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PC1222 Fundamentals of Physics II

Basic Circuits

1 Objectives

• Investigate the relationship among three variables (resistance, current and voltage) in
direct current circuits.
• Investigate the behaviours of resistors in simple circuit arrangements.

2 Equipment List

• PASCO Circuits Experiment Boards


• Digital multimeter (DMM)
• D-cell batteries
• Resistors
• Wire leads

3 Theory

§3.1 Resistance and Ohm’s law

When electrons, or other charge carriers, are forced to move through a medium by an applied
electric field, their motion is, in most cases, retarded by scattering off imperfections (impuri-
ties) and vibrating atoms in the medium. The resistance of the movement of charged carriers
is defined as
∆V
R= ,
I
where ∆V is the voltage, or potential difference, applied across the material and I is the
current, or rate of the movement of electric charge in the material. The SI unit for resistance
is volt per ampere, which is called an ohm and is represented by the Greek capital letter
omega Ω.
The resistance R of a medium (resistor) is dependent on its chemical properties, geometry,
temperature, external magnetic field, etc. The value of resistance may also show a dependence
to the magnitude and polarity of the voltage across its terminals, as is observed with a device
made of semiconducting materials.

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The resistance of any resistor is given by the ratio of voltage to current. For any resistor,
the value of this ratio may change as the voltage and current changes. Nevertheless, the ratio
of ∆V to I defines the resistance of the resistor at that particular voltage and current.
A resistor that is independent of the voltage applied across it is called an Ohmic resistor
after the German physicist Georg Ohm who discovered experimentally the electrical charac-
teristics of such a device during 1820s. Ohm’s law states that the electrical current I that
flows through a conductor is proportional to the potential difference ∆V between the ends of
the conductor and is inversely proportional to its resistance R.
For Ohmic resistors, the quantity R is a constant for different values of ∆V and I. There-
fore, in order to show that a resistor obeys Ohm’s law, it is necessary to vary the potential
difference (the current I will then also vary) and observe that the ratio ∆V /I is in fact a
constant.

Figure 1: Resistor colour code.

The value of a resistor is typically identified on the component as a numeric value, or more
commonly, by a series of coloured bands. The orientation of the bands can be determined
by choosing the first band as the band closest to the end of the resistor body. The colour of
the band makes up the first digit of the resistance value. For example, the resistance R of a
resistor whose bands are yellow, violet, red and gold is

R = yellow-violet × red ± gold


R = 47 × 102 Ω ± (5% of 47 × 102 Ω)
R = 4700 ± 200 Ω (error rounded to one significant figure) = (4.7 ± 0.2) × 103 Ω

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§3.2 Resistors in series circuits

Consider the case of three resistors, R1 , R2 and R3 , connected in series to a battery as shown
in the Figure 2. “In series” means that the resistors are wired one after another and that a
potential difference ∆V is applied across the two ends of the series.

Figure 2: Resistors in series circuit.

In Figure 2, the resistors are connected one after another between a and b, and a potential
difference is maintained across a and b by the battery. The potential differences that then
exist across the resistors in the series produce identical currents I through them. In general,
when a potential difference ∆V is applied across resistors connected in series, the resistors
have identical currents I. The sum of the potential differences across the resistors is equal to
the applied potential difference ∆V .
Resistors connected in series can be replaced with an equivalent resistor Req that has
the same current I and the same total potential difference ∆V as the actual resistors. The
equivalent resistance Req of the three resistors connected in series is given by

Req = R1 + R2 + R3 .

The extension of n resistors connected in series is straightforward and is given by


n
X
Req = Ri .
i=1

Note that when resistors are connected in series, their equivalent resistance is greater than
any of the individual resistors.

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§3.3 Resistors in parallel circuits

Consider the case of three resistors connected in parallel with a battery as shown in the Fig-
ure 3. The term “in parallel” means that the resistors are directly wired together on one side
and directly wired together on the other side, and that a potential difference ∆V is applied
across the pair of connected sides. All three resistors then have the same potential difference
∆V across them which produces a current through each. In general, when a potential dif-
ference ∆V is applied across resistors connected in parallel, the resistors all have that same
potential difference ∆V .

Figure 3: Resistors in parallel circuit.

Resistors connected in parallel can be replaced with an equivalent resistance Req that has
the same potential difference ∆V and the same total current I as the actual resistors. The
equivalent resistance of the three resistors connected in parallel is given by
1 1 1 1
= + +
Req R1 R2 R3

In general, the equivalent resistance for n resistors connected in parallel is given by


n
1 X 1
= .
Req i=1 Ri

Note that when two or more resistors are connected in parallel, the equivalence resistance is
smaller than any of the combining resistances.

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4 Laboratory Work

Part A: Ohm’s Law and Resistances

In this part of the experiment, we will investigate the three variables, resistance R, potential
difference ∆V and current I, involved in a mathematical relationship known as Ohm’s law.

Figure 4: DMM in circuit to measure Figure 5: DMM in circuit to measure


current through resistor. voltage across resistor.

