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# Activity 23B Teacher Notes: Voltage in a Parallel Circuit PS-2826

## Teacher Notes – Activity 23B: Voltage in a Parallel Circuit

Time Estimates Preparation: 20 min Activity: 30 min

Objectives
Students will be able to…
 use a Voltage Probe to measure the voltage across small light bulbs and the voltage source in a
parallel circuit
 compare the voltages across the light bulbs in a parallel circuit to the voltage of the voltage source
 describe the relationship between the brightness of light bulbs in a parallel circuit and the number of
bulbs in the circuit
 describe what happens to a parallel circuit when one of the light bulbs in the circuit is removed from
the circuit

Notes
 It is possible to combine this activity with 23A Voltage in a Series Circuit. Both activities
use the same equipment.
 Theoretically, the voltage of a simple circuit consisting of light bulbs and ‘D’ cells remains
constant. For light bulbs in parallel, the voltage across individual bulbs is the same as the
source voltage.
 You do not need to calibrate the Voltage Probe for this activity.
 Every simple circuit starts out as a series circuit, so the setup of one light bulb connected to
the voltage source for the first part of this activity is the same as the circuit setup in the
first part of the previous activity.
Background
An array of resistors will have different measured resistances depending on how they are
connected. If they are connected in series (end-to-end), their total resistance equals the sum of all
of their individual resistances. If light bulbs are connected in series to a voltage source, the
brightness of the individual bulbs diminishes as more and more bulbs are added to the “chain”.
The current decreases as the overall resistance increases. In addition, if one bulb is removed from
the “chain” the other bulbs go out.
If resistors are connected in parallel (side-by-side), their total
resistance is less than the sum of their individual resistances. In fact, 1 1 1 1
= + + + ...
the total resistance is related to the individual resistances as shown in R p R1 R2 R3
the equation where Rp is the total resistance:
If light bulbs are connected in parallel to a voltage source, the brightness of the individual bulbs
remains more-or-less constant as more and more bulbs are added to the “ladder”. The current
increases as more bulbs are added to the circuit and the overall resistance decreases. In addition,
if one bulb is removed from the “ladder” the other bulbs do not go out. Each bulb is
independently linked to the voltage source.

## Introductory Physics with the Xplorer GLX © 2006 PASCO p. 87

Activity 23B Teacher Notes: Voltage in a Parallel Circuit PS-2826

Sample Data
The first screenshot shows a sample of voltage across a light bulb. The second shows voltage
across the D cells.

## Introductory Physics with the Xplorer GLX © 2006 PASCO p. 88

Activity 23B Teacher Notes: Voltage in a Parallel Circuit PS-2826

## Lab Report - Activity 23B: Voltage in a Parallel Circuit

Answers and Sample Data
Predict
1. How would the voltages across each light bulb in a parallel circuit change as more bulbs
are added to the circuit?
Since each light bulb in a parallel circuit is connected to the voltage source, the voltage for
each bulb should remain the same as more bulbs are added to the circuit.
2. How would the brightness of the light bulbs in a parallel circuit change as more bulbs are
added to the circuit?
The brightness of the light bulbs in a parallel circuit will not change as more bulbs are added to
the circuit.
3. If one bulb in a parallel circuit is removed, what happens to the rest of the bulbs?
In one bulb in a parallel circuit is removed, nothing happens to the rest of the bulbs.
Data
1. How bright were the two light bulbs in parallel compared to the first light bulb?
The two bulbs in parallel were each as bright as the first bulb.
2. How bright were the three light bulbs in parallel compared to the first light bulb?
All three bulbs in parallel were each as bright as the first bulb.
3. What happened in the three-light bulb parallel circuit when you removed the light bulb
from the middle lamp socket?
When the light bulb was removed from the middle lamp socket of the parallel circuit, the other
bulbs remained lit.
Data Table
One Light Bulb
Voltage Across Light Bulb: 2.81
Voltage Across Batteries: 2.82

## Two Light Bulbs in Parallel

Voltage Across Light Bulb 1: 2.62
Voltage Across Light Bulb 2: 2.59
Voltage Across Batteries: 2.68

## Three Light Bulbs in Parallel

Voltage Across Light Bulb 1: 2.30
Voltage Across Light Bulb 2: 2.29
Voltage Across Light Bulb 3: 2.28
Voltage Across Batteries: 2.51

## Introductory Physics with the Xplorer GLX © 2006 PASCO p. 89

Activity 23B Teacher Notes: Voltage in a Parallel Circuit PS-2826

Questions
1. How did the voltage across the two D cells compare to the voltage across the first light
bulb?
The voltage across the voltage source and the voltage across the first light bulb were almost the
same.
2. How did the voltage across each of the two light bulbs in parallel compare to the voltage
across the D cells?
The voltage across each of the two light bulbs in parallel was almost the same as the voltage
across the voltage source.
3. What did you notice about the voltage across each light bulb and the voltage across the D
cells when three bulbs are in parallel?
The voltage across each bulb in a parallel circuit is the same as the voltage source.

## 4. What can you say about the voltage in a parallel circuit?

The voltage across any branch in a parallel circuit is the same as the voltage source.

5. What happened to the light bulbs when you removed the middle bulb from the socket?
Why?
Nothing happens to the other light bulbs in a parallel circuit when the middle bulb is removed
because the other light bulbs still have a connection to the voltage source.

6. If all the lights in a house are connected together in parallel and they are all turned on,
what would happen to the lights when you turn one of them off (or it burns out)?
If all the lights in a house are connected in parallel and they are all turned on, they remain
turned on if one light is turned off (or it burns out).