A level Physics

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A level Physics

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• Sub- topics:

• 18.1 Capacitors and capacitance

• 18.2 Energy stored in a capacitor

Capacitor

• Is a device that is capable of storing electrical energy.

• It stores positive charge on one side of the plate, and negative on the other

side. Hence, giving the net/total charge stored is zero.

• Very useful component used in many electrical & electronic circuits. It can also

be used to block direct current, to produce electrical oscillations, to provide

smoothing for a rectifier dc circuit.

• Example, capacitors are used in computers, they are charged up in normal use,

and then they gradually discharge if there is a power failure, so that the

computer will operate long enough to save valuable data.

• All capacitor have 2 leads, connected to 2 metal plates where the charge is

stored. Between the plates is an insulating material called the dielectric. (air,

plastic sheets, oil)

Capacitor charging process

• Electrons are ‘pumped’ into plate A from the negative terminal of the battery causing

plate A to be negative charged.

• Due to the excessive electrons at plate A, the electrons in plate B are repelled out of

plate B, causing it to be positively charged.

• The movement of the electrons produces an electric current in the circuit.

• As time passes, the magnitude of the current begins to decrease till zero. (refer figure)

• When the current has stopped flowing, the capacitor is said to have become fully

charged.

• In short, the battery does work to separate charges (‘-’ on A, ‘+’ on B). Some of the

work done by battery is converted to energy stored in the capacitor as a result.

A B

Capacitor discharging process

• Suppose the dc battery is removed. Since the capacitor is charged, a p.d exists across

A and B. A is negatively charged while B is positively charged.

• When a wire is connect electrically from A to B, free electrons immediately begin to

flow out of A and begin to flow into B.

• The movement of electrons in the external circuit produces current. The current

decreases with time.

• When the current stopped flowing, it means that A and B have finally become

electrically neutral. ( the capacitor is said to have discharged completely)

A B

I

Capacitance

• Capacitance, C of a capacitor is defined as the charge stored per unit p.d. applied to the

capacitor. [Do not be confuse with the symbol for the quantity capacitance, C and the

unit for charge, C (Coulomb)]

• The SI unit for capacitance is Farad, F.

applied across it.

• Hence, the greater the capacitance, the greater is the charge stored by the capacitor for

a given p.d. across it.

• If one plate of the capacitor stored charge of + Q, then the other plate will store equal

and opposite charge of – Q. We said that the charge stored by capacitor is Q. (In fact,

the total charge stored in the capacitor is zero).

• We focus our attention to one of the capacitor plates where there is an excess or

deficiency of electrons.

Q-V graph - relationship between charge and

potential

• If the charge stored in the capacitor and the p.d. across the capacitor is

measured at various times of the charging process, the following V vs Q graph is

obtained.

• We found that the reciprocal of gradient is equal to the capacitance.

p.d. across capacitor, V/V

Example 1

A parallel plate capacitor of 3.5 nF is constructed using air as dielectric

material. The distance between the parallel plates of the capacitor is 5.0 mm.

A potential difference of 10 kV is applied across the plates, find:

(a) The charge on each plate

(b) The electric field strength between the plates

difference between the capacitor to rise from 0 to 5 V in 20 s. The current

flowing through the circuit is assumed to decrease uniformly from 50 µA to 0

within the same time. What is the capacitance?

Capacitors in Parallel

Capacitors which are all connected to the same

source of potential are said to be connected in

parallel. See below:

VT = V1 = V2 = V3

C1 C2 C3

+

+

+

+

+

+

Charges:

- - - - - -

QT = Q1 + Q2 + Q3

Capacitors in Parallel

Parallel capacitors: C = Q/V ; Q = CV

QT = Q 1 + Q 2 + Q 3

C1 C2 C3 CTVT = C1V1 + C2V2 + C3V3

+

+

+

+

+

+

- - - - - - Since voltages are equal:

Thus,

The expression for capacitors in

parallel is similar to that for

CT = C1 + C2 + C3

resistors in series.

Capacitor in Series

Capacitors connected along a single path are said

to be connected in series. See circuit below:

+ - + - + -

+ - + - + - VT = V1 + V2 + V3

C1 C2 C3

Battery Charges:

QT = Q1 = Q2 = Q3

Capacitors in Series

C = Q/V ; V = Q/C

V1 V2 V3

+Q -Q +Q -Q +Q -Q VT = V1 + V2 + V3

C1 C2 C3 QT/CT = Q1/C1 + Q2/C2 + Q3/C3

Q1 = Q2 = Q 3

Since charges are equal:

Thus,

The expression for capacitors

1/CT = 1/C1 + 1/C2 + 1/C3

in series is similar to that for

resistors in parallel.

Example 2

Find the charge across each capacitor and, hence the total charge QT.

C1 C2 C3

24 V

2 µF 4 µF 6 µF

Example 3

• Referring to the diagram, find the value of each quantity:

Ctotal , Q1, Q2, Q3, Qtotal , V1 , V2, V3

C1 C2 3 µF

24 V

4 µF C3 6 µF

Example 4

• Three capacitors, each marked ‘30 μF, 6 V max’, are arranged as shown.

(ii) Determine the maximum potential difference that can safely be applied

between points A and B.

Energy stored in charged capacitor

• In order to charge up a capacitor, work must be done by the supply to push

electrons on to 1 plate and off the other.

work must be done to push

electrons against the repulsion

of the existing electrons.

• At first there is only a small amount of negative charge on the left hand plate.

Adding more electrons is relatively easy because there is not much repulsion.

• As the charge stored increases, the repulsion between the electrons on the

plate and the new electrons increases, a greater amount of work must be done

to increase the charge stored.

Energy stored in charged capacitor

• The previous figure shows the energy stored in a capacitor.

• We can use this graph to calculate energy stored in the capacitor which is

basically the area under the graph.

W = ½ QV or W = ½ CV2 or W = ½ Q2/C

• This energy stored by the capacitor will eventually be the amount of energy

released when the capacitor is discharged.

Example 5

• Which store more charge, a 100 μF capacitor charged to 200 V, or a 200 μF

capacitor charged to 100 V? Which stores more energy?

It is then partially discharged through a resistor. The potential difference is

reduced to 12 V. Calculate the energy dissipated in the resistor during the

discharge at a steady rate.

Sharing charge, sharing energy

• If a capacitor is charged and then connected to a second

capacitor which is uncharged, what happens to the charge and

energy that it stores?

• Note that, when capacitors are connected together, the charge

will re-distribute itself until they have the same p.d. Since the

p.d. will always be the same eventually, thus we view this circuit

as a parallel connection.

• Their combined capacitance, CT is equal to the sum of their

individual capacitances.

• The charge stored is now shared between the two capacitors, the

total amount of charge stored must remain the same, since

charge is conserved.

• The p.d. can be calculated from V = Q/ CT and energy from W = ½

CV2 or ½ QV

Example 6

• Consider two 100 mF capacitors. One is charged to 10 V, disconnected from

the supply, and then connected across the other. Calculate the initial energy

stored and the final energy stored by the combination.

Example 7

• A capacitor of capacitance 12 μF is charged using a

battery of emf of 9.0 V, as shown.

The capacitor is now disconnected from the

battery by opening S1. Calculate the energy

stored in the capacitor.

S2. Switch S1 remains open. What is the total energy stored?

(iii) Suggest why this value is different from your answer in (i).

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