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In this topic we will investigate d.c. circuits comprising resistors connected in
series and in parallel. These circuits can often be simplified by using the series
parallel reduction method. However, there are also circuits which cannot be
simplified using this method. To deal with such circuits we have to apply
Kirchoff’s laws. In our discussions, we will assume that the batteries have no
internal resistance.
RESISTORS IN SERIES
Resistors connected in series have the same current flowing in each of them. An
example of a series circuit is shown in Figure 5.1
5.1
T
T
o
o
p
p
i
i
c
c
5
5
X
Circuit
Analysis
LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Calculate the equivalent resistance of a group of resistors using the
seriesparallel reduction method; and
2. Apply Kirchoff’s laws to solve multiloop circuits.
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69
Figure. 5.1: Resistors in series
The potential difference across each resistor is given by Ohm’s law. That is,
3 3
2 2
1 1
IR V
IR V
IR V
=
=
=
(5.1)
The potential difference across the resistors is commonly referred to as the voltage
drop. Figure 5.1 shows the polarity of voltage drops. The current always flows
into the positive terminal of a resistance. The potential difference across a battery
is called the electromotive force, emf, and its polarity is such that the current
flows out of the positive terminal.
The sum of voltage drops in a series circuit is equal to the battery emf:
eq
IR
R R R I
IR IR IR
V V V E
=
+ + =
+ + =
+ + =
) (
3 2 1
3 2 1
3 2 1
(5.2)
where the equivalent resistance,
eq
R , is defined as:
1 2 3 eq
R ( R R R ) = + + (5.3)
The equivalent resistance of resistors connected in series is equal to the sum of
their individual resistances.
X TOPIC 5 CIRCUIT ANALYSIS
70
Thus the current in a series circuit is given by:
eq
R
E
I = (5.4)
RESISTORS IN PARALLEL
Resistors connected in parallel have the same voltage drop across each resistor.
An example of a parallel circuit is shown in Figure. 5.2.
Figure 5.2: Resistors in parallel
5.2
What is the current and potential difference across each resistor in
Figure. 5.1, if O = O = O = 50 , 150 , 200
3 2 1
R R R and V E 10 = ?
An interesting interactive exercise can be found at the URL shown below.
It is a Java applet showing a circuit with two resistors in series:
http://www.physics.uoguelph.ca/applets/Intro_physics/kisalev/java/resist2/
index.html
The current in resistors connected in series is the same. The total voltage is the
sum of the voltages across each resistor.
ACTIVITY 5.1
EXERCISE 5.1
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71
The voltage drop across each resistor is equal to the battery emf, E. The current in
each battery is:
3
3
2
2
1
1
R
E
I
R
E
I
R
E
I
=
=
=
(5.5)
The sum of currents in a parallel circuit is equal the current provided by the
battery:
eq
R
E
R R R
E
R
E
R
E
R
E
I I I I
=


.

\

+ + =
+ + =
+ + =
3 2 1
3 2 1
3 2 1
1 1 1 (5.6)
For parallel resistors, the reciprocal of equivalent resistances
eq
R is equivalent to
the sum of the reciprocals of individual resistances.
3 2 1
1 1 1 1
R R R R
eq
+ + = (5.7)
What is the potential difference across each resistor and total current in
Figure 5.2, if O = O = O = 50 , 150 , 200
3 2 1
R R R and V E 10 = .
The voltage across each resistor connected in parallel is the same. The total
current is the sum of the currents through each resistor.
EXERCISE 5.2
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72
Example 5.1:
What is the equivalent resistance between points A and B of the following circuit?
Solution:
The two 10 O resistors are in series. Their equivalent resistance is 20 O. The
circuit can be simplified to Figure 5.3(a).
Figure 5.3(a) Figure 5.3(b)
The two 20 O resistors in Figure 5.3(b) are in parallel. Their equivalent resistance
is
20
1
20
1 1
+ =
eq
R
O = 10
eq
R
The circuit of Figure 5.3(a) is simplified to Figure 5.3(c). The two 10 O resistors
are in series. Their equivalent resistance is 20 O which is in parallel with another
20 O resistor as in Figure 5.3(c).
20O
10O
10O 10O
20O
A
B
TOPIC 5 CIRCUIT ANALYSIS W
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Figure 5.3(c) Figure 5.3(d)
Finally the equivalent resistance of two 20O resistors in parallel is 10O. The
equivalent resistance of the circuit is 10O shown in Figure 5.3(d).
CIRCUIT ANALYSIS USING THE SERIES
PARALLEL REDUCTION METHOD
Often an electric circuit consists of combinations of both series and parallel
connections as shown below. In such cases, we can apply the reduction method to
reduce the original circuit to one equivalent resistance. Let’s see how this is done
in Example 5.2.
