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Rectifier Design
By Aaron Magnuson
English 314 Technical Writing



All of the graphics contained within this report were created by the author for the sole
purpose of this report.
o The circuit design diagrams were constructed within Microsoft Word.
o The voltage Waveforms were generated using OrCad Capture CIS lite. OrCad
Capture CIS lite is available at the following web address for free download and
allows you to create circuit diagrams and measure voltages in simulated circuits

Web address:

This guide assumes that the reader has basic algebra skills, while both circuit design
elements and calculus are used, the circuit design elements are explained in the glossary
of terms and concepts while the calculus is unneeded in the design of rectifiers and is
only present as a proof of the formula.


Table of Contents:

Page 5

Glossary of Terms

Page 5


Page 5


Page 6


Page 6


Page 6


Page 7


Page 7

Direct Current Voltage(DC voltage)

Page 8

Direct Current Current(DC current)

Page 8

Alternating Current Voltage(AC voltage)

Page 9

Alternating Current Current(AC current)

Page 10


Page 10

Ripple Voltage

Page 11


Page 12

DC power supply

Page 12


Page 12


Page 13


Page 13


Page 14

Breakdown Voltage

Page 14



Page 15


Page 15

Kirchhoffs Current Law

Page 16

Kirchhoffs Voltage Law

Page 16


Page 17


Page 17

Voltage Peak to Peak(Vpeak to peak)

Page 18

Voltage Peak(Vpeak)

Page 19

Voltage Root Mean Square(Vrms)

Page 20

Common Rectifiers

Half Wave Rectifier

Page 21
Page 21

o Voltage Changes

Page 22

o Design

Page 24

o Example

Page 27

o Solution

Page 27

Full Wave Rectifier

Page 28

o Voltage Changes

Page 30

o Example

Page 33

o Solution

Page 33


Page 35


Page 36


Rectifier circuits are one of the most common circuits that people will come across in
their day to day life. The purpose of a rectifier is to change AC voltage into DC voltage for use
in products like computers, cell phones, and televisions. Without rectifiers it would not be
possible to power these devises through the use of wall sockets. The purpose of this guide is to
go through how to design and build two major types of single phase rectifiers that can be used to
convert AC voltage into DC voltage. In order to accomplish this goal this guide will discuss
many of the terms and concepts that are important to understand when designing a rectifier.
Furthermore this guide will then discuss the formulas and techniques that will allow you to
design and construct a rectifier circuit for your own use.
Glossary of terms:
Power is the measure of the electrical energy that is consumed by circuit or circuit
component. Think of power as the wood in a camp fire, you need the wood to make the fire
burn, and while the fire is burning it is consuming the wood so more must be added to keep the
fire at the same heat. Power can be calculated by multiplying the voltage across part of a circuit
by the current across the same part of that circuit. There are two forms of power in circuit
theory, AC power and DC power. AC power is present when AC current and AC voltage are
present, while DC power is present when DC voltage and DC current are present. Power is
measured in watts.


Voltage is a component of electrical power. Voltage is the potential difference in electro
motive force (EMF) across a component in a circuit and can be measured by measuring the
voltage at each end of the electrical component that you wish to know the voltage across. Think
of the voltage across a component as the height difference between two stairs, the beginning of
the circuit component is the top step while the end of the circuit component is the bottom step.
The difference in height between the two steps is the height that is travel when you take a step
down, think of voltage as this height. Voltage is transmitted in 2 different forms DC voltage and
AC voltage. Voltage is measured in volts.

The symbol for voltage is V

Current is a component of electrical power. Current is the measure of the flow of
electrons through a circuit component. Think of current as the flow of a river and the electrons
as water, you can measure the flow of a river at a point by measuring the amount of water that
flows through that point. There are 2 ways that current is transmitted as AC current and DC
current. Current is measured in amps.

The Symbol for current is I

Resistance is the measure of how much a circuit component resists the flow of power, for
components such as capacitors the resistance is a complex value. Imagine resistance as the
measure of how much a brake slows down a car, some brakes are very good at what they were


created for and slow down cars quickly, while some brakes are old and worn out and are not as
good at slowing down a car. Resistance with a complex value is commonly referred to as an
impedance. Resistance is measured in ohms().

The symbol for resistance is R

Impedance is a value of resistance that contains complex numbers. Impedance is
measured in ohms.
A sinusoidally varying value is a value that changes based on either a sine wave or cosine
wave. As a cosine wave is just a shifted sine wave. Imagine a sin wave as someone jumping up
and down on a trampoline, they have a maximum height and a minimum height, but they vary
between the two. The value of a sinusoidally varying value can be found by knowing the
properties of the sin wave but for a basic sine wave with a frequency of W radians per second
can be found by using the following formula.


