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# Introduction to Bridge Circuits An Introduction to Bridge Circuits - Why Do You Need Them?

Making measurements with sensors is a common way in which many engineers and scientists encounter electrical devices. There are many different ways in which physical variables like temperature, light intensity, pressure and numerous other physical variables can be measured electrically. Devices used to measure a physical variable are called sensors. Some different kinds of sensors include the following. Sensors which change resistance as the physical variable changes Thermistors for temperature measurement Photo-resistors for light measurement Strain gages for measurement of mechanical strain Sensors which produce a voltage change for a change in a physical variable Thermocouples for temperature Solar cells for light ther kinds of sensors might include! Sensors which produce some other sort of electrical change. Some e"amples might include the following. # tachometer that produces a fre\$uency proportional to rpm Sensors which produce a set of signals in binary code proportional to pressure Sensors which produce a voltage signal with a fre\$uency proportional to flow rate %irst, let us consider what happens if we put a temperature sensor &a thermistor' into a voltage divider circuit. (ere)s the circuit.

## *hat we found in the voltage divider lesson is the following.

#t some nominal value of the temperature &if we have a temperature sensor' the voltage divider will have a nominal output voltage. #s the temperature changes the voltage output of the voltage divider changes. The voltage change will probably be a nonlinear function of temperature as the temperature deviates from the nominal value of the temperature. There are some problems with using a voltage divider. +onsider the following. ,ou might want an output signal that is -ero at the nominal conditions. ,ou could then have an output signal that was positive when the temperature deviated in one direction and a negative output signal when the temperature deviated in the other direction. .f the output is something other than temperature that becomes even more clear. .f the sensor is a strain gage, the strain could be positive or negative, and you would want the output voltage to be similarly positive or negative, and ideally it would be proportional to strain. .f the sensor is a pressure sensor, you could want a positive signal for a pressure above atmospheric &or any other reference' and negative for a pressure below. The point here is that it is common to want a -ero output signal under certain, known conditions. There are several ways you could subtract out that pesky D+ voltage. %or e"ample, you could use an operational amplifier circuit to subtract out the D+ voltage. That)s more comple" than another solution - using a bridge circuit. /sually a bridge circuit is what is used in this situation, and in this lesson you)re going to learn about bridge circuits. 0ridge circuits are simple circuits that permit us to solve the problems noted above, and you need to learn about them.

Bridge Circuits
*hat is a bridge circuit1 .t)s easier to look at one than to try to describe it. (ere is a bridge circuit.

The bridge circuit has two arms &2a and 2b constitute one arm here, and 2c and 2s constitute the other arm'. 3ach arm is composed of two resistors in series, and you may want to think of each arm as a voltage divider. The output is the difference between the outputs of the two voltage dividers. .n the bridge circuit above we have also included some source resistance for the source which drives the bridge circuit. This is the circuit we want to understand.

## What are you trying to do in this lesson?

4iven a sensor that changes resistance as some physical variable changes, 0e able to use the sensor in a bridge circuit. 0e able to choose components for the bridge circuit that will produce good performance.

## Analysis Of Bridge Circuits - Balancing The Bridge

*e have noted that it might be possible to get a bridge output of -ero volts. That)s true, but it only happens under certain conditions. *hen the output of a bridge is -ero, the bridge is said to be balanced. The first thing we will do is to determine the conditions for a bridge circuit to be balanced. .f the output voltage of a bridge circuit is -ero, that will happen when the outputs of both dividers is the same. (ere)s the bridge circuit again. *e)ll probably have to be looking at it as we make this argument.

