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Session II

20-22 Feb 2007

RC Circuits – A resistor-capacitor circuit (RC circuit) is a fundamental electronic circuit that represents a simple analog filter. Consider the following series RC circuit:

Capacitor voltage Step response voltage Step response

Resistor

An uncharged capacitor behaves as a short circuit. The graph on the left indicates that with time, the voltage across the capacitor, Vc tends towards V=Vin, while the voltage across the resistor, VR tends towards zero. Intuitively, this makes sense, since the capacitor charges from the supply voltage (V in = V) over time, and ultimately becomes fully charged and behaves as an open circuit. Meanwhile the voltage across the resistor, VR drops and tends towards zero, since by conservation of energy: Studying the functions of time above indicates that a series RC circuit has a time constant τ = RC. This indicates that the time it takes the voltage across a component in an RC circuit either rises (across C) or falls (across R) within 1/e of its final value. Therefore, τ is the time it takes Vc to charge up to V(1-1/e) (=0.63Vin) and VR to reach V(1/e) (=0.63Vin).

Spring 2007

Page 1 of 6

and the capacitor begins to discharge. it is able to flow very well through the capacitor. With this. the remainder of the input flows through the capacitor to ground. or effectively removing it from the circuit.BioE298 Lab Session II 20-22 Feb 2007 Once the capacitor is fully charged. and the input flows almost entirely through the capacitor. With this. the output increases and decreases only a fraction of the amount the input actually goes up and down. and so the voltage across the capacitor is almost equal to the input voltage. since only a small fraction of the input is able to flow through as Vout. Spring 2007 Page 2 of 6 . Vc = 0. A low pass filter is constructed by placing a resistor in series with a load and a capacitor in parallel with the load. and thus the input must exit via the Vout path. in which case. and thus is analogous to replacing the capacitor with a wire and effectively short circuiting to ground. the capacitor has time to charge up. This would be the same as treating the capacitor as an open circuit. After one time constant τ of discharging. low frequency). The cutoff frequency is determined by the R and C values used to build the filter. and the voltage supply is removed. When the input is approximated to be DC (i. the DC cannot flow through the capacitor. the fully charged capacitor begins to discharge.37Vin. the capacitor behaves wire. At high frequencies. the capacitor is only able to charge up to a small value before the input switches direction. and the capacitor can be represented as an open circuit. through to ground. Vc drops exponentially from Vin towards 0. Another way of considering the behavior of this circuit is to consider the reactance of the circuit at low and high frequencies. The faster the input switches.e. At low frequencies. short circuiting to ground. With an AC input. the slower the output switches due to the time delay imparted by the capacitor. Therefore. Low Pass Filters A low pass filter is a filter that allows low frequencies through and attenuates frequencies higher than the cutoff frequency.

which may be undesired. The cutoff frequency fc is the frequency above or below which the power of the circuit.8% of its initial full charge. The most critical design parameter in RC circuits is the cutoff frequency fc. or the knee frequency. high pass filter will only pass frequencies f>fc. and a bandpass filter has a lower cutoff frequency flo and a higher cutoff frequency fhi and will only pass frequencies flo<f<fhi. as seen in the figure to the right. which is most often a filter. to a value of 63. To compare two voltages with amplitude A2 and A1: Spring 2007 Page 3 of 6 . The simplest high pass filter is represented by the RC circuit to the right. Time constant & Cutoff frequency An important value to consider when designing an RC circuit. half the power is proportional to sqrt(1/2) the voltage. Since P = V2/R. due to the bending of the curve of the bode plot. dB (deciBel) is a way of comparing two signals. or to discharge the capacitor to 36. A low pass filter will attenuate frequencies f>fc .2% of full charge. A high pass filter with a very low cutoff frequency is especially useful in building circuits because it can be used to block the DC component of a signal. This is the time it takes the capacitor to charge through the resistor. is the value of the time constant τ = R × C. This is also referred to as the =3dB point. is ½ the input power. and passes virtually all other components of the signal.BioE298 Lab Session II 20-22 Feb 2007 High Pass Filters High pass filters attenuate frequencies that are lower than the cutoff frequency that the filter is designed for.

Experiment: Design a low pass filter with a cutoff frequency in the range of 1500Hz10kHz. 3. Determine time constants.BioE298 Lab Session II 20-22 Feb 2007 A dB = 20 log10 2 ÷ A1 Note that if A2 is less than A1 their ratio will be less than 1 and less than 0 in dB. 2. Measure frequency response c. How to use an oscilloscope to: a. How to design & build a low pass filter. • What is the cutoff frequency of your filter? Spring 2007 Page 4 of 6 . How to use a function generator to drive a circuit. Probe your circuit b. The time constant τ is related to the cutoff frequency by the following expression: or Experimental Objectives: 1.

If this value is over ¼ W. Use a sine wave with a frequency a few orders of magnitude lower than your cutoff frequency as the input voltage. Remember that you are comparing the output to the input and their ratio should not change with a change in input amplitude. Assume a peak input voltage amplitude of 10 V and also calculate the peak power dissipated by the resistor. o Turn on the function generator. • Provide a screenshot of your filter’s operation by finding where the output amplitude is 0.707 (-3 dB) of the input amplitude. the capacitor is a short and all of the input voltage will drop across the resistor. o Use a T-connector at the output of the function generator. This is the input voltage of your filter. Spring 2007 Page 5 of 6 . Connect another BNC cable to the breadboard. choose different component values. There should be no DC offset and the amplitude should be somewhere between 5 and 10 V. Connect one BNC cable directly to the oscilloscope input 1.) o Use the oscilloscope cursors to confirm that the two voltage waveforms have the same amplitude and are in phase (meaning they peak at the same time). P= R = __________ C = __________ • Provide a circuit diagram with your chosen R & C values labeled. (The exact value does not matter.BioE298 Lab Session II 20-22 Feb 2007 ƒc= ______________ • What R and C values are you using to achieve this cutoff? Recall that at high frequencies. o Connect the output voltage of the filter to the oscilloscope input 2.

To simulate a switch closing.7% of the input voltage. o If the input voltage is dropping from high to low on your oscilloscope screen. o Use the voltage cursors to find the 63% value. Then.BioE298 Lab Session II 20-22 Feb 2007 o Use the voltage cursors to set the voltage amplitude to be 100% on the oscilloscope. is it within the tolerance of the values of the components that you used? • Measure the time constant of your filter on the oscilloscope. This is the measured time constant.7% of the voltage amplitude. keep one cursor at 0 V and set the other at 70. o Increase the frequency of the input voltage and watch the output voltage. then use the time cursors to measure the time between the input voltage changing values and the output voltage reaching the 63% value. but the output voltage amplitude should decrease in value. you need to measure the amount of time it takes for the output voltage to drop by 63%. change the function generator setting so that it produces a square wave signal. o Use the cursors set as 100% the entire voltage swing (from minimum to maximum) of the output voltage. The period of the signal should be long enough to allow the output voltage of your circuit to reach a steady state value before the input voltage changes value. This is the cutoff frequency of your filter. The input voltage amplitude should not change. o Find the input frequency that results in an output voltage that is 70. τmeasured = _________________ • How does your measured time constant value compare with the theoretical value? τtheoreticaol = __________________ Spring 2007 Page 6 of 6 . If the input voltage is going from low to high on your oscilloscope screen. o The time constant determines the transient behavior of the circuit. Does it match your calculations above? If not. you need to measure the amount of time it takes for the output to increase from 0% to 63% of the final value.

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