Where V(t) is the value of the sinusoidally varying value at time t and V0 is the maximum value
of the sinusoidally varying value.


Example Sinusoid

Direct Current Voltage (DC voltage):

DC voltage is transmitted voltage that is kept at a constant value. Many of the electronics
used in everyday life require a supply of DC voltage, these electronics include the computer, as
well as cell phones and televisions. All voltage transmitted is transmitted as AC voltage so for it
to have the possibility of powering electronics that require DC voltage it must first be
transformed into AC voltage.
Direct Current Current (DC current):
DC current is current that only allows electrons to flow in one direction, DC current is
percent when DC voltage is. DC current has a steady measurable value.


Alternating Current Voltage (AC voltage):

AC voltage is transmitted voltage that is produced as a sinusoid, or sin wave. This
voltage has an average value of 0 V DC as there are equal amounts of positive and negative
voltage. AC voltage is used to transmit voltage and power electric motors such as the motors
within dishwashers and refrigerators.

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Alternating Current Current(AC current):

AC current is current that periodically changes the direction that electrons flow. AC
current has a value that varies sinusoidally.

The rectifier is a circuit that utilizes diodes and a capacitor in order to change AC power
into DC power. Think of a rectifier as a hair straightener, it takes wavy hair, and forces it to
become strait. There are multiple types of rectifiers for different situations but the ones that
most people will be familiar with are single phase rectifiers. These are the rectifiers used in most
non industrial DC power supplies such as the power supply for computers, cellphones, and

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televisions. The power brick that is used by most laptop power cords and the block that allows
USB charging cables to be plugged into wall outlets contain rectifiers.
Ripple Voltage:
Ripple voltage is a left over oscillation in a DC voltage output after it has been converted
to DC from an AC sinusoidal voltage. Going back to the analogy in the last definition when you
straiten hair from wavy to straight there will be a slight amount of waviness left over. This
voltage can affect the device that it is being powered so there will be a maximum ripple voltage
that will be acceptable for the power supply.


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Transformers are devices which scale Voltages by a set amount while also scaling current
by the inverse amount the voltage was scaled by. Think of transformers as a scale with one side
being voltage and the other being current, if you add voltage to the voltage side of the scale the
current side of the scale will change positions by the opposite amount that the voltage side of the
scale changed position. These are used as the input to a rectifier circuit in DC power supplies to
allow for a specific voltage to be outputted by the power supply rather than the amount of
voltage that is coming from a wall socket.
DC power Supplies:
DC power supplies are devices that turn AC power into DC power. These are commonly
seen as the power bricks that are present in laptop chargers, they are also present in the outlet
to USB converters for phone chargers.
The capacitor is a circuit component that when supplied with voltage will store voltage
until it reaches it capacity to store voltage. Think of a capacitor as a battery while the battery is
charging it will use electricity to do so, and if the battery is not in use it will continue to store the
electricity, but when it is plugged into a device that uses electricity to run the batter will
discharge the stored electricity. If the capacitor is supplied with a DC voltage the capacitor will
charge until it reaches capacity and then it will act as a resistor, however if the capacitor is
supplied with an AC voltage it will charge and discharge depending on what part of the sinusoid
voltage is being provided, while the voltage is increasing the capacitor will charge and when the
voltage is decreasing the capacitor will discharge the voltage it has stored back into the circuit.

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The formula for the current across a capacitor is


is the derivative of the voltage with respect to time, C is the capacitance

and I is the current.

Capacitance is measured in farads(F)

The resistor is a circuit component that only resists the flow of power, consuming
voltage. Think of a resistor as a brake, when a car is moving at a speed and the brake is applied
the brake will consume the speed to slow down the car and because of this create byproducts
such as heat. As the resistor consumes voltage it will heat up and in some cases glow, one
common example of a resistor is an incandescent lightbulb. Any device can be represented as a
resistor within a circuit diagram, this resistor that represents a device is commonly referred to as
the load.

The resistance of a resistor is represented with R

Resistance is measured in ohms()

The load is the representation of a device that is consuming power. Think of the load as a
weightless box with a large amount of different weights inside, you can measure the weight of
the box to know how much weight is in the box rather than measuring each weight individually
and then adding the different weights together. In a circuit diagram and circuit analysis a power
consuming device can be represented as a resistor, this allows not only for easier analysis, but for

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the ability to design circuits so that they provide a certain amount of power to the load without
necessarily knowing what the load is.

