Capacitors store electric charge. They are used with resistors in timing circuits because it takes time for a capacitor to fill with charge. They are used to smooth varying DC supplies by acting as a reservoir of charge. They are also used in filter circuits because capacitors easily pass AC (changing) signals but they block DC (constant) signals.

This is a measure of a capacitor's ability to store charge. A large capacitance means that more charge can be stored. Capacitance is measured in farads, symbol F. However 1F is very large, so prefixes are used to show the smaller values. Three prefixes (multipliers) are used, µ (micro), n (nano) and p (pico):
• • •

µ means 10-6 (millionth), so 1000000µF = 1F n means 10-9 (thousand-millionth), so 1000nF = 1µF p means 10-12 (million-millionth), so 1000pF = 1nF

There are many types of capacitor but they can be split into two groups, polarized and unpolarized. Each group has its own circuit symbol. Polarized capacitors (large values, 1µF +)


Circuit symbol:

Electrolytic Capacitors Electrolytic capacitors are polarized and they must be connected the correct way round, at least one of their leads will be marked + or -. They are not damaged by heat when soldering. There are two designs of electrolytic capacitors; axial where the leads are attached to each end (220µF in picture) and radial where both leads are at the same end (10µF in picture). Radial capacitors tend to be a little smaller and they stand upright on the circuit board. It is easy to find the value of electrolytic capacitors because they are clearly printed with their capacitance and voltage rating. The voltage rating can be quite low (6V for example) and it should always be checked when selecting an electrolytic capacitor. If the project parts list does not specify a voltage, choose a capacitor with a rating which is greater than the project's power supply voltage. 25V is a sensible minimum for most battery circuits.

Unpolarized capacitors (small values, up to 1µF)


Circuit symbol:

Small value capacitors are unpolarised and may be connected either way round. They are not damaged by heat when soldering, except for one unusual type (polystyrene). They have high voltage ratings of at least 50V, usually 250V or so. It can be difficult to find the values of these small capacitors because there are many types of them and several different labelling systems! Many small value capacitors have their value printed but without a multiplier, so you need to use experience to work out what the multiplier should be!

Variable capacitors
Variable capacitors are mostly used in radio tuning circuits and they are sometimes called 'tuning capacitors'. They have very small capacitance values, typically between 100pF and 500pF (100pF = 0.0001µF). The type illustrated usually has trimmers built in (for making small adjustments - see below) as well as the main variable capacitor. Many variable capacitors have very short spindles which are not suitable for the standard knobs used for variable resistors and rotary switches. It would be wise to check that a suitable knob is available before ordering a variable capacitor. Variable capacitors are not normally used in timing circuits because their capacitance is too small to be practical and the range of values available is very limited. Instead timing circuits use a fixed capacitor and a variable resistor if it is necessary to vary the time period.

However. In addition there are LEDs (which have their own page) and Zener diodes (at the bottom of this page). it is called the forward voltage drop and is about 0. Reverse Voltage When a reverse voltage is applied a perfect diode does not conduct. The forward voltage drop of a diode is almost constant whatever the current passing through the diode so they have a very steep characteristic (current-voltage graph). this is called breakdown. Forward Voltage Drop Electricity uses up a little energy pushing its way through the diode. but all real diodes leak a very tiny current of a few µA or less. rather like a person pushing through a door with a spring. The arrow of the circuit symbol shows the direction in which the current can flow. This can be ignored in most circuits because it will be very much smaller than the current flowing in the forward direction. all diodes have a maximum reverse voltage (usually 50V or more) and if this is exceeded the diode will fail and pass a large current in the reverse direction. . Diodes are the electrical version of a valve and early diodes were actually called valves. Ordinary diodes can be split into two types: Signal diodes which pass small currents of 100mA or less and Rectifier diodes which can pass large currents.DIODES Example: Circuit symbol: Function Diodes allow electricity to flow in only one direction.7V for all normal diodes which are made from silicon. This means that there is a small voltage across a conducting diode.