Example 5.2:
For the circuit shown Figure 5.4(a) below, find the equivalent resistance using the
seriesparallel reduction method.
5.3
Find the equivalent resistance of the circuit below.
4O
4O
2O
2O
10O
10O
EXERCISE 5.3
X TOPIC 5 CIRCUIT ANALYSIS
74
Figure 5.4(a)
Solution:
The current and voltage in each resistor is obtained by applying Equation (5.3)
and Equation (5.7).
The 250O and 150O are in series so that their equivalent resistance is 400O. The
circuit can be simplified to the equivalent circuit shown in Figure. 2.4b.
Figure 5.4b
In Figure 5.4(b), the 400O resistor is in parallel with the 180O. Their equivalent
resistance is 124O.
The circuit in Figure 5.4(b) can be simplified to a circuit containing three resistors
in series as in Figure 5.4(c). Finally, the circuit is reduced to its equivalent circuit
as in Figure 5.4(d).
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75
Figure 5.4(c) Figure 5.4(d)
Example 5.3
For the previous example, find the current in each resistor.
Solution:
Refer to Figure 5.4(d). The total current is:
24
= = 0.054A
444
I
The current in the 100O and 220O resistors are 0.054A.
The voltage between point A and B is V
AB
= 124O x 0.054A = 6.7 V.
The current through 180O resistor is A
V
AB
037 . 0
180
7 . 6
180
= =
The current through 150O and 250O resistors is A
V
AB
017 . 0
400
7 . 6
400
= =
To test your understanding, answer the following exercise.
X TOPIC 5 CIRCUIT ANALYSIS
76
KIRCHOFF'S RULES
The circuit analysis above combined resistors in series and parallel. However,
there are many circuits in which the resistors are neither in series nor in parallel
and as a result we are unable to use the seriesparallel reduction method. To deal
with such circuits it is necessary to employ Kirchoff's rules.
There are two rules, namely, Kirchoff's junction rule and Kirchoff's loop rule.
5.4.1 Kirchoff's junction rule
Kirchoff’s junction rule states that the algebraic sum of currents at any junction is
zero. Figure 5.5 shows three wires connected to form a junction or node.
Figure 5.5
5.4
Find the total current supplied by the battery in the circuit.
2O
4O
2O
4O
4O
12V
2O
EXERCISE 5.4
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Applying Kirchoff's junction rule, the algebraic sum of the current is
0
3 2 1
= ÷ ÷ I I I (5.7)
In applying the rule to a junction, the current that enters a junction is assigned a
positive sign and the current that leaves the junction is assigned a negative sign.
As an example let us consider the circuit below which consists of two junctions a
and b;
Figure 5.5
By applying Kirchoff’s junction rule at junction a, we obtain:
3 2 1
3 2 1
0
I I I I
I I I I
+ + =
= ÷ ÷ ÷
(5.8a)
Similarly, applying Kirchoff’s junction rule at junction b gives:
3 2 1
3 2 1
0
I I I I
I I I I
+ + =
= + + + ÷
(5.8b)
From Equation (5.8b) it is clear that the sum of currents in a parallel circuit is
equal to the current provided by the battery in Equation (5.6).
Kirchoff’s junction rule states that the sum of currents entering a junction is
equal the sum of currents leaving the junction.
X TOPIC 5 CIRCUIT ANALYSIS
78
A detailed explanation of Kirchoff’s junction rule is given here:
http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/mastascu/eLessonsHTML/Basic/Basic4Ki.html
A simple simulation that demonstrates the principle of conservation of charge is
included, as well as problems to test your understanding.
5.4.2 Kirchoff's loop rule
Kirchoff's loop rule states that the algebraic sum of potential differences around
any complete loop of a circuit is zero.
Figure 5.7
Applying Kirchoff's loop rule in the loop of Figure 5.7, we obtain:
V V V E
V V V E
+ + =
= ÷ ÷ ÷
2 1
3 2 1
0
(5.9)
The sum of voltage drops in a series circuit is equal to the battery emf, similar to
Equation (5.2).
Kirchoff's loop rule states that the sum of potential difference around closed
loop is equal zero.
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A detailed explanation of Kirchoff’s loop rule is given here:
http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/mastascu/eLessonsHTML/Basic/Basic5Kv.html
The explanation is simple, with interactive simulations and concept questions.
Note:
The general rule is that a rise or an increase in electric potential should be taken as
positive whereas a fall or a decrease should be taken as negative. In problems
where we have to apply Kirchoff’s rules , the following situations arise:
(i) Potential drop across a resistor R
• Let’s traverse the resistor having resistance R from point a to point b.
• The direction of the current, I will indicate which point is at a higher
potential.
• In Figure 5.9 (a), the resistor is traversed in the same direction as the
current. Thus the change in the electric potential (or the voltage drop)
across the resistor is –IR.