The resistance of a load is represented with R

Resistance is measured in ohms()

The diode is a circuit component that in most cases only allows current to flow through
the diode in a single direction. Think of diodes in most cases as a one way valve, when water
flows down a pipe in a certain direction the one way valve allows water to flow but if the flow of
water is reversed the valve with prevent the water from flowing. Diodes are used in rectifiers as
they allow AC voltages to be altered to only consist of positive voltage by preventing the
negative voltage from passing through them. This is because if a negative voltage is applied
across a diode in most cases the diode acts as though it had infinite resistance and consumes all
the current, the exception to this the a diode whos breakdown voltage has been reached. When
positive voltage is applied across diode it consumes a set amount of voltage and allows the rest
to pass. The amount of voltage that is consumed changes based on the temperature that the diode
is currently at, but for room temperature the amount of voltage that a diode consumes can be
approximated to .7 volts.
Breakdown Voltage:
Breakdown Voltage is the minimum voltage at which a diode allows current to flow
through the diode in the wrong direction. Think of the breakdown voltage as the tolerance of a
one way valve, if water is flowing towards a one way valve in the wrong direction there comes a

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point at which the object inside of the valve preventing the flow of water will break and allow
water to flow in the wrong direction. This means that when a negative voltage of sufficient size
is applied to a diode the diode will allow current to flow in the wrong direction. The breakdown
voltage of a diode can be set when the diode is constructed so in most cases the breakdown
voltage can be ignored by choosing a diode which has a breakdown voltage that is much greater
than any voltage within the circuit that you are constructing.
Frequency is how fast something oscillates between two maximums and is measured in
hertz. Think of frequency as measuring how often someone bouncing on a trampoline reaches
the top of their bounce in a second. Frequency can be found by taking 1 divided by the period.
Period is the time in seconds between two points of equal magnitude on a wave. Think of
a person bouncing on a trampoline, the time between the top of one jump and the top of the next
in seconds is the period of that persons jumping. Period can also be found by dividing 1 by the

Example of a period

Period of a

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Kirchhoffs Current Law:

To understand Kirchhoffs current law imagine a river, it starts as a group of tributaries
that come together to form a larger river. There cannot be more water in the larger river than
what entered from the tributaries. Conversely, when the river splits into two or more smaller
rivers, there cannot be more water in these rivers than came from the original river.
This is the essence of Kirchhoffs Current law. The point where circuit components
come together or branch off is a node. Kirchhoffs Current law states that the same amount of
current, which is a component in power, that enters one of these nodes must be the same amount
that exits the node no matter how many branches of the circuit are sending current and how
many branches are receiving current. This also follows the law of conservation of energy.
Current is part of power and therefore is energy. Since energy cannot be created or destroyed,
only transferred, power cannot be created or destroyed within a circuit. The amount flowing into
a node must be the same as the amount flowing out of a node.
Kirchhoffs Current law states:

The amount of current into a node must have the same total as the current that leaves a

Kirchhoffs Voltage Law:

To understand Kirchhoffs Voltage Law think about a man running in a circle. After he
finishes you know the total time he took to run the circle and you know the total time he took to
finish the second half the course, by knowing that the time he took finish the first half of the
circle must add up with the time it took to finish the second half of the course to equal the total

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time that it took to run the course you can easily find the time he took to finish the first half of
the course.
This is the essence of Kirchhoff voltage law. In a circuit there will always be at least one
loop that begins and ends at the same point, Kirchhoffs voltage law states that the total of
voltage consumed and supplied within a loop must be equal to zero. You can also think of this in
terms of conservation of energy, the voltage consumed in a loop cannot become greater than the
voltage being put into the loop, as this would require energy to be created from nothing.
Kirchhoffs Voltage law states:

The total of the voltage produced and consumed around a loop must be equal to zero.

Circuit components can be arranged in two ways, series and parallel. For two circuit
components to be parallel they must look like this:

There can be more than two components in parallel but for the purpose of this guide there will
only be a maximum of two circuit components in parallel. Two circuit components in parallel
have the same voltage across them. This can be found by using Kirchhoffs voltage law.
Because two circuit components in parallel are in a loop the voltage across one of them must be
equal to the voltage across the other.
Circuit components can be arranged in series which looks like this:

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Circuit components in series have the same current across them. This can be found by using
Kirchhoffs current law. Using the point between the two series components as a node we can
see that the current from one component must be the same as the current in the next component.
Voltage peak to peak:
Voltage peak to peak is a measure of AC voltage that is the measured by taking the
maximum voltage of the voltage wave and subtracting the minimum voltage of the voltage wave.

