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Appendix A: Using Determinants in Circuit Analysis
For PHY104L Kirchoff Expt ©2007, James J. DeHaven, Ph.D. In the analysis of complex circuits using Kirchoff’s rules, we are frequently faced with the tedious problem of solving several simultaneous equations. The use of determinants, especially when coupled with mathematical computer software, is a very useful technique for solving such systems of equations. This appendix outlines the basic ideas behind determinants and applies them to a simple circuit and to the Wheatstone Bridge. Suppose you have 2 equations with 2 unknowns (x and y):

a11 x + a12y = c1 a21 x + a22y = c2 a11a22 x + a12a22y = a22c1 a12a21 x + a12a22y = a12c2
subtract equation [A4] from equation [A3]:

[A1] [A 2]

You can get rid of y by multiplying equaion [1] by a22 and equation [2] by a12

[A 3] [A 4]

a11a22 x ! a12a21 x = a22c1 ! a12c2 a22c1 ! a12c2 a11a22 ! a12a21 = x a c2 ! a21c1 y = a 11 a !a a
11 22

or

[A 5]

You can solve for y in the same way. You will get:

[A 6]

12 21

This is cool because the equation for x and y both have the same denominators. The denominator is represented by:

a11 D= a21

a12 a22

[A 7]

multiplying them by the element that goes with them.-2and D is called a 2x2 determinant (read as “a two by two determinant”). A5. for any element. likewise. given by this expression: Aij = (!1)i + j • the determinant left after crossing out row i and column j [A 8] Thus. the cofactor of that element is itself a determinant. where. the cofactor of a11 in determinant [7] is the following 1x1 determinant: A11 1 +1 11 = !1 a a21 a12 = !11 +1 • a22 = a22 a22 [A 9] and. and A6 again [A 11] [A 12] a11 x + a12y = c1 [A 1] a21 x + a22y = c2 a c2 ! a21c1 y = a 11 a !a a 11 22 [A 2] [A 6] a22c1 ! a12c2 a11a22 ! a12a21 = x [A 5] 12 21 . the cofactor for a12 is: A12 1 + 2 11 = !1 a a21 a12 = !11 + 2 • a21 = !a21 a22 [A 10] and we evaluate the determinant by multiplying each element in row 1 by its cofactor and adding these results together: Det (D) = a11A11 + a12A12 Det (D) = a11a22 ! a12a21 Let’s write out equations A1. A2. and adding up these products. We evaluate this determinant by finding the cofactors of the elements in any row.

Solve the following simultaneous equations for x and y using determinants: 5x + y = 8 2x . In fact we should be able to solve for both x and y by witing them as ratios of the appropriate 2x2 determinants: c1 a12 c a22 x = a2 a 11 12 a21 a22 [A 12] a11 c1 a c y = a 21 a 2 11 12 a21 a22 [A 13] It looks like all we have to do is substitute the constants on the RHS of the equations for the variable that we want to solve for. You should get -7 Suppose we had done it the old fashioned way: Solve equation [A14] for y: [A 15] [A 16] y = 8 ! 5x [17] .-3It looks like the numerators are also expressible as determinants.3y = 27 using dets: [A 14] 8 1 2 (8)(!3) + (!1)3 (1)(27) 27 ! 3 ( ! 1) x= = (!1)2(5)(!3) + (!1)3 (1)(2) 5 1 2 !3 x = !24 ! 27 = !51 = 3 !15! 2 !17 Now you try doing the same procedure for y. Will this really work? Let’s try an example to find out.

Or 20? Or 40? The beauty of the determinant method is that it is completely generalizable to an equation in any number of unknowns and the organized way it is carried out is very amenable to computer analysis. However. which is good. the one depicted in figure 12 of the lab. at least in this very simple case.-4and then sub into [A15]: 2x . it does seem to be an excessively complicated approach because it seems easier to solve the equation in the ordinary way. Now lets try our resistance network. y = 8. You keep reducing the matrix size by finding cofactors until you are down to a grid of 2x2 matrices and there you have it. and [23]: I1 = I 2 + I 3 I1 + 2I 2 = !3 3I 3 ! 2I 2 = 6 We rewrite these equations in a form where their transformation to matrix notation becomes more obvious: [A 20] I1 ! I 2 ! I 3 = 0 I1 + 2I 2 = !3 [A 21] !2I2 + 3I 3 = 6 . We reproduce equations [21].3(8.24 +15x = 27 17x = 51 x=3 So we get the same answer.5x) = 27 2x . But suppose you have 5 equations and 5 unknowns. [22].5x [A 18] y = 8 ! 5(3) y = 8 ! 15 y = !7 [A 19] So it all seems to work.

