave we can easily solve its area by
its geometrical formulas. However for a sine wave, or any other unusual shape of
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waves, we must find the area by some other means. We can approximate its area by
using other familiar geometric shapes.

Figure 34. Approximating the shape of sinusoidal waveform using two right triangle
Boylestad, R. L. (2015). Introductory Circuit Analysis (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, US: Pearson Prentice Hall

On Fig. 14, the area of the sine wave is approximated using two right triangles.
Boylestad use this technique to obtain the following:
1 1 𝜋 𝜋
Area of triangle = 2[( )bh] = 2 [( ) ( )(Am)] = Am ≅ 1.58 Am
2 2 2 2

Boylestad further try to approximate it using one rectangle and two similar triangles
and resulted to 2.094 Am. However, we can use a different method which was also
presented in the book of Boylestad. The procedure of calculus the gives the exact
solution also called as integration.
Area = ∫0 𝐴𝑚 sin 𝛼 𝑑𝛼 = -Am [cos π – cos 0 ] = 2Am
Since now that we know that the area of a sine wave is equals to 2Am, we can now
determine the average value for sine wave only considering its half cycle.
𝐸𝑞 20: 𝐺 (𝑎𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑔𝑒 𝑣𝑎𝑙𝑢𝑒) = = 0.637𝐴𝑚
For a half pulse:
2𝐴𝑚 /2
𝐸𝑞 21: 𝐺 = = 0.637𝐴𝑚
For a full cycle:
2𝐴𝑚 (2)
𝐸𝑞 21: 𝐺 == 0.637𝐴𝑚
Thus, giving as the same value for the average value of sine wave.
Now, for the effective value, it is defined by Theraja as the value of a sinusoidal source
which delivers the same energy as the dc source. Therefor for this chapter we need to
relate dc and ac in terms of power delivered to a load.
For a dc source, we know that voltage or current never changes direction and at every
instant it almost remain constant. Hence, calculating power drawn is simply square of
the current multiplied by the load resistance (i2R) and this will be the power taken by
the load at any instant. However for an ac source, voltage and current change
continuously. It may appear that net power delivered by an alternating source is 0
since both positive and negative cycle are equal in magnitude. However, both the
positive and negative cycle still delivers power to the load which varies with the
magnitude of the sinusoidal source.
Electrical Circuits Theory II
Basic AC Theory

We can derive the relationship of dc and ac power by equating the average power
delivered by both source. But first let’s take first the average power delivered by an
AC source.
𝐸𝑞 22: 𝑃𝑎𝑐 = (𝑖𝑎𝑐 )2 𝑅
From Eq. 11
𝐸𝑞 23: 𝑃𝑎𝑐 = (𝐼𝑚 sin 𝜔𝑡)2 𝑅 = (𝐼2 𝑚 𝑠𝑖𝑛2 𝜔𝑡)𝑅
Using Trigonometric Identity:
𝐸𝑞 23: 𝑃𝑎𝑐 = 𝐼2 𝑚 [ (1 − cos 2𝜔𝑡)]𝑅
𝐼 𝑚 𝑅 𝐼2 𝑚 𝑅
𝐸𝑞 24: 𝑃𝑎𝑐 = − cos 2𝜔𝑡
2 2
Therefore the average power for an AC source is just the first term, since the second
term is a cosine wave which will give an average value of 0. Equating the two average
power we will get:
𝑃𝑎𝑐 = 𝑃𝑑𝑐
𝐼2 𝑚 𝑅
= 𝐼2 𝑑𝑐 𝑅
𝐸𝑞 25: 𝐼𝑑𝑐 = = 0.707𝐼𝑚
The equation states that the equivalent dc source of a sinusoidal source is 0.707 of its
peak value which is called the effective value commonly known as rms value. It is called
rms value because we can derive this formula graphically by taking dividing half of a
cycle in equal number of portions called as mid ordinates, the more mid-ordinates the
more accurate. Then we take value of the height of each mid-ordinate which will vary
because of the characteristic waveform of a sinusoid. This value will be equal to the
instantaneous value of the waveform with respect to time along the x-axis as shown
in Fig 15.

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Figure 45. Approximating the shape of sinusoidal waveform using two right triangle
RMS Voltage of a Sinusoidal AC Waveform. (2018, June 04). Retrieved August, 2018, from

Then each mid-ordinate value will be squared and totaled. The result will then be
divided by the total number of mid-ordinates used to give as the mean. Finally we take
the square root of the result to give us the rms value or the root-mean-square value. It
can be express as:

𝑉1 2 + 𝑉2 2 + 𝑉3 2 . . . +𝑉12 2
𝐸𝑞 26: 𝑉𝑟𝑚𝑠 = √
It can also be derived analytically by taking the square of the function i(t), and find the
area under the curve by integration. The result will be divided by T to obtain the mean
value. Then take the square root of the mean value thus giving the rms value. It can be
express as:
∫ 𝑖 2 (𝑡)𝑑𝑡 𝑎𝑟𝑒𝑎 (𝑖 2 (𝑡))
𝐸𝑞 27: 𝐼𝑟𝑚𝑠 = √0 = √
The relationship between the mean value and the rms value both applies for the
current and voltages thus giving us the following equations
𝐸𝑞 26: 𝐼𝑟𝑚𝑠 = = 0.707𝐼𝑚
𝐸𝑞 27: 𝐸𝑟𝑚𝑠 = = 0.707𝐸𝑚
𝐸𝑞 28: 𝐼𝑚 = √2𝐼𝑟𝑚𝑠 = 1.414𝐼𝑟𝑚𝑠
𝐸𝑞 29: 𝐸𝑚 = √2𝐸𝑟𝑚𝑠 = 1.414𝐸𝑟𝑚𝑠
Electrical Circuits Theory II
Basic AC Theory

References and Supplementary Materials

Books and Journals
1. Boylestad, R. L. (2015). Introductory Circuit Analysis (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River,
US: Pearson Prentice Hall
2. Nilsson, J. W., & Riedel, S. A. (2018). Electric Circuits, Hardcover (11th ed.). Pearson
Online Supplementary Reading Materials
1. Basic Electronics Tutorials and Revision. (n.d.). Retrieved August, 2018, from
2. R., & A. (2018, August 23). Latest Free Electronics Projects and Circuits. Retrieved
August, 2018, from https://www.electronicshub.org/
Online Instructional Videos
1. D. (2016, September 06). Basic AC Circuits - Lesson 1 - An Introduction to Alternating
Current; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iME3FTjj5so; August 2018
2. A.C. FUNDAMENTALS. (n.d.).;
August 2018
3. AC Circuits Basics, Impedance, Resonant Frequency, RL RC RLC LC Circuit Explained,
Physics Problems; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8o2UpqzuKI; August 28,

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