Vpeak to peak

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Voltage peak:
The peak voltage is the maximum AC voltage on the voltage wave and is half the voltage
peak to peak value.
= 2


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Voltage root mean square:

Voltage root mean square or Vrms is a measurement of AC voltage that is peak voltage
value divided by the square root of 2. So to convert between the three AC voltage measurements


Vrms= 2 Vpeak

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Common Single Phase Rectifiers:

Half Wave Rectifiers:
The Half wave rectifier is the simplest type of rectifier that could be used in a DC power supply
for common household is a half wave rectifier. The half wave rectifier consists of only one
diode and one capacitor. The half wave rectifier looks like this:



Voltage In


When AC voltage is inputted into this circuit the diode allows the negative voltage to be cut out
by only allow positive voltage to flow.
Current flow when the AC voltage is positive:


Voltage In


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When the AC voltage become Negative the diode will not allow current to flow and therefore the
circuit will prevent current from reaching the capacitor and the resistor.
Voltage Changes:
As the AC voltage passes through the rectifier it goes through three different phases. The
first phase is the input voltage, this is a unmodified AC voltage that looks like this:


Vpeak to peak

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After passing through the Diode within the rectifier the negative half of the wave is cut out and
the following voltage is obtained:



As you can see between each pulse there is a length of time where there is no voltage in the
circuit, this is because of the negative half of the wave being cut out.

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After passing through the Diode the voltage then reaches the capacitor and the load, after passing
through the capacitor the voltage looks like this:


The capacitor charges and discharges as the voltage moves up and down smoothing the multiple
pulses into a varying line, the amount by which the voltage varies is the ripple voltage. The
larger the capacitor the smaller the voltage varies, and the closer the voltage is to true DC
To design a half wave rectifier you must know the value of the load and the amount of
ripple voltage that is acceptable. The first step of designing a half wave rectifier is figuring out
what value of capacitor to use, To do this we can use the RC circuit equation which is

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() =

Where V(t) is the voltage with respect to time, Vp is the peak voltage entering the capacitor, t is
time, is the resistance of the load, C is the capacitance of the capacitor, and e is the
exponential function which is approximately 2.718. This comes from the fact that through
Kirchhoffs current law we can find that


This can the be changed to

Using calculus to integrate both sides of the equation and solve for V(t) we find that

() =

The constant can be solved for by using t=0 which then gives us
(0) = 0

Since e0=1 and V(0)=Vp we know that

() =

To solve for the ripple voltage we must first understand how ripple voltage is calculated. Ripple
voltage is calculated by taking the maximum voltage Vp and subtracting it by the smallest value
that the voltage in the load reaches. To find the value where the voltage is the smallest we set the

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time equal the period. To find the period we can take 1 divided by the frequency, thankfully the
frequency of AC voltage is a known constant, in America the frequency that all AC voltage
coming from a wall outlet is 60 Hz. So the equation for Vripple is:

= (1

() )

Vp can also be found by knowing the input into the rectifier. The value of Vp will be the
maximum value of the AC voltage minus .7 volts, this is because of the fact that to get to the
capacitor the voltage will need to go through the diode, which will reduce the magnitude by .7
volts, ultimately this means that that the formula will become this

= ( .7)(1


Where Vmax is the maximum value of the AC voltage. To design the half wave rectifier you will
use the maximum ripple voltage that the product you are designing for can take and the
equivalent resistance, or load that the product has. These will be supplied when you are creating
a rectifier. The Vmax will also be a known value as it is inputted from a transformer that outputs a
voltage .7 volts greater than the product needs. With all of the knowns plugged into the equation
above you can solve for the capacitance of the capacitor. To solve for C you can rearrange the
equation above into the following form:


)/( )]/(ln (
+ 1) =

Using the value of the capacitance you can build the half wave rectifier in order to meet the
design specifications.