0 =6 3 0 =3 3 2 =2 !2 [A 24] . Now evaluate the denominator: 2 !2 1 A12 = (!1)1 + 2 (!1) 0 1 A13 = (!1)1 + 3 (!1) 0 A11 = (!1)1 +1 (1) Denominator = 11.-5We can solve for I1 simply by replacing the I1 column with the constants on the RHS of equs [A21] in the numerator of our determinant equation: 0 !3 6 1 1 0 !1 2 !2 !1 2 !2 !1 0 3 =I !1 1 0 3 0 =0 3 0 = !9 3 2 =6 !2 [A 22] Now use cofactors to evaluate the numerator: 2 !2 !3 A12 = (!1)1 + 2 (!1) 6 !3 A13 = (!1)1 + 3 (!1) 6 A11 = (!1)1 +1 (0) [A 23] Numerator = -3.

.-6So: I1 = ! 3 11 [A 25] And since: I1 + 2I 2 = !3 !3! (! 3 ) 11 I2 = 2 = !1.5 + 3 22 = ! 15 11 [A 26] And finally: I 3 = I1 ! I 2 = ! 3 ! (! 15 ) 11 11 = 12 11 [A 27] Ok. we could have calculated I2 and I3 using determinants: You could do this yourself if you wanted to see if you understand this sttuff.. A great deal of what we do follows the treatment of this problem by James Brophy in his book “Electronics for Scientists”. . So everything is perfect: These are precisely he same results we got using the algebraic method in the main body of the Kirchoff lab handout.. By the way. including the bogus but unimportant negative signs.. Now we apply this to the Wheatstone Bridge.

b. d in the diagram of a Wheatstone Bridge shown above. These yield 3 equations for the currents: I ! I1 ! I 2 = 0 I1 ! I 3 + I 5 = 0 I3 + I4 ! I = 0 [A 28] .-7- a R1 I1 I2 R2 I5 b R5 I3 I4 R4 I R3 d Consider the branch points a.

acba and bcdb !I1R1 ! I 3R3 = !V !I2R2 ! I 5R5 + I1R1 = 0 I 5R5 ! I 4 R4 + I 3R3 = 0 [A 29] All you have to do is solve a total of 7 6x6 determinants. Redrawing the circuit to emphasize so-called current loops. The solution for I5 would look like [A30]. Now how much would you be wiling to pay for a trick to make this easier? !1 !1 0 0 1 0 !1 0 0 0 1 1 !R1 0 !R3 0 R1 !R2 0 0 0 0 R3 !R4 !1 !1 1 0 0 0 ! R1 0 R1 ! R2 0 0 0 !1 1 ! R3 0 R3 0 0 1 0 0 ! R4 0 0 0 !V 0 0 0 1 0 0 ! R5 R5 1 0 !1 0 0 0 1 0 !1 0 0 0 [A 30] In fact. I have done the full calculation in Appendix B. just to show you it can be done. and we can use it to reduce the number of equations and therefore reduce the size of the determinants we have to evaluate.-8K’s voltage rule can be applied to loops abdefa. Howevr. 1 for the denominator and 1 for each of the 6 different numerators. The method we will use is called the mesh equation method or Maxwell’s Method. we have: . let’s look for a computationally less intensive method.

-9- a + R1 _ I1 I2 + R2 _ Ib _ b R5 + + _ I3 R3 _ + c I5 + Ie _ I4 R4 Ia d Note we have indicated polarity of IR drops to coincide with the (arbitrantly chosen) current directions. Ib . We can later calculate the current through each resistor if we need to since: I1 = I a ! I b I2 = Ib I3 = Ia ! Ic I4 = Ic I5 = Ib ! Ic I = Ia [A32] . Ic) in the 3 loops of the bridge. Our problem now is reduced to calculating 3 currents (Ia .

