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ERG 1810 Engineering Laboratory I

Department of Electronic Engineering


The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Experiment I-5 Time Constant, Integrator and Differentiator

1 INTRODUCTION

In Experiment I-2, we have learnt the AC characteristics of capacitors. In this experiment, we


study the transient response of capacitors where the properties during the capacitor charging and
discharging are examined.

Our emphasis will be placed on the parameter affecting the charging and discharging curve, which
is known as the time constant ( ). Also, we introduce ways to use passive elements to perform two
mathematical operation, namely, integration and differentiation. The experiment is divided into 3
parts:
1) Studying the capacitor characteristics when it is charging (with power supply)
2) Studying the capacitor characteristics when it is discharging (without power supply)
3) Studying how an RC circuit can be used as integrator or differentiator

Learning outcome:
1) Getting more insight into capacitor, especially when the DC supply is present instead of AC.
2) Being able to apply the same concept to inductors.
3) Fully understanding what time constant stands for and being able to estimate the time taken
for a capacitor/ inductor to be fully charged.
4) Understanding how the circuit can be used in practice (e.g. integrator and differentiator
circuit).

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2 PRE-LAB

2.1 Charging Circuit (RC)

+ -

Figure 2.1

Consider the RC circuit in Fig. 2.1. The battery voltage is and the initial voltage across the
capacitor is zero. Using the relationship between current and voltage of a capacitor, we have

. (1)

and consequently

. (2)

By Kirchhoff's Voltage Law (KVL), , i.e.,

. (3)

This is a first order differential equation, whose solution is given by (For details of finding the
solution, refer to course ELE1110)

. (4)

and the respective current is

. (5)

Equations (4) and (5) define how the voltage and current behave for any particular and .
From equation (4), approaches as increases. But will not reach until
approaches zero. For to be zero, must be infinite. Thus the capacitor will
never become fully charged.
Similarly, from equation (5), as increases, tends to zero, but will never reach it. From
equations (4) and (5) it can be seen that the rate of charge depends on the product .
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Consider equation (5):

At the initial current (rate of charge) is given by:

(6)

If this current was maintained constant throughout the charging of the capacitor, the time taken to
reach the fully charged state would be, say, seconds. At this time the charge on the capacitor
would be coulombs where:
(7)
Now also

(8)

(9)
This amount of time is called the Time Constant ( ) of RC circuit as shown in Fig. 2.2

Figure 2.2
Clearly the time taken for the capacitor to be fully charged will be longer than when the current
had remained constant. The actual value that the voltage reaches at is found from equation
(5) :

, (10)

from which we have


. (11)
Thus will reach 63.2% of the supply voltage at time . The capacitor is charged to 99.3%

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after , which can be considered to be almost fully charged in practice.
Likewise, we calculate as a percentage of the initial current by substituting
into (5):

(12)

2.2 Discharging Circuit (RC)

Figure 2.3
Since a capacitor can store energy, it is possible for a response to take place in an RC circuit even
without source. Consider the circuit in Fig. 2.3. The capacitor has been initially charged to a
voltage . At time , the switch is closed. Using the relationship between current and
voltage of a capacitor, we have

. (13)

We can easily get

(14)

By KVL, we have , and subsequently

(15)

This is also a first order differential equation, whose solution is given by (For details of finding the
solution, refer to course ELE1110)
(16)
When , drops to
(17)

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2.3 Integrator and Differentiator

Figure 2.4
One of the applications of RC circuits is to perform integration and differentiation which will be
explained below.
Using complex representation, the current is given by

(18)

When the frequency of the voltage source satisfies , we have . So (18)


becomes

(19)

and as a result

(20)

We see that can be viewed as the integration of when the input frequency is high.

Similarly, for , (18) becomes

(21)

(22)

(23)

We see that can be viewed as the differentiation of when the input frequency is
low.

2.4 Questions: (Include your answer in your prelab sheet)


If the input is square waveform, sketch the output of the integration circuit.