Zener diodes can be distinguished from ordinary diodes by their code and breakdown voltage which are printed on them. .. the diagram may be labelled a or + for anode and k or .Connecting and soldering Diodes must be connected the correct way round. The cathode is marked by a line painted on the body. you may need a magnifying glass to read this on small signal diodes! Small signal diodes can be damaged by heat when soldering. with a resistor in series to limit the current. ZE NE R D IO DES Example: a = anode. not c. but the risk is small unless you are using a germanium diode (codes beginning OA.) in which case you should use a heat sink clipped to the lead between the joint and the diode body. A standard crocodile clip can be used as a heat sink. or BZY... so 4V7 means 4.for cathode (yes. k = cathode Circuit symbol: Zener diodes are used to maintain a fixed voltage. The bridge rectifier is one of them and it is available in special packages containing the four diodes required. Diodes are labeled with their code in small print. Their breakdown voltage is printed with V in place of a decimal point. The diagram shows how they are connected. They are designed to 'breakdown' in a reliable and non-destructive way so that they can be used in reverse to maintain a fixed voltage across their terminals.7V for example.. Bridge rectifiers are rated by their maximum current and maximum reverse voltage. it really is k. for cathode!). They have four leads or terminals: the two DC outputs are labelled + and -.. BRIDGE RECTIFIERS There are several ways of connecting diodes to make a rectifier to convert AC to DC. the two AC inputs are labelled .. Zener diode codes begin BZX.

The IC is pushed into the holder when all soldering is complete. Filament lamps have a shorter lifetime than most electronic components because eventually the filament 'blows' (melts) at a weak point. IC holders are only needed when soldering so they are not used on breadboards.54mm) grid which will fit the holes on stripboard and breadboards. usually this is done by a machine which is able to work very quickly. Power ratings of 400mW and 1.3W are common. Instead we use an IC holder. strictly called a DIL socket (DIL = Dual In-Line). IC holders (DIL sockets) ICs (chips) are easily damaged by heat when soldering and their short pins cannot be protected with a heat sink. The chip is packaged in a plastic holder with pins spaced on a 0. All of the lamps shown on this page have a thin wire filament which becomes very hot and glows brightly when a current passes through it. . IN TEG RA TED CIR CUITS (C HIPS) Integrated Circuits are usually called ICs or chips. Commercially produced circuit boards often have ICs soldered directly to the board without an IC holder. Very fine wires inside the package link the chip to the pins. which can be safely soldered onto the circuit board. Pin numbers The pins are numbered anti-clockwise around the IC (chip) starting near the notch or dot. The diagram shows the numbering for 8-pin and 14-pin ICs. Please don't attempt to do this yourself because you are likely to destroy the IC and it will be difficult to remove without damage by de-soldering.1" (2. The filament is made from a metal with a high melting point such as tungsten and it is usually wound into a small coil. but the principle is the same for all sizes.Zener diodes are rated by their breakdown voltage and maximum power: • • The minimum voltage available is 2. They are complex circuits which have been etched onto tiny chips of semiconductor (silicon). LAMPS Function and Construction Lamps emit light when an electric current passes through them.4V.

If a slightly higher voltage is used the lamp will be brighter but its lifetime will be shorter. As a result the correct voltage rating for a torch lamp is lower than the normal voltage of the battery which lights it! For example: a lamp rated 3.5V 0.5V cells) because when the lamp is connected the voltage across the battery falls to about 3. Lamp type .Circuit symbols There are two circuit symbols for a lamp. . one for a lamp used to provide illumination and another for a lamp used as an indicator.3A is correct for a 4. Power or current rating . Small lamps such as torch bulbs can be used for both purposes so either circuit symbol may used in simple educational circuits. The voltage and power (or current) ratings are usually printed or embossed on the body of a lamp. Voltage rating This is the supply voltage required for normal brightness. Torch lamps pass a relatively large current and this significantly reduces the output voltage of the battery.5V.please see the table below. The light from dim lamps has a yellow-orange colour.small lamps are usually rated by current. Lamp used for lighting (for example a car headlamp or torch bulb) Lamp used as an indicator (for example a warning light on a car dashboard) Selecting a Lamp There are three important features to consider when selecting a lamp: • • • Voltage rating .the supply voltage for normal brightness.5V battery (three 1. With a lower supply voltage the lamp will be dimmer and its lifetime will be longer. Some voltage is used up inside the battery driving the large current through the small resistance of the battery itself (its 'internal resistance').

