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Objective

Become familiar with the charging and discharging of a capacitor in an electric circuit.

Theory

Capacitor is an electric device for storing electric charge. Capacitor is usually made of two or more conducting

surfaces placed close to each other inside a dielectric filling, used to decrease the electric field inside the

capacitor. When the surfaces are connected to a power source such as an external battery, the positive charge

develops on one of the surface of the capacitor and equal negative charge develops on the other surface, in

order to compensate for the applied voltage. When the battery is disconnected, the capacitor can retain this

charge because of the electric attraction between close positive and negative charges on the surfaces inside it.

Capacitors are characterized by their capacitance, C, defined as the ratio of the charge stored in the capacitor, Q,

and the potential difference between its plates, V, = / . Capacitance measures how easy it is to store a

charge in a capacitor higher capacitance means more charge can be stored using the same voltage V.

When a discharged capacitor is first connected to an external battery, or when a charged capacitor is first put

into a circuit, it undergoes a charging or discharging process as the charges are moved in or out of the capacitor.

This process takes time, and can be described by the following equation obtained from the Kirchhoffs loop rule,

+

=0

Figure 1 In capacitor circuit Kirchhoffs loop rule states that the sum of batterys voltage, voltage drop on the resistor, and voltage drop

on the capacitor should all add to zero,

+

= .

The importance of this equation is to relate the current in the circuit I at certain time with the charge stored in

the capacitor at that time Q. Since rhe current I defines how fast the capacitor is charging, in fact since =

is exactly the time derivative of Q, ( ) =

,I

( ).

Considering this, it can be shown that the solution to the above equation have to behave with time according to

the following two sets of equations:

( )=

( )=

(1

/

)

(charging)

( )=

( )=

(discharging)

+ ( ) ( )/ = 0, ( ) = ( ) at all times. Note also

that the potential on the capacitor also changes with the time proportionally to Q, that is ( ) = ( )/ .

As can seen from these solutions, the capacitor can charge or discharge only with certain speed defined by the

time-constant " =

. This constant is called the capacitive time constant.

Figure 2 As a solution to Kirchhoffs rule, the charge and the voltage on the capacitor during charging should grow exponentially over

time #~ . Similarly, during discharging the charge and the voltage should drop exponentially over the same time.

Other than the capacitor charging and discharging time, this same time constant has also a more general

meaning in relation to the time needed for charges in any conductor, such as a metal sphere placed into an

external electric field, to re-arrange themselves on the surface of the conductor to cancel out the electric field

inside it. This process can be viewed as the charging of a capacitor above, and takes the same amount of

time " =

. In this context, is also sometimes called the relaxation time.

Equipment

Electric cables.

Multimeter.

Two resistor elements R=_________.

Two capacitor elements, C=_________ and C=_________ .

Procedures

1. Make sure that the power is turned off. Implement the circuit in diagram A using C=_______ capacitor,

and provided multimeter in DC Voltage mode. NOTE: Once complete, verify your circuit with the

instructor and obtain permission to proceed.

a. Turn the power on and use the multimeter to take the measurements of the voltage on the

capacitor every 5 seconds for approximately two minutes as the capacitor is charging.

charging

b. Wait for the capacitor to charge completely. Then,

Then, turn the power off and use the multimeter to

take the measurements of the voltage on the capacitor every 5 seconds for approximately two

minutes as the capacitor is discharging

discharging.

2. Implement the circuit in diagram B using the capacitors and the resistors connected in series,

series and repeat

the measurements in 1a-1b..

ALYSIS (TO BE PERFORMED IN THE REPORT)

3. Make a graph for the voltage you measu

measured

red in 1.a and 1.b as a function of time. Is it exponential?

4. For your measurements in 1.a, make a graph of -

ln 1

using as

012

34&

it a straight line to this graph and find its slope k. Use k to calculate the capacitive

time constant "%&' = 1/( and compare it with the theoretical value " )%*+,

.

5. For your measurements in 1.b, make a graph of - ln

. Fit a straight line to this graph and find its

slope k. Use k to calculate the capacitive time constant "%&' 1/( and compare it with the theoretical

value " )%*+,

.

6. Calculate the theoretical value for capacitive time constant " )%*+, in circuit B in 2).

2)

7. Repeat steps 4-5 for your measurements in 2), and compare the experimental value "%&' with that you

calculated in 6) theoretically.

theoretically

ELECTRIC CIRCUIT DIAGRAMS

Circuit A;

Circuit B;

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