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3 IN-LAB

3.1 APPARATUS:
1.Function Generator
2.Oscilloscope
3.Power Supply Unit
4.Digital Multimeters
5.Feedback construction desk and components

3.2 Time Constant:


Consider the RC circuit in Fig. 3.1.

Fig. 3.1
In Fig.3.1, you may notice that there are two resistors. One resistor is to help us measure the
current. An oscilloscope is essentially a voltage measuring device. To measure the current in a
circuit with an oscilloscope, it is necessary to measure the voltage across a known resistor.
In the circuit we are using, every volt across the resistor produces
1
A=10mA current flowing in the circuit.
100
The resistor is only 1% of the total resistance in the circuit, and therefore the inclusion of
the allows the current waveform to be displayed on the oscilloscope without affecting
greatly the action of the circuit.

Step 1: Connect the circuit as shown in the patching diagram of Fig.A1 corresponding to the
circuit diagram of Fig.3.1.
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Step 2: Connect the oscilloscope Y2 input to point C, and Y1 input initially to point A.
Step 3: Set the generator so that the output square wave from it has a frequency of, say, 2Hz, at an
output level of 10Vpk-pk.
Step 4: Disconnect the Y1 input from point A, and reconnect it to point B to monitor the voltage
across the capacitor.
— The Y1 channel shows the voltage charge and discharge curves one after the other.
— The Y2 channel gives the current charge and discharge curves one after the other.
Step 5: Draw Y1 and Y2 curves on the axes indicated in Fig.3.2.

Fig. 3.2
(Q1)What is the period of the input waveform? Draw the input waveform in Fig.3.2.
(Q2)Calculate the time constant of your circuit. Calculate 63.2% of your input voltage.
Measure the time taken for the voltage waveform to reach 63.2% of the input voltage.
Compare this with the calculated Time-constant.
(Q3) What was the initial value of the current?
(Q4)What value of current was reached at time τ ?
(Q5)What percentage of the initial value of current is this?
(Q6)Does this value agree with your measured result?

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3.3 Integrator and Differentiator

(a) (b)
Figure 3.3

Step 1: Connect the circuit as shown in the circuit diagram of Fig.3.3(a).


Step 2: Set the signal input to be square signal with frequency , and 10Vpk-pk.
Step 3: Set the oscilloscope to DC coupling mode and connect it with Y1 and Y2 point.
Step 4: Draw Y1 and Y2 waveform aligned in time.
Step 5: Repeat the above steps with triangular wave input and sine wave input. Remind that for
the circuit to serve as an integrator, the input frequency should be high.
Step 6: Now reset the input to be square signal with input frequency .
Step 7: Draw Y1 and Y2 waveforms aligned in time.
(Q7) Describe the differences of Y2 observed in step 2 and step 6 when the input is square
signal .

Step 1: Connect the circuit as shown in circuit diagram of Fig.3.3(b).


Step 2: Set the signal input to be square signal with frequency and 10Vpk-pk.
Step 3: Set the oscilloscope to DC coupling mode and connect it with Y1 and Y2 point.
Step 4: Draw Y1 and Y2 waveform aligned in time.
Step 5: Repeat the above steps with triangular wave input and sine wave input. Remind that for
the circuit to serve as an integrator, the input frequency should be low.
Step 6: Now reset the input to be square signal with input frequency .
Step 7: Draw Y1 and Y2 waveforms aligned in time.
(Q8) Describe the differences of Y2 observed in step 2 and step 6 when the input is square
signal.

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4 POST-LAB Questions (For formal report only)
Question 1: In Fig.3.1, why do we need to measure the current by inserting a resistor into
the circuit, but not by a current meter?

Question 2: In Fig. 3.1, use a 100mH inductor to replace the capacitor and neglect the
resistor. Derive the voltage and current expression. Is it similar to the RC case?

Question 3: Describe how one can use inductor and resistor to form an integrator and
differentiator.

Question 4: Give an application example of the RC integrator and differentiator circuit.

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5 Appendix

Figure A1

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