Testing an LED Never connect an LED directly to a battery or power supply! It will be destroyed almost instantly because too much current will pass through and burn it out.LI GH T E MITTI NG DI OD ES (LEDS) Example: Circuit symbol: Function LEDs emit light when an electric current passes through them. amber. The coloured packages are also available as diffused (the standard type) or transparent. but the risk is small unless you are very slow. the diagram may be labelled a or + for anode and k or . Remember to connect the LED the correct way round! Colours of LEDs LEDs are available in red. green. orange. it really is k. for quick testing purposes a 1k resistor is suitable for most LEDs if your supply voltage is 12V or less. Connecting and soldering LEDs must be connected the correct way round. No special precautions are needed for soldering most LEDs. blue and white. Blue and white LEDs are much more expensive than the other colours. The colour of an LED is determined by the semiconductor material. yellow. The cathode is the short lead and there may be a slight flat on the body of round LEDs. . not c. LEDs can be damaged by heat when soldering. not by the colouring of the 'package' (the plastic body).for cathode (yes. LEDs must have a resistor in series to limit the current to a safe value. for cathode!). LEDs of all colours are available in uncoloured packages which may be diffused (milky) or clear (often described as 'water clear'). If you can see inside the LED the cathode is the larger electrode (but this is not an official identification method).

Because a relay is able to control an output circuit of higher power than the input circuit. In the original form. .LED Displays LED displays are packages of many LEDs arranged in a pattern. It was invented by Joseph Henry in 1835. a form of an electrical amplifier. the most familiar pattern being the 7-segment displays for showing numbers (digits 0-9). in a broad sense. The pictures below illustrate some of the popular designs: RELAYS A relay is an electrical switch that opens and closes under the control of another electrical circuit. the switch is operated by an electromagnet to open or close one or many sets of contacts. it can be considered to be.

Each colour represents a number as shown in the table. The first and second bands represent the digits as normal. violet (7). This resistor has red (2). Resistor values are normally shown using coloured bands. They are not damaged by heat Yellow when soldering. To show these small values two special colours are used for the third band: gold which means × 0. this may be ignored for almost all circuits but further details are given below. 1 is quite small so resistor values are often given in k and M . Small value resistors (less than 10 ohm) The standard colour code cannot show values of less than 10 . the symbol for ohm is an omega .1 and silver which means × 0.RESIST OR S Example: Circuit symbol: The Resistor Colour Code Colour Number Function Black Resistors restrict the flow of electric current. 1 k = 1000 1 M = 1000000 . The second band gives the second digit. The third band indicates the number of zeros. for example a resistor is placed in series with a light-emitting diode (LED) to limit the current passing Brown through the LED. yellow (4 zeros) and gold bands. Resistor values .01.the resistor colour code Resistance is measured in ohms. Red 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Connecting and soldering Orange Resistors may be connected either way round. The fourth band is used to shows the tolerance (precision) of the resistor. . Most resistors have 4 bands: • • • • Green Blue Violet Grey White The first band gives the first digit. So its value is 270000 = 270 k . On circuit diagrams the is usually omitted and the value is written 270K.