A-1. Choose one of the resistors you have been given. Record its colour codes in Data Table 1.
Use DMM to measure the resistance of the resistor and record it as R in Data Table 1.
A-2. Measuring current. Construct the circuit shown in Figure 4 by pressing the leads of
the resistor into two of the springs in the experimental section on the circuits experiment
board.
A-3. Connect the circuit and read the current that is flowing through the resistor. Record
this value as I in Data Table 1.
A-4. Remove the resistor and choose another. Record its resistance value as R in Data Table 1
then measure and record the currents as in steps A-2 and A-3. Repeat the process until
you have TEN sets of data.
A-5. Measuring voltage. Disconnect the DMM and connect a wire from the positive lead
(spring) of the battery directly to the first resistor you used as shown in Figure 5.
Measure the voltage across the resistor and record it as ∆V in Data Table 1.
A-6. Remove the resistor and choose the next one you used in step A-4. Record its voltage
in Data Table 1 as in step A-5. Repeat the process until you have completed all of the
resistors used in step A-4.

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Part B: Series Circuit

In this part of the experiment, we will investigate the behaviours of resistors in a series circuit.

B-1. Choose THREE unequal resistors that you have been given. We will refer to one as #1,
another as #2 and the third as #3. Use the DMM to measure the resistance of each of
your three resistors. Enter these values as R1 , R2 and R3 respectively in Data Table 2.

Figure 6: Resistors in a series circuit.

B-2. Now connect the three resistors into the SERIES CIRCUIT as in Figure 6, using the
spring clips on the circuits experiment board to hold the leads of the resistors together
without bending them.
B-3. Measure and record the resistances of the combinations R12 , R23 and R123 by connecting
the leads of the DMM between the points at the ends of the arrows. Record your readings
in Data Table 2.

Figure 7: Voltages in series circuit.

B-4. Now connect two wires to the D-cell to the resistor combination as in Figure 7.
B-5. Use the voltage function on the DMM to measure the potential differences across the
individual resistors (∆V1 , ∆V2 and ∆V3 ) and then across the combinations of resistors
(∆V12 , ∆V23 and ∆V123 ). Record your readings in Data Table 2.

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Figure 8: Currents in series circuit.

B-6. Now change the leads in your DMM so that they can be used to measure current. In
order to measure current, the circuit must be interrupted and the current allowed to flow
through the meter. Disconnect the lead wire from the positive terminal of the battery
and connect it to the red (+) lead of the meter. Connect the black (-) lead to R1 , where
the wire originally was connected. Record your reading in Data Table 2 as I0 .
B-7. Move the DMM to the positions indicated in Figure 8, each time interrupting the circuit
and carefully measuring the current in each one. Record your readings in Data Table 2.

Part C: Parallel Circuit

In this part of the experiment, we will investigate the behaviours of resistors in a parallel
circuit.

C-1. Choose THREE unequal resistors that you have been given. We will refer to one as a,
another as b and the third as c. Use the DMM to measure the resistance of each of your
three resistors. Enter these values as Ra , Rb and Rc respectively in Data Table 3.

Figure 10: Currents in parallel cir-


Figure 9: Voltages in parallel circuit. cuit.

C-2. Construct a PARALLEL CIRCUIT using all three resistors as in Figure 9. Measure and
record the resistances of the combination Rabc in Data Table 3.

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C-3. Use the voltage function on the DMM to measure the potential differences across the
individual resistors (∆Va , ∆Vb and ∆Vc ) and then across the combination of resistors
(∆Vabc ). Record your readings in Data Table 3.
C-4. Connect the parallel circuit as in Figure 10 using all three resistors. Review the in-
struction for connecting the DMM as an ammeter. Connect it first between the positive
terminal of the battery and the parallel circuit junction to measure I0 . Then interrupt
the various branches of the parallel circuit and measure the individual branch currents.
Record your measurements in Data Table 3.

Part D: Combination Circuit

In this part of the experiment, we will investigate the behaviours of resistors in a simple
combination circuit.

D-1. Choose THREE unequal resistors that you have been given. We will refer to one as A,
another as B and the third as C. Use the DMM to measure the resistance of each of
your three resistors. Enter these values as RA , RB and RC respectively in Data Table 4.

Figure 11: Resistors in a combination circuit.

D-2. Connect the COMBINATION CIRCUIT as in Figure 11. Measure and record the various
combinations of resistance RBC and RABC in Data Table 4.
D-3. Use the voltage function on the DMM to measure the potential differences across the
individual resistors (∆VA , ∆VB and ∆VC ) and then across the combinations of resistors
(∆VBC and ∆VABC ). Record your readings in Data Table 4.
D-4. Change the leads in your DMM so that they can be used to measure current. Connect
it first between the positive terminal of the battery and the resistor RA to measure I0 .
Then interrupt the resistor RA and the parallel circuit junction to measure IA . Interrupt
the various branches of the parallel circuit and measure the individual branch currents,
i.e. IB and IC . Lastly connect it between the negative terminal of the battery and the
parallel circuit junction to measure I4 . Record your measurements in Data Table 4.

Last updated: Tuesday 13th January, 2009 1:38pm (KHCM)

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