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How to Construct a Capacitor

Thomas Reddy Shyamala Meadow Creek High School

Problem:

How to construct a capacitor and what affect does a capacitor have on a circuit?

Abstract: A paralell plate is constructed and and its capacitance is measured. The RC time constant of a circuit is measured experimentally using different resistors and capacitors. These results are compared with the spice simulator results.

National and State Standards:

Inquiry, Process and Problem Solving

Uses science process skills in laboratory or field investigations, including observation, classification, communication, metric measurement, and prediction, inference, collecting and analyzing data.

1.1 Designs and conducts a scientific experiment that identifies the problem,

distinguishes manipulated, responding and controlled variables, collects, analyzes and communicates data, and makes valid inferences and conclusions.

1.2 Evaluates procedures, data and conclusions to determine the scientific validity of

research. Learns and uses on a regular basis standard safety practices for laboratory or field investigations.

3.1 Learns and uses safety procedures specific to an investigation or research activity.

Describes the nature of potential energy in an electrical system.

 21.1 Describes a capacitor. Explain how a capacitor works 21.2 Defines capacitance. 21.7 Describes the relationship between work and electrical energy. 21.8 Measures electrical energy stored in a capacitor.

Objectives:

To verify the dependence of capacitance on plate size and spacing for a parallel plate capacitor.

To measure the dielectric constant of a paper.

To investigate how quickly the charge enters and leaves the capacitor.

Verify the results with a spice simulator.

Learner Outcomes:

Students will achieve the knowledge of capacitors such as

Operation principle

Function

Effect of dielectric

Construction

Measurement of capacitance

Charge and discharge

Time constant

Usage of simulators

Capacitor Lab Rubrics

Name:

Date:

Section I

Parallel Plate Capacitor

Theory:

A capacitor is a device that stores energy in the electric field created between a pair of

conductors on which electric charges of equal magnitude, but opposite sign, have been placed.So a capacitor can be made up of two metal surfaces separated by a certain distance. They are used to isolate one voltage from another, trigger timely electrical

events, voltage ripple filter, etc. In electric circuits it is symbolized by a pair of vertical lines of same size with two leads. The capacitance is measured in farads or submultiples

A parallel plate capacitor is the simplest one to verify the dependence of capacitance on

plate size and spacing between the plates. When a capacitor is connected across the battery terminals, charge flows until its potential difference becomes equal to that of the battery.

2

Thomas Shyamala MHS 7/16/2006  When electric charge accumulates on the plates, an electric field is created in the region between the plates that is proportional to the amount of accumulated charge. This electric field creates a potential difference V = E·d between the plates of this simple parallel-plate capacitor.

The electrons within dielectric molecules are influenced by the electric field, causing the molecules to rotate slightly from their equilibrium positions.This effect accomdate extra charge on the plates than usual.The air gap is shown for clarity; in a real capacitor, the dielectric is in direct contact with the plates.

The amount of charge needed to produce a potential difference in the capacitor depends on

1. Area (A) of the plates.

2. Distance (d) between the plates and

3. Non conducting material between the plates.

The capacitance of a parallel plate capacitor with Non conducting material between its plates is given by

C = k ε 0

A

d

Where ‘k’is the Dielectric constant for the non conducting material and

ε 0 ’ is the permittivity of free space which is equal to 8.8542 X 10 -12 C 2 / (Nm 2 ).

Apparatus:

1. Parallel plate capacitor (need to make seven different capacitors with Aluminum foil for each part of the experiment).

2. Card stock paper.

3. Clothes pins.

4. Digital multimeter.

5. Ruler.

Procedure:

Part I:

To verify of the dependence of capacitance on plate size for a parallel plate capacitor.

Take the aluminum foil cut it in rectangular shape (as shown in the figure) in pairs and place required number of Card stock paper between them. This arrangement now acts like a capacitor.   Make seven such capacitors of different sizes .The thickness must be uniform and constant for all capacitors.

Then measure the area of each capacitor and corresponding capacitance for all capacitors. Now record the data in table1.

Graph Capacitance versus Area.

Find the dielectric constant of the material in each case.