brown ±1%. Tolerance is the precision of the resistor and it is given as a percentage. these will be circuits using low value resistors (less than about 300 ) or high voltages (more than 15V).5W are suitable.25W or 0. but if the resistance is low (or the voltage across the resistor high) a large current may pass making the resistor become noticeably warm. If no fourth band is shown the tolerance is ±20%. Tolerance may be ignored for almost all circuits because precise resistor values are rarely required. Usually the effect is negligible. gold ±5%. For the rare cases where a higher power is required it should be clearly specified in the parts list. The resistor must be able to withstand the heating effect and resistors have power ratings to show this. For example a 390 resistor with a tolerance of ±10% will have a value within 10% of 390 . . A special colour code is used for the fourth band tolerance: silver ±10%.39 = 351 and 390 + 39 = 429 (39 is 10% of 390). Power ratings of resistors are rarely quoted in parts lists because for most circuits the standard power ratings of 0. between 390 . Power Ratings of Resistors Electrical energy is converted to heat when current flows through a resistor.Tolerance of resistors (fourth band of colour code) The tolerance of a resistor is shown by the fourth band of the colour code. red ±2%.

In many circuits a resistor is used to convert the changing current to a changing voltage. Throw . but you may need to check the current rating. double throw) Ratings (maximum voltage and current) Method of Operation (toggle. so the transistor is being used to amplify voltage. The maximum current is less for inductive loads (coils and motors) because they cause more sparking at the contacts when switched off. key etc. For low voltage electronics projects the voltage rating will not matter.g. slide.switch returns to its normal position when released. Open . single pole. The AC values are higher because the current falls to zero many times each second and an arc is less likely to form across the switch position. relay or other high current device. three or more. The switch mechanism has two positions: open (off) and closed (on).SWIT CHES Selecting a Switch There are three important features to consider when selecting a switch: • • • Contacts (e. For example: the simplest on-off switch has one set of contacts (single pole) and one switching position which conducts (single throw). Closed . Switch Contact Ratings Switch contacts are rated with a maximum voltage and current. .number of switch contact sets.) Switch Contacts Several terms are used to describe switch contacts: • • • • • • Pole . A transistor may be used as a switch (either fully on with maximum current. Way . TRA NSIST OR S Function Transistors amplify current. and there may be different ratings for AC and DC. but it is called 'single throw' because only one position conducts. there may be several on positions.on position. Momentary .number of conducting positions. for example they can be used to amplify the small output current from a logic IC so that it can operate a lamp. or fully off with no current) and as an amplifier (always partly on). contacts conducting. contacts not conducting.number of conducting positions. single or double.

Please note that transistor lead diagrams show the view from below with the leads towards you. These terms refer to the internal operation of a transistor but they are not much help in understanding how a transistor is used. The letters refer to the layers of semiconductor material used to make the transistor. there are field-effect transistors which are usually referred to as FETs. Most transistors used today are NPN because this is the easiest type to make from silicon. Types of transistor There are two types of standard transistors. they are not (yet) covered by this page. symbol hFE. If you are new to electronics it is best to start by Transistor circuit symbols learning how to use NPN transistors. otherwise you will need to refer to a supplier's catalogue to identify the leads. If you are lucky the orientation of the transistor will be clear from the PCB or stripboard layout diagram. This is the opposite of IC (chip) pin diagrams which show the view from above. Please take care with this because a wrongly connected transistor may be damaged instantly when you switch on. The leads are labelled base (B). Connecting Transistors have three leads which must be connected the correct way round. For further information please see the Transistor Circuits page. NPN and PNP. collector (C) and emitter (E). The drawings on the right show the leads for some of the most common case styles. .The amount of current amplification is called the current gain. so just treat them as labels! In addition to standard (bipolar junction) transistors. They have different circuit symbols and properties and Transistor leads for some common case styles. with different circuit symbols.

