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NELSON PHYSICS

VCE Units 1&2 \\ Student CD-ROM

THEORY SUMMARY

CHAPTER 3

Electric Circuits

Ohm’s Law, resistance and V- I graphs

Ohm’s Law

Current through a conductor is directly proportional to the voltage difference across it. This is known as Ohm’s Law. This can be modelled by the formula V ¼ IR, where R is a constant known as the resistance

of the conductor.

Resistance

The resistance is deﬁned as the ratio of the voltage across a device to the current in the device. Since, R ¼ V

I ,

R is measured in V=A.

1 V=A ¼ 1 ohm ð Þ

V-I graph

A characteristic V- I graph for an ohmic conductor is shown in Figure 3.1a. Ohmic conductors have constant

resistance, and the gradient of the straight line graph gives the value of the resistance. The V-I graph of a non-

ohmic conductor is shown in Figure 3.1b. It is not a straight line and the resistance is not a constant.

(a) Voltage

Current

(b) Current
Voltage

Figure 3.1: (a) The V -I graph of an ohmic resistor is a linear graph; (b) the V-I graph of a non-ohmic resistor is a non-linear graph.

Instead of the graph of V against I, we sometimes use the graph of I against V. In this case, the I/ V ratio gives the reciprocal value of the resistance.  engage Learning Australia Pty L

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NELSON PHYSICS

VCE Units 1&2 \\ Student CD-ROM

Parallel and series circuits and unloaded voltage dividers

Series circuits

Figure 3.2a shows a simple series circuit. In this circuit, the current in each resistor is the same, and is equal to the current entering the resistors. The sum of the potential difference across each component equals the supplied potential difference:

R 1 þ R 2

V T ¼ V 1 þ V 2

R T ¼ (a)
(b)
R
1
I 1
V 1
V 2
I T
R 1
R 2
I 2

Figure 3.2

R 2

(c) Parallel circuits

Figure 3.2b shows a simple parallel circuit. In this circuit, the potential difference across all resistors is the same. The sum of the currents in each of the resistors equals the total current I T :

1

R

I T ¼ I 1 þ I 2

1

1

R

T

¼

R

1

þ

2

Compound circuits

Figure 3.2c is a compound circuit. This circuit is a combination of series and parallel circuits. Each section needs to be simpliﬁed by using the rules for series and parallel resistors.

Voltage dividers

Most voltage dividers use two resistors (as shown in Figure 3.3) as this is the simplest form. The voltage drop across both resistors adds to equal the supply voltage, V in . The output voltage, V out , is the potential difference across one of the resistors and so is less than V in . R 2
V out ¼
V in
R 1 þ R 2
R
1
V in = supply
voltage
R
V
2
out

Figure 3.3

Variable resistors, diodes and other non-ohmic devices

Resistors

Resistors are electronic devices with particular resistances that can be used to control the ﬂow of electrons in an electronic circuit. Controlling the ﬂow of electrons allows circuit designers to control the energy used by each component and hence the information they convey. They obey Ohm’s Law and are called ohmic resistors (Figure 3.4).  engage Learning Australia Pty L

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NELSON PHYSICS

VCE Units 1&2 \\ Student CD-ROM Figure 3.4: The circuit symbol for a resistor.

Thermistors

Thermistors, or temperature-dependent resistors, are used in voltage dividers to detect changes in heat energy (temperature). The electrical changes caused by physical changes are used to control devices such as heaters or air-conditioners. They are non-ohmic resistors (Figure 3.5). (a)
(b)
25
20
15
thermistor
10
5
0
10
20
30
40
Resistance (MΩ)

Temperature (°C)

Figure 3.5: (a) The circuit symbol of a thermistor; (b) its characteristic graph.

LDRs

A light-dependent resistor (LDR) is made of a semiconductor material such as cadmium sulﬁde, whose

resistance changes with the intensity of the light. As the intensity of the light falling on the surface

of the LDR increases, the resistance of the semiconductor material decreases (Figure 3.6b). (a)
(b)
12
10
8
LDR
6
4
2
4
6
1
4
61
4
61
× 10 1
× 10 2
× 10 3
Resistance (kΩ)

Illumination (lux)

Figure 3.6: (a) The circuit symbol for an LDR; (b) its characteristic graph.

LDRs can be used where rapid responses to light changes are not required, as they can typically take around 100 milliseconds to respond.

Diodes

A diode is an electronic device made from semiconducting materials. When used in a circuit, a diode allows

current to ﬂow in one direction only. Diodes can be connected to a circuit in two ways. The triangle in the

circuit symbol shows the direction in which conventional current can ﬂow. When connected to allow current to ﬂow, the diode is forward biased (Figure 3.7a). When reverse biased (Figure 3.7b), the diode prevents current ﬂow and only an extremely small leakage current passes through it. The current–voltage characteristic curve for a typical diode would look like the graph in Figure 3.7c.  engage Learning Australia Pty L

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NELSON PHYSICS

VCE Units 1&2 \\ Student CD-ROM

(a) diode

forward biased current flows – globe lights (b)

reverse biased no current flow

Figure 3.7: The two ways of connecting diodes to a circuit.

(c) Current (mA)
40
reverse bias
20
100
0.6 0.8
forward bias

(a) fuse carrier
thin fuse
wire

(b) Figure 3.8: (a) A fuse; (b) the circuit symbol for a fuse.

Voltage (V)

Household electric circuits

The domestic mains supply is AC (alternating) with 240 Vrms and 50 Hz frequency. There are two wires in the cable which supplies electricity to the house. One is called the active wire and the other is called the neutral wire.

Fuses

 A fuse connected to the active wire passes through the power meter to the mains switch. This active wire is connected to a number of parallel circuits, and each circuit has a fuse. A fuse is a piece of wire that will

melt and break the circuit when the current in it exceeds a certain value.

Switch

There is a switch connected to all domestic circuits to control the power supply to devices. There are one-way switches as well as two-way switches in use. The circuit symbol for a one-way switch is in Figure 3.9a, and for a two-way switch, in Figure 3.9b.

Earthing and circuit breakers

In household wiring, it is common to use a third wire called the earth, apart from the live and neutral

wires. The earth wire is a very low resistance wire. Normally, no current ﬂows in the earth. However,

a large current ﬂows in the earth wire when a fault develops.  engage Learning Australia Pty L

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NELSON PHYSICS

VCE Units 1&2 \\ Student CD-ROM

(a) A
B

(b) switch 1
switch 2
globe

Figure 3.9: (a) The circuit symbol for a one-way switch; (b) the circuit symbol for a fuse.

A circuit breaker is a device connected to the earth wire, and is triggered by high currents running in it. Whenever there is a current in the earth wire, the circuit breaker will cut off the power supply to the faulty device.  engage Learning Australia Pty L

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