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# Measuring impedance

To find the impedance, we need to measure at least two values because impedance is a complex
quantity. Many modern impedance measuring instruments measure the real and the imaginary parts of
an impedance vector and then convert them into the desired parameters such as |Z|, θ, |Y|, R, X, G, B,
C, and L. It is only necessary to connect the unknown component, circuit, or material to the instrument.
Measurement ranges and accuracy for a variety of impedance parameters are determined from those
specified for impedance measurement.

Automated measurement instruments allow you to make a measurement by merely connecting the
unknown component, circuit, or material to the instrument. However, sometimes the instrument will
display an unexpected result (too high or too low.) One possible cause of this problem is incorrect
measurement technique, or the natural behavior of the unknown device. In this section, we will focus on
the traditional passive components and discuss their natural behavior in the real world as compared to
their ideal behavior.

1.3 Parasitics: There are no pure R, C, and L components The principal attributes of L, C, and R
components are generally represented by the nominal values of capacitance, inductance, or resistance
at specified or standardized conditions. However, all circuit components are neither purely resistive, nor
purely reactive. They involve both of these impedance elements. This means that all real-world devices
have parasitics—unwanted inductance in resistors, unwanted resistance in capacitors, unwanted
capacitance in inductors, etc. Different materials and manufacturing technologies produce varying
amounts of parasitics. In fact, many parasitics reside in components, affecting both a component’s
usefulness and the accuracy with which you can determine its resistance, capacitance, or inductance.
With the combination of the component’s primary element and parasitics, a component will be like a
complex circuit, if it is represented by an equivalent circuit model as shown in Figure 1-5.

Figure 1-5. Component (capacitor) with parasitics represented by an electrical equivalent circuit

Since the parasitics affect the characteristics of components, the C, L, R, D, Q, and other inherent
impedance parameter values vary depending on the operating conditions of the components. Typical
dependence on the operating conditions is described in Section 1.5.

Ideal, real, and measured values When you determine an impedance parameter value for a circuit
component (resistor, inductor, or capacitor), it is important to thoroughly understand what the value
indicates in reality. The parasitics of the component and the measurement error sources, such as the
test fixture’s residual impedance, affect the value of impedance. Conceptually, there are three sorts of
values: ideal, real, and measured. These values are fundamental to comprehending the impedance value
obtained through measurement. In this section, we learn the concepts of ideal, real, and measured
values, as well as their significance to practical component measurements.

— An ideal value is the value of a circuit component (resistor, inductor, or capacitor) that excludes the
effects of its parasitics. The model of an ideal component assumes a purely resistive or reactive element
that has no frequency dependence. In many cases, the ideal value can be defined by a mathematical
relationship involving the component’s physical composition (Figure 1-6 (a).) In the real world, ideal
values are only of academic interest.
— The real value takes into consideration the effects of a component’s parasitics (Figure 1-6 (b).) The
real value represents effective impedance, which a real-world component exhibits. The real value is the
algebraic sum of the circuit component’s resistive and reactive vectors, which come from the principal
element (deemed as a pure element) and the parasitics. Since the parasitics yield a different impedance
vector for a different frequency, the real value is frequency dependent.

— The measured value is the value obtained with, and displayed by, the measurement instrument; it
reflects the instrument’s inherent residuals and inaccuracies (Figure 1-6 (c).) Measured values always
contain errors when compared to real values. They also vary intrinsically from one measurement to
another; their differences depend on a multitude of considerations in regard to measurement
uncertainties. We can judge the quality of measurements by comparing how closely a measured value
agrees with the real value under a defined set of measurement conditions. The measured value is what
we want to know, and the goal of measurement is to have the measured value be as close as possible to
the real value.