• However, in Figure 5.9 (b), the resistor is traversed in the direction
opposite to the current. The change in the electric potential across the
resistor is now +IR.
Figure 5.9: The potential drop across a resistor
(ii) Potential drop across a battery of emf İ
• If we is traverse in the direction of the battery (ie from – to +), then
change in the electric potential is +İ. See Figure 5.9(a)
• However in Figure 5.9(d), if we traverse in the direction opposite to the
battery (ie from + to –), the change in the electric potential is now –İ
X TOPIC 5 CIRCUIT ANALYSIS
80
Figure 5.9: The potential drop across a battery
The technique of applying Kirchoff’s junction and Kirchoff’s loop rules to a
circuit can be illustrated with a few examples.
Example 5.4:
Determine the current I in the circuit.
Figure 5.10
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Solution:
The first step is to draw the current in an arbitrary direction. The second step is to
mark the polarity of the potential difference across each resistor.
Applying Kirchoff’s loop rule to the circuit, from Equation. (5.9) we obtain
A I
I I I
13 . 0
0 30 12 50 100 36
=
= ÷ ÷ ÷ ÷
The current is a positive number, indicating the initial choice for direction of
current was correct.
Example 5.5:
Consider the circuit shown in Figure 5.11 below
(a) Apply the junction rule to point b
(b) Use Kirchoff’s Loop Rule to obtain the equation for loop abefa
(c) Use Kirchoff’s Loop Rule to obtain the equation for loop bcdeb
(d) Obtain the values of
1 2
, I I and
3
I .
Figure 5.11
Solution:
The first step is to draw the loop currents in arbitrary directions. The second step
is to mark the polarity of potential difference across each resistor. Since there are
three unknown currents, we need to apply Kirchoff’s current rule and loop rule to
obtain three simultaneous equations.
X TOPIC 5 CIRCUIT ANALYSIS
82
(a) The junction rule when applied to junction b gives
( )
1 2 3
0................................... .1 I I I Eq + + =
(b) Applying Kirchoff’s Loop Rule to loop abefa gives
( ) ( )
( )
3 1
1 3
1 3
12 200 100 6 0
100 200 6
2 0.06....................................... 2
V I I
I I
I I Eq
÷ + O ÷ O + =
÷ + =
÷ + =
(c) Applying Kirchoff’s Loop Rule to loop bcdeb gives
( ) ( )
( )
( )
2 3
2 3
1 3 3
1 3 3
1 3 3
1 3
1 3
50 200 12 0
50 200 12
50 200 12
50 50 200 12
50 50 200 12
50 250 12
5 0.24................................... .3
I I V
I I
I I I
I I I
I I I
I I
I I Eq
O ÷ O + =
÷ = ÷
÷ ÷ ÷ = ÷
÷ ÷ ÷ = ÷
÷ ÷ ÷ = ÷
÷ ÷ = ÷
+ =
(d) The last two equations can be solved simultaneously to obtain
2
I and
3
I .
Eq.3 + Eq.2
3
3
7 0.30
0.043
I
I A
=
=
From Eq. 2,
( )
1 3
2 0.06
2 0.043 0.06
0.026
I I
A
= ÷
= × ÷
=
Finally, from Eq. 1
2 3 1
I I I = ÷ ÷ = –0.0430.026= 0.069 A
TOPIC 5 CIRCUIT ANALYSIS W
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The negative answer for
2
I indicates that the current through 50 O resistor is not
directed from right to left as drawn but instead the current actually flows from left
to right.
 We have analysed d.c circuits with more than one loop using two methods,
namely the seriesparallel reduction method and Kirchoff’s rules.
 The current in resistors connected in series is the same. The total voltage is
the sum of the voltages across each resistor.
 The voltage across each resistor connected in parallel is the same. The total
current is the sum of the currents through each resistor.
 Kirchoff’s junction rule states that the sum of currents entering a junction is
equal the sum of currents leaving the junction.
 Kirchoff’s loop rule states that the algebraic sum of potential differences
around any complete loop of a circuit is zero.
5O
10O
4O
10V
5V
a
b
3
I
2
I
1
I
1. Determine the currents
1
I ,
2
I and
3
I :
EXERCISE 5.5
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84
Equivalent resistance
Kirchoff’s junction rule
Kirchoff’s loop rule
1. In the circuit shown below, the current
1
I is 1.5 A.
Find
2
I ,
3
I and
2
V .
2. Three resistors, of 10 O each, are connected in parallel. The combination is
then connected in series with 2 V battery of 1O resistance. Find the total
battery current.
1. Find the equivalent resistance between a and b below:
100O
20O
40O
b
a
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85
2. A 10 O resistor is connected in parallel with a 20 O resistor. A p.d is now
applied to this combination.
(a) Which resistor will carry the greater current?
(b) What will the ratio of the currents be?