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“​RC Circuits​”

Lab #7

PHY 232 (061M)


Date: 7/16/2018

Submitted: 7/18/2018

The goal of this experiment was to observe and understand how the voltage across the
capacitor decays and to determine the half-life for the decay.
Capacitors are objects used in circuits in order to store charge. In order to know the
amount of charge a capacitor can hold its capacitance must be known. The expression used to
determine the charge is
Q = CV C
where C is the capacitance in Farads, Q is the charge in Coulombs, and V​C​ is the voltage across
the capacitor in volts.
The charge on the capacitor that decays exponentially over time is known as the half-life
which is expressed as
V (t1/2 ) = V o e−t1/2 /RC
t​½​ = RC ln 2

Pre-lab Questions:
1. Show that the capacitive time constant RC has units of seconds.
RC = Ω * F
RC = V ÷ C /s * C /V
RC = s

2​. If the capacitance in the circuit is doubled, how is the half-life affected?
When the capacitance of the circuit is doubled , then the half life is doubled as well.

3. If the resistance in the circuit is doubled, how is the half-life affected?

When the resistance of the circuit is doubled, then the half life is also doubled.

4​. If the charging voltage in the circuit is doubled, how is the half-life affected?
Changing the voltage should have no effect over the half life. This means the half life will
remain the same.

5. To plot the equation so the graph results in a straight line, what quantity do you have to
plot vs. time? What is the expression for the slope of this straight line?
We plot voltage vs. time. The expression used for the slope is ln(V (t)) = ln(V 0 ) − t/RC .
Experimental Diagram:

Experimental Setup:

We began the experiment by creating a circuit with the 3900pF capacitor and connecting
the banana cables to it in series to the 47 kΩ resistior. Next we connected the cables to the
oscilloscope and attached them to the capacitor and the resistor. Lastly, we plugged the voltage
sensor into channel A of the interface and connected it throughout the capacitor.

Data Attached.


We were able to investigate the relationship between capacitance, charge, and resistance
through the experiment. Additionally, we were introduced to half-life of charges and investigated
how the half-life relates to voltage, capacitance, and resistance.

Conclusion Questions:
1​. ​ ​Summarize how changing the voltage and capacitance changes the half-life.

Changing the voltage does not have an affect on the half-life as the change in the voltage would
cancel out, but changing the capacitance does change the half-life. This can be seen in the equation
ln( VV ) =− t( CR ) , where the slope of the line ln( VV ) is -t. Increasing the capacitance will increase the
0 0
half-life at the same voltage.

2. Include the values found for the half-lives and the % differences. Does the theoretical value lie
within the range of precision of your measurements? Explain what causes the differences.

Through the initial experimentation, we found the half-life to be 0.119 ms, 0.120 ms after
increasing the voltage, and after decreasing the capacitance 0.029 ms. These results verify our predictions
as the values for the half-life after increasing the voltage did not change significantly. However, after
changing the capacitance the half-life changed significantly.

Through our linearization, we got an initial half-life of 0.317 ms. Then, we got a half-life of
0.0270 ms after increasing the voltage. Finally, we got a half-life of 0.0865 ms after decreasing the
capacitance. Causes for error stem from the number of samples that were used to determine the slope for
the initial half-life and the half-life after increasing the voltage. As we linearized the data we found that
increasing the number of data samples created too many outliers, and so we used the sampling rate that
created the most linear results for the equation ln( VV ) . As a result, our errors of 62%, 88%, and 66%,
respectively, are largely due to a lack of samples and are not precise. Our results from linearization do not
accurately reflect our results in the initial analysis.

3. ​Did your answers to the Pre-Lab Questions agree with the results?

Our answers to the Pre-Lab questions were displayed in our first experimentation, but not in the
linearization. The first experimentation showed the half-life remained the same after increasing the
voltage (0.119 ms compared to 0.120 ms), but the half-life decreased after the capacitance decreased. In
our pre-lab questions, we stated that the half-life would double if the capacitance doubled, implying a
direct relationship. The experiment displayed this relationship as the half-life decreased after decreasing
the capacitance (0.119 ms compared to 0.029 ms)


Young, Hugh D., et al. ​University Physics with Modern Physics​. Addison-Wesley, 2016.