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Kirchhoff's Rules

Purpose: To make current and voltage measurements in several electrical circuits, and see if they agree
with Kirchhoff's Rules.

Introduction: Kirchhoff's Rules apply to electrical circuits—any combination of electrical components


such as voltage sources, resistors, capacitors, inductors, with conducting paths (usually wires) between
them. The rules are:
Loop Rule: The algebraic sum of the changes in potential around any closed loop of a circuit is
zero.
Junction Rule: At any junction point in the circuit, the sum of the currents entering the junction
equals the sum of the currents leaving the junction.

To illustrate these R1 R3
B C D
rules, refer to Fig. 1, which
is a schematic diagram of a
circuit containing two
batteries (labeled E for + + E
E R4 - 2
"emf") and four resistors. 1 -
We can make out three
loops: ABCFA, CDEFC, and
an outer loop, ABCDEFA.
A F E
R2
F ig . 1 . Illu s tra tio n o f K irc h h o ff's R u le s
Kirchhoff's loop rule says the algebraic sum of the potential changes around each of these three
loops is zero. This means that if you start at any point on a loop and proceed either clockwise or
counterclockwise around that loop, when you arrive back at your starting point, the sum of the changes
in potential must equal zero. This requires that you record the proper sign (plus or minus) with each
potential change in the summation. In this way, Kirchhoff's loop rule gives you an equation which can
be checked experimentally or solved algebraically, either alone or with other simultaneous equations.

In writing down this loop equation we use three auxiliary rules:


(a) The potential change along a continuous length of circuit wire is negligible. For example, in Fig.
1, the potential difference between the positive terminal of E1 and the left end of resistor R1 and
that between E and F may be taken as zero and not included in the loop equation.
(b) The magnitude of the potential change that occurs as you "step across" a source of emf such as a
battery is equal to its emf (voltage) and the sign is determined from its polarity. For example, if in
the course of proceeding around the rightmost loop in Fig. 1 you step from D to E, you write down
the potential change as -E2. If the value of E2 is known, say 6.0 V, then you could write –6.0 V.
This would be one of the terms in the complete loop equation.
(c) The magnitude of the potential change that occurs when you traverse a resistor R equals the
product IR, where I is the current through the resistor. The sign is determined from the direction
of the current—in a resistor, current is always in the direction of the electric field, which is in the
direction of decreasing potential. If the current is unknown, show an assumed direction on the
circuit diagram and represent the current by a symbol, such as I1. If in your solution I1 comes out
positive, then it is in the direction you assumed. If its value comes out negative, it is in the
opposite direction.

Kirchhoff's junction rule states that during any given time interval, the total charge which leaves a
junction equals the total charge which enters the junction. The rule follows from two premises:
(a) In steady-state (dc) circuits such as we will be using today, the amount of electric charge located at
any junction in a circuit is constant. (When currents are changing, as in ac circuits, the junction
rule still applies because although the charge at a junction is usually changing, it remains so small
relative to the currents in and out so as to be negligible, which means it can be taken as zero, a
constant.)
(b) Charge is conserved (it cannot simply appear or disappear).

From these two premises, it follows that if in any given time interval a certain amount of charge
flows into a given bit of space (which contains the junction), through one or more pathways
(wires), then an equal amount of charge must flow out of that space in that same time interval via
one or more other wires.

Theory
The principles known as Kirchhoff's rules, in honor of the man who developed them, provide a means
of obtaining enough independent equations to solve for the currents flowing in an electrical circuit.
There are many ways of stating Kirchhoff's rules but this experiment uses the formalism described
below.
Kirchhoff's junction rule states that the algebraic sum of the currents at any branch point or junction in a
circuit is zero. Symbolically, we may write Equation 1, below, as the sum of n currents flowing into a
junction:

(Eq. 1)
In applying this rule, currents flowing into a branch point are taken as positive, while currents flowing
out of the branch point are taken as negative. the opposite sign convention could also be used, but this
would simply multiply the equation by (-1) and therefore would provide exactly the same information.
Kirchhoff's second rule states that the algebraic sum of the potential changes around any complete loop
in the network is zero. Again we may write Eq. 2, symbolically ,as the sum of the potential changes:

(Eq. 2)
There V represents the potential change as we go across a particular circuit element. If in going around
the loop you go from the negative terminal of a source of e.m.f. (E) to the positive terminal, then the
potential increases so that V = + E neglecting the internal resistance of the source of e.m.f.). In
considering the potential change across a resistor, bear in mind that conventional current enters the high
potential side of a resistor and leaves at the low potential side. If you are going around a loop in the
same direction as the current through a particular resistor then V = - I R. of you are going around the
loop in a direction opposite to the direction of the current through a particular resistor then V = + I R.
but how do you know the direction of the currents through the resistors before you solve the problem?
The answer is that in many cases you don't know, but it doesn't matter. the first step in solving a
problem using Kirchhoff's rules is to assume a direction for all the currents in the circuit. Now apply
Kirchhoff's rules and obtain enough equations to solve for all the unknown currents. if your solution for
a particular current comes out a positive number, it means that the current is in the direction you
assumed. If the solution for a particular current comes out as a negative number, it means that the
actual current is opposite to the direction you assumed but that the magnitude you calculated is correct.
However, you must be sure to retain the minus sign in solving your equations for the other currents.