Table 1

 Spacing (Thickness) between the plates = meter. Area (A) of the plate ( meter ) Capacitance (C) (Farad) K = (C d ) / (ε 0 A)

Part II:

To verify the dependence of capacitance on spacing between the plates for a parallel plate capacitor:

Follow the first step of part I to make a capacitor.

Make seven capacitors of same area with different thicknesses. The number of Card stock paper between the plates changes the thickness of the capacitor.

Then measure the thickness of each capacitor and corresponding capacitance for all capacitors. Now record the data in table2.

Graph Capacitance versus Thickness.

Find the dielectric constant of the material in each case.

Table 2 Area of the plate =
meter.
Spacing (d) between the plates
( meter )
Capacitance (C)
K = (C d ) / (ε 0 A)

Assessment:

1. What is the function that describes the relationship between Capacitance and Area of the capacitor?

2. What is the function that describes the relationship between Capacitance and Spacing (thickness) of the capacitor?

3. Graph Capacitance versus the reciprocal of the plate Spacing and find out the slope.

4. Determine the dielectric constant ‘k’ of the material using the measured value of the slope (Capacitance versus the reciprocal of the plate Spacing), the measured plate area in part II and the known value of the permittivity of free space (ε 0= 8.8542 X 10 -12 C 2 / (Nm 2 )).

5. Find the percentage error in ‘k’ with respect to experimental average.

6. Describe the sources of error in the experiment?

Section II

RC Time Constant:

Capacitor:

It is a two-terminal electrical component that stores energy in the electric field created between a pair of conductors on which electric charges of equal magnitude, but opposite sign, have been placed.

Charge

When a battery is connected to a series resistor and capacitor, the initial current is high as the battery transports charge from one plate of the capacitor to the other. The charging current exponentially approaches zero as the capacitor becomes charged up to the battery voltage. Charging the capacitor stores energy in the electric field between the capacitor plates. The rate of charging is typically described in terms of a time constant RC.

Here the voltage (V) across the capacitor is given by

V = V o (1–e t / τ )

……… (1)

Where V o is the battery voltage and τ is the product RC.

When t is equal to infinity the above equation yields V=V 0 .

Discharge

While discharging the voltage (V) across the capacitor is given by

V = V o e t / τ

……… (2)

When t is equal to infinity the above equation yields V= 0.thus the voltage decreases by a

factor 1/e every τ seconds.

Equations 1 and 2 reveal that the larger the time constant, the slower the charging or discharging

Resistor:

It is a two-terminal electrical component that resists an electric current by producing a voltage drop between its terminals in accordance with Ohm's law (V= I R ).Hence it dissipates energy.In series with a capacitor,it delay the charge or discharge when a switch is opend or closed.,producing(for charge) an exponential variation of the voltage acroos the capacitor.

Procedure:

Construct the circuit as shown below. Case 1:

When the switch S is placed in position A, the charge flows from the battery into the capacitor until the capacitor is fully charged. Case 2:

When the switch is placed in B, the capacitor discharges through the resistor. Record at least 10 values of voltage (v) and corresponding time (t) in each case. Battery Voltage = Discharging of a capacitor
Charging of a capacitor
Voltage(v)
Time(s)
Voltage(v)
Time(s)
Assessment:

1. How much time (approximately) does it take the capacitor to charge and discharge?

2. Double the resistance and measure the time to charge and discharge.

3. Double the battery voltage. How much time does it take to charge and discharge?

4. Double the capacitance and measure the time to charge and discharge.

5. Compare your measurements to the values found from the equations (1 & 2) and SPICE simulator (download the Evaluation Version simulator form http://www.spectrum-soft.com/download.shtm . It is a free limited version. )

6. Graph voltage versus time in both cases.

7. Fit the discharge curve to obtain τ value (τ fit ).

8. Calculate τ using R and C values.

9. Find the percentage error of τ.

10. What is the maximum current while the capacitor is charging?

11. What is the minimum current while the capacitor is discharging?

12. Calculate the maximum energy stored in the capacitor.

13. Calculate the energy supplied by the battery for maximum charging?