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A cell phone has an equivalent resistance of 100,000 ohms, the cell phone needs 12 volts and can
handle a ripple voltage of .002 volts. The transformer that inputs voltage for the rectifier outputs
25.4 Vpeak to peak
Vmax=Vpeak=Vpeak to peak/2=12.7
After plugging in the known values into the formula you get:


)/(100000)]/(ln (
+ 1) =
12.7 .7
[1.667 107 ]
ln(. 999833)
= .000998

This will lead to a half wave rectifier with the following design:

Voltage In=

Load with a resistance of R=100,000

25.4 Vpeak to peak

Capacitor with a capacitance of C=.000998 F

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Full Wave Rectifier:

A full wave rectifier is similar to a half wave rectifier in both concept and construction
with a few important differences. The main difference between a full wave rectifier and a half
wave rectifier is that a full wave rectifier does not just only allow the positive part of an AC
voltage wave to pass, but using an arrangement of diodes called a diode bridge it allows the
negative half of a AC voltage wave to pass while making it positive.
A full wave rectifier looks like:

Voltage in



When the AC voltage is positive the current flows in the following manner:

Voltage in



When the AC voltage is Negative the current flows in the following manner

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Voltage in




Since this configuration of diodes changes an AC voltage wave so that the negative half of the
wave is positive the period of the voltage becomes one half of the period of voltage in the half
wave rectifier. In addition because the current always flows through 2 diodes the voltage that
reaches the capacitor and load will be Vpeak-2(.7) or Vpeak-1.4 instead of the max being Vpeak-.7 as
it was in the half wave rectifier. Plugging in these changes into the Vripple equation that was
found for the half wave rectifier will give the Vripple equation for the full wave rectifier, which
looks like:

= ( 1.4)(1

2 )

This means that to reach the voltage required by the load the transformer that is connected to the
rectifier will need to output a voltage that is .7 higher than it would need to be if the full wave
rectifier was replaced with a half wave rectifier. The upside of a full wave rectifier is that
because the period of the voltage decreases by a half you only need half the capacitance that you
would need if you were to create a half wave rectifier. This is important because while the full
wave rectifier requires 3 more diodes to create than the half wave rectifier, diodes are much
cheaper than large capacitor. This means that it is almost always more cost effective to add

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make a full wave rectifier as the cost saved from decreasing the size of the capacitor far out ways
the cost of 3 diodes.
Voltage Changes:
The voltage entering the circuit is an AC voltage, before it is passed through the diodes
the voltage looks like the following sinusoid.

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As you can see this is a perfectly normal sinusoidal voltage, but after the voltage is passed
through the diodes of the full wave rectifier the voltage becomes the following waveform:

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As can be seen from the graph the full wave rectifier has not only made the AC voltage only
positive, but it has also reversed the sign of the negative part of the AC voltage sinusoid to make
the full wave positive. After the Voltage passes through the diodes it then passes through the
capacitor which leads to the following voltage:

From this final graph we can see that the full wave rectifier has half the period of the half wave
rectifier for the same frequency voltage. To reiterate the conclusion of the comparison of full
wave rectifiers and half wave rectifiers this half-length period in the full wave rectifier means
that a capacitor of only half the value of a capacitor in a half wave rectifier needs to be used in a
full wave rectifier to achieve the same results.

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For this example we will use the same device with a modified transformer output as the
half wave rectifier.
A cell phone has an equivalent resistance of 100,000 ohms, the cell phone needs 12 volts
and can handle a ripple voltage of .002 volts. The transformer that inputs voltage for the rectifier
26.8 Vpeak to peak
Vpeak=1/2*Vpeak to peak=26.8*.5=13.4 Vpeak

= ( 1.4)(1

2 )

[ln (1

. 002
[ln (1
2 100000
13.4 1.4
= 8.333 108 [ln(. 999833)]1
= .0005

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As shown by the calculation the value of C is approximately half the value of C that was required
in the half wave rectifier. The reason that the value of C for the full wave rectifier is not exactly
half the value of C for the half wave rectifier is rounding error within the equation. Taking the
value of C found within the equation and using the know values we can design a full wave
rectifier for this product. The rectifier will look like this:

Voltage in=

RL= 100,000

Vpeak to peak=26.8

C=.0005 F

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At the end of this guide the reader should be able to design a full wave, and half wave
rectifier. This is an important concept in circuits that allows products that need DC voltage to
run to function with the AC voltage that is available from a common wall socket. Without the
use of rectifiers we would not be able to power things such as televisions, computers, and cell
phone from wall sockets. Over the course of the guide the reader should have learned about
many basic, and some advanced concepts within circuit theory, many through the glossary of
terms and concepts, and well as the idea and math behind the design of two common rectifier

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Tuttle, Gary. "RC transients." EE 201 Electric Circuits Fall 2014. Iowa State,
n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

Tuttle, Gary. "Rectifier circuits & DC power supplies." EE 230 Electronics

Spring 2014. Iowa State University, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.