If the terminals at the ends of the track are connected across the power supply then the wiper terminal will provide a voltage which can be varied from zero up to the maximum of the supply. For example to set the frequency of an alarm tone or the sensitivity of a light-sensitive circuit. Potentiometer Symbol This arrangement is normally used to vary voltage. Potentiometer Variable resistors used as potentiometers have all three terminals connected. the other to the moveable wiper. Preset Symbol Presets are much cheaper than standard variable resistors so they are sometimes used in projects where a standard variable resistor would normally be used. Two terminals are used: one connected to an end of the track. This improves the mechanical strength of the mounting but it serves no function electrically. for example to set the switching point of a circuit with a sensor. for example to control the brightness of a lamp or the rate at which a capacitor charges. one of them will be linked to the wiper terminal. Presets These are miniature versions of the standard variable resistor. . Rheostat Symbol Rheostats are often used to vary current. Turning the spindle changes the resistance between the two terminals from zero up to the maximum resistance.VARIA BLE R ESIST OR S Rheostat This is the simplest way of using a variable resistor. A small screwdriver or similar tool is required to adjust presets. They are designed to be mounted directly onto the circuit board and adjusted only when the circuit is built. or control the volume (loudness) in an amplifier circuit. If the rheostat is mounted on a printed circuit board you may find that all three terminals are connected! However.

An LDR may be connected either way round and no special precautions are required when soldering. Miniature LDRs are also available and their diameter is about 5mm.Preset (open style) Presets (closed style) Multiturn preset OTHE R C OMPO NE NT S Light Dependent Resistor (LDR) An LDR is an input transducer (sensor) which converts brightness (light) to resistance. A multimeter can be used to find the resistance in darkness and bright light. Very bright light: minimum resistance. circuit symbol Thermistor . about 100 . which is about 13mm diameter. about 1M . now the NORPS12. It is made from cadmium sulphide (CdS) and the resistance decreases as the brightness of light falling on the LDR increases. Photograph © Rapid Electronics For many years the standard LDR has been the ORP12. these are the typical results for a standard LDR: • • Darkness: maximum resistance.

about 5k . Iron and ferrite cores increase the inductance. but this makes it impossible to strip in the usual way the best method is to gently pull the ends of the wire through folded emery paper. Inductors are rarely found in simple projects. circuit symbol Inductor (coil) An inductor is a coil of wire which may have a core of air. They pass DC easily. Room temperature 25°C: medium resistance. not iron! Inductor (miniature) Ferrite rod Photographs © Rapid Electronics circuit symbol . Almost all thermistors have a negative temperature coefficient (NTC) which means their resistance decreases as their temperature increases. 1H is very large so mH and µH are used. about 12k . Always assume NTC if no information is given. Boiling water 100°C: low resistance. small thermistors respond more rapidly. A multimeter can be used to find the resistance at various temperatures. iron or ferrite (a brittle material made from iron). Its electrical property is called inductance and the unit for this is the henry. This is an inductor which you may have to make yourself by neatly winding enamelled copper wire around a ferrite rod. Photograph © Rapid Electronics Suppliers usually specify thermistors by their resistance at 25°C (room temperature). Warning: a ferrite rod is brittle so treat it like glass. but block AC signals. Thermistors take several seconds to respond to a sudden temperature change. this is the opposite of capacitors. symbol H. about 400 . Enamelled copper wire has very thin insulation. It is possible to make thermistors with a positive temperature coefficient (resistance increases as temperature increases) but these are rarely used. allowing the turns of the coil to be close together. Inductors are mainly used in tuned circuits and to block high frequency AC signals (they are sometimes called chokes). these are some typical readings for example: • • • Icy water 0°C: high resistance. but one exception is the tuning coil of a radio receiver. 1000µH = 1mH and 1000mH = 1H.A thermistor is an input transducer (sensor) which converts temperature (heat) to resistance.

the 20 V DC voltage range is the most useful. where fsd is short for full scale deflection. which includes all the circuits you are likely to build. usually on a liquid crystal display. Even the simplest and cheapest types may include features which you are not likely to use. This is sometimes called 20 V fsd. and in this case.Di gi tal Mu lt imeter Multimeters are designed and mass produced for electronics engineers. Digital meters give an output in numbers. For circuits with power supplies of up to 20 V. The diagram below shows a switched range multimeter: Switched range multimeter The central knob has lots of positions and you must choose which one is appropriate for the measurement you want to make. . DC ranges are indicated by on the meter. If the meter is switched to 20 V DC. Sometimes. for example. the 2 V or 200 mV ranges are used. then 20 V is the maximum voltage which can be measured. you will want to measure smaller voltages.