and Ic: [A34c] !(R1 + R3 )I a + R1I b + R3I e = !V R1I a ! (R1 + R2 + R5 )I b + R5 (I e ) = 0 !R3I a ! R5I b + (R3 + R4 + R5 )I e = 0 [A 35] . The only difference is that we assumed (for mathematical reasons) a different direction for I2 -. if and then becomes I = Ia Ib = I2 I1 = I a ! I b I1 = I + I 2 OR [A 33] I ! I1 + I 2 = 0 which is the same as saying the current coming from ‘a’ sums to zero. Now.but the choice is arbitrary. Going around loop a: V1 ! R1I a ! R3I a + R1I 6 + R3I e = 0 V1 ! R1 (I a ! I b ) ! R3 (I a ! I c ) = 0 [A34a] Note that we must pay attention to the polarities of the various IR drops which are. dictated by the assumed direction(s) of current flow. Ib. in turn.-10Note that these definitions are simply a restatement of Krichhoff’s rule for summing current. is an implication of Krichhoff’s current rule. The point is that defining the loop currents in this way. For loop b: !Ia R3 + I c R3 + I c R5 ! I b R5 + I e R4 = 0 R3(I c ! I a ) + R5 (I e ! I b ) + R4 I e = 0 for loop c: [A34b] !Ia R1 + I b R1 + I b R2 + I b R5 ! I e R5 = 0 !R1 (I a ! I b ) + R2I b + R5 (I b ! I e ) = 0 We then collect terms in Ia.

0 !(R1 + R3 ) !V R3 R1 0 R5 !R3 0 R3 + R4 + R5 Ib = !(R1 + R3 ) R1 R3 R1 !(R1 + R2 + R3 ) R5 !R3 !R5 R3 + R4 + R5 Call the determinant in the denominator expand the numerator using cofactors: (!1)1+1(! R1 + R3 ) Ib = [A 36] " (note that it will be the same for all the currents). replace the Ib column by -V.-11To solve for Ib . 0. The determinants with all zero’s in a column will evaluate to zero and we will be left with only the middle term in the numerator: (!1)1 + 2 (!V ) = R1 R5 !R3 R3 + R4 + R5 " [A 38] = V[ R1 (R3 + R4 + R5 ) ! (!R3 )R5 ] " VR1R3 + VR1R5 + VR1R4 + VR3R5 " [A 39] Ib = . and R5 R + (!1)1+ 3 R3 1 R3 + R4 + R5 ! R3 0 0 0 R5 R + (!1)1+ 2 (! V ) 1 0 R3 + R4 + R5 ! R3 " [A 37] Sorry about the small type in [A37].

-12Now calculate Ic : !(R1 + R3 ) R1 !V R1 !(R1 + R2 + R5 ) 0 !R3 !R5 0 Ic = " [A 40] When we expamd the numerattor. the only term that will contribute is the one with -V in it: (!1)3 +1 (!V ) Ic = R1 !(R1 + R2 + R5 ) !R3 !R5 " [A 41] = = !V (!R1 R 5 ! R1 R 3 ! R 2 R 3 ! R 3 R 5 ) " " [A 42] VR1 R 5 + VR1 R 3 + VR 2 R 3 + VR 3 R 5 Ic Now we subtract Ic from Ib to get I5 : I5 = Ib ! Ie = [A 43] V (R1R3 + R1R4 + R1R5 + R3R5 ! R1R5 ! R1R3 ! R2R3 ! R3R5 " .

R3 is a precision variable resistor. Now this may seem to be a lot of work. equation [A44] can be used to calculate the unknown resistance. I5 =0. but also we demonstrate how the math for this stuff really works. You conect an instrument at R5 so that you can measure when I5 is zero. If you adjust R3 until I5 is equal to zero. .-13In [A43] a whole lotta cancellation’s goin’ on. R4. If. we show you just how bad things can get. in fact. but it is much better than evaluating seven 6x6 determinants. we generally adjust the resistances so that I5 =0. and R4 is an unknown resistor. and we get a very compact result: I5 = V (R1R4 ! R2R3 ) " [A 44] When we operate a wheatstone bridge. R1 and R2 are varied in “decades” so that the ratio R1/R2 can be varied from 10-3 to 103. then: R1R4 = R2R5 or R1 R3 = R2 R4 [A 44] [A 44] In a typical Wheatstone Bridge. In appendix B.