Procedure

Part I. Simple test of the Loop Rule C D


(1) Construct the series circuit of Fig. 2. R1
Use the 22 Ω resistor as R1 and the 51
Ω resistor as R2. Draw the circuit
B
diagram in your report and label it,
including the letters A through F, as in 5V
Fig. 2.
A
(2) Set the power supply voltage near 5.0
R2
V. Connect your voltmeter leads to
measure the exact value
(VAB = VB - VA) using a digital volt F E
meter. Fig. 2. Test of loop rule.

(3) Measure and record (directly on the circuit diagram) the voltages VAB, VBC, VCD, VDE, and so
forth around the circuit until you arrive back at point A. As you go, determine for each of these
voltages whether you are stepping up or down in potential and indicate this in your data by a + or -
sign, respectively. Do the values you obtained satisfy the loop rule? To test this, substitute them
directly into the equation which expresses the loop rule: VAB + VBC + VCD + ... + VFA = 0.

Part II. Another test of the Loop Rule:


In this section, you will check whether the loop rule holds good for a range of different values of
the power supply voltage ("input voltage"), even if one of the resistances in the circuit changes as the
input voltage changes. The circuit will consist of a series combination of a resistor, which stays cool
enough to have a nearly constant resistance, and a miniature lamp, which gets so hot with increasing
current that its resistance increases by about a factor of ten.

(1) Build the circuit of Fig. 2 again, but now use the 22 Ω resistor for R1 and the lamp (#50) in place
of R2.

(2) Connect digital multimeters to make simultaneous measurements of voltages VAB, VCD, and VEF.
(3) Vary the input voltage from 0.5 V to 5.0 V in steps of about 0.5 V. For each input voltage, record
the three circuit voltages simultaneously and enter the data into a spreadsheet. When you have
finished, save the data.

(4) Using the spread sheet, plot VCD/VAB, VEF/VAB and (VCD + VEF)/VAB vs VAB. Plot all three
curves on one graph, using the Add feature under source data for charts. Be sure to label the
curves in your graph (VCD, VEF, etc.). Explain in a sentence or two why the curves of VCD/VAB
vs VAB and VEF/VAB vs VAB appear as they do, and how the graph of (VCD + VEF)/VAB vs VAB
relates to the loop rule.

Part III. Simple test of the Junction Rule

(1) Open Logger Pro and configure the system to act as three ammeters.
B C D
(2) Construct the parallel circuit of Fig. 3, with
R1 = 22 Ω and R2 = 51 Ω again. Draw the
circuit diagram in your report and label it,
including the letters A through F, as in
Fig. 3.
5V R1 R2
(3) Use logger pro as an ammeters to measure
the current supplied by the power supply,
IAB, the current flowing through R1, ICF,
and the current flowing through R2, IDE.
A F E
Remember, to measure the current through
a circuit element you must break the circuit Fig 3. Test of Junction Rule.
to place a multimeter in series with it.
Record the results directly on the circuit
diagram. Do the values you obtained satisfy
the junction rule? To test this, substitute
them directly into the equation which
expresses the junction rule: IAB = ICF +
IDE.
Part V. Another test of the Junction Rule:
In this section, you will check whether the junction rule holds good for a range of different
values of the input current, even if one of the resistances in the circuit changes as the input current
changes.

(1) Build the circuit of Fig. 3 again, using the 22 Ω resistor for R1 and the lamp in place of R2.

(2) Connect three logger pro ammeters so to make simultaneous measurements of the currents IAB,
ICF, and IDE.

(3) Vary the input current over the attainable range in about ten steps. For each input current, record
the current values and enter the data into a spreadsheet.

(4) Use the spreadsheet plot ICF/IAB, IDE/IAB and (ICF + IDE)/IAB vs IAB. Plot all three curves on one
graph. Explain why the curves of ICF/IAB vs IAB and IDE/IAB vs IAB appear as they do. Do the
internal resistances of the meters play an important role here? Also, explain how the graph of
(ICF + IDE)/IAB vs IAB relates to the junction rule.

Part VI. A final test of both Rules

(1) Build the circuit of Fig.4,


using R1 = 22 Ω, R2 = 39 Ω,
and R3 = 51 Ω. Insert R1
ammeters into the circuit to
let you measure I1, I2, and I3.
Insert voltmeters to measure I1 I2 I3
the emfs of the power supply
and the dry cell battery.

(2) Write down the equations for 45 V Power R3


this circuit obtained from
Supply R2
Kirchhoff's rules. Take the
nominal values of the Dry Cell E
batt
resistors and the measured
values of the two emfs as
given and the currents as
unknowns. From these Fig. 4. Test of both Kirchhoff rules.
equations, predict the current
in each branch of the circuit.
Also measure them. Finally,
compare your predicted and
measured values.