In any circuit which operates from a steady voltage source. and the display includes the unit of measurement. AC means alternating current. Every constructional project described in Design Electronics works in this way. That is. current flow is always in the same direction. With UK mains. short for COMMON. the meter automatically adjusts its range to give a meaningful reading. the current reverses. In an electric lamp connected to the domestic mains electricity. Once switched to V. . Where are the two meter probes connected? The black lead is always connected into the socket marked COM. current flows first one way. V or mV. The red lead is connected into the socket labeled V mA. This type of meter is more expensive. or alternates.What does DC mean? DC means direct current. The 10A socket is very rarely used. the current reverses 50 times per second. in direction. but obviously much easier to use. then the other. Auto ranging multimeter The central knob has fewer positions and all you need to do is to switch it to the quantity you want to measure. such as a battery.

making a chain known as a potential divider. replacing one or more of the 10 Are the results as you expect? resistors with 1 or 100 values. The total voltage is shared between the four resistors and. measure the power supply voltage and then measure the voltages at points A.Voltage measurements: Using the multimeter as a voltmeter. or voltage divider. each resistor receives an equal share. allowing for tolerance. The diagram below shows a light sensor circuit built in a similar way: . B and C. What do you notice about your results? The four resistors are connected in series. Modify the circuit.

and confirm that you have worked out the colour code correctly. With a switched range meter. as follows: To get the multimeter to function as an ohmmeter.The circuit uses an LDR. the resistance is high. In the dark. up to 1 M or more. . the light energy increases the number of charge carriers available to transfer current. The resistance of the LDR changes with illumination. to take a reading. the resistance can be as little as 100 . When light shines on the LDR. the 200 k position is usually suitable. You will see the resistance measurement change as the light level changes. and the resistance falls. What happens to the output voltage of the light sensor circuit when you cover the LDR with you hand? Is the output voltage HIGH or LOW in the dark? Resistance measurements: Remove the LDR from the circuit and measure its resistance. Covering the LDR with your hand increases the resistance of the LDR. 2000 k. In bright light. If the meter reads this means that the resistance is more than the maximum which can be measured on this range and you may need to switch to a new position. (How many megohms is 2000 k?) You can check the value of any fixed value resistor in the same way. you will need to select a resistance range. or light dependent resistor.

Calculate the current expected in each case using the formula: Small variations. up to ±5%. can be attributed to the tolerance of the resistors. current increases. As the resistance is reduced. .Current measurements: The diagram below shows a prototype board set up for the measurement of current: Note that the current must flow through the ammeter in order to reach the circuit.

After the schematic is entered. . the board layers are printed onto special toner transfer paper with a laser printer.PCB Fabrication Process Details The first step is to transfer the schematic from the magazine to the schematic capture part of the layout program. the PCB layout program is used to place the parts on the board and route the copper traces. After the first few parts are rounted. This board "image" is transferred to the bare copper board with a laminating machine. When the layout is done. or a hot clothes iron. you get a PCB that requires no external jumper wires. the "ratsnest" begins to clear up. I even try to use the same reference designators where possible so that I can reference back to the original article to make post-construction troubleshooting and parts correlation easier. If you're lucky. if I have to.

two aquarium pumps circulate etchant (FeCl3) over the copper boards while two aquarium heaters keep the solution at 110F.This process can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes depending on the freshness of the solution and thickness of the copper.After laminating. leaving only the toner behind. after the transfer paper has been soaked off. the board with the paper stuck to it is soaked to remove the paper. Inside the etch tank. . Below is a photo of the raw copper board with toner remaining.

Here is the completed board ready to be populated . and prevents the copper from oxidizing before it's time to solder the parts to the board. Tinning isn't absolutely necessary but it improves the appearance of the board. the toner is removed with solvent and the board is tinned using a soldering iron and a small piece of tinned solderwick. holes are drilled for any leaded components and mounting holes. At this point.After etching.

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