The first thing that we notice is that both voltage dividers have the same voltage at the 5top5 of the bridge. +all that voltage 6top. Then, the voltage at the left terminal &labelled 575' is given by! 6top. 82b9&2a 7 2b':

Similarly, the voltage at the right terminal &labelled 5-5' is given by! 6top. 82s9&2c 7 2s': The difference between these two voltages - the output voltage - is given by! 6top. 82b9&2a 7 2b': - 6top. 82s9 &2c 7 2s': Setting the output voltage to -ero &the condition for a balanced bridge', we get! 6top. 82b9&2a 7 2b': - 6top. 82s9&2c 7 2s': ; < Since 6top is a common factor it can be removed. Then, we get! 82b9&2a 7 2b': - 82s9&2c 7 2s': ; < or 82b9&2a 7 2b': ; 82s9&2c 7 2s': =ow, cross-multiply the denominators. 2b2c 7 2b2s; 2s2a 7 2b2s =ote that the term 2s2b appears on both sides of the e\$uation and can be taken out on both sides. That gives us! 2b2c ; 2s2a This is the condition for balance that we were looking for. .t is a very simple relationship that must be obeyed by the resistors in the bridge portion of the circuit.

Pro lems
P! %or these values of resistance determine the value of 2s for which the bridge is balanced. 2a ; ><<< 2b ; ?<<< 2c ; @<<<

P" %or these values of resistance determine the value of 2a for which the bridge is balanced. 2b ; ><<< 2c ; ?<<< 2s ; @<<< P# %or these values of resistance determine the value of 2s for which the bridge is balanced. 2a ; >< 2b ; ><<<< 2c ; >< P\$ %or these values of resistance you should have found that the bridge would be balanced. &These are the values from Auestion > above.' %or these values, what are the values of 67 and 6-1 &#nd remember, both values of voltage are the same when the bridge is balanced.' 2a ; ><<< 2b ; ?<<< 2c ; B<<< 2s ; C<<< #ssume the following values for the source 6c ; ><v 2o ; < &.deal voltage source' P% %or these values of 2esistance 0ridge would be unbalanced. 2a ; ><<< 2b ; ?<<< 2c ; B<<< 2s ; CC<< #ssume the following values for the source 6c ; ><v 2o ; < &.deal voltage source' +ompute the bridge output voltage for the unbalanced bridge, and be sure you get the sign correct

P& %or these values of resistance the bridge is balanced. 2a ; >< 2b ; ><<<< 2c ; >< 2s ; ><<<< +hange the value of the sensor resistance by ><D to >><<< . +ompute the change in the voltage output of the right side of the bridge. ,ou should have found that there was only a very small voltage change and that the percentage change is miniscule. &*e calculate a .<>D change in the output voltage for a ><D change in sensor resistance. The conclusion is that not all ><D sensor resistance changes are created e\$ual. There is an issue buried in here. 0y now you should reali-e that it is possible to have the bridge balanced, but it might be unusable because the voltages out of the voltage dividers in the two different arms fall into one of these two categories. The voltage out of the voltage dividers can be very small &close to -ero' if 2s and 2b are both small compared to the other resistors. The voltage out of the voltage dividers can be very close to the supply voltage if 2s and 2b are both large compared to the other resistors - the situation we contrived above. .n both of those cases the voltage divider outputs are close to one of the e"tremes, and in both of those cases the output voltage will not change much even for substantial changes in the resistances. .ntuitively you e"pect that the best situation will be when the outputs of the voltage dividers are close to the mid-point between -ero volts &ground' and the supply voltage. .t would be nice if that were more than Eust an intuitional and if it could be shown mathematically. .t)s possible to do that and we)re going to take a shot at that.

## 'ensiti(ity of Bridge )oltage Out*ut

3arlier, we found that the output voltage from the bridge was given by! 6out ; 6top. 82b9 &2a 7 2b': - 6top. 82s9 &2c 7 2s': *e want to determine the conditions for which this output voltage changes the most for a given change in a resistor - and we will choose the sensor resistance. *e start by computing the rate of change of the output voltage as a function of 2s and 2c. The derivative of output voltage &d6out92s.'with respect to the sensor resistance is! d6out92s ; 6s2c98&2c 72s'?: =ow, if you want the ma"imum slope, you would choose 2s ; <. (owever, you don)t have control over the sensor resistance, but you can choose 2c to get the ma"imum slope.

#nd, to determine the ma"imum slop, we differentiate the e"pression for the slope and set the result to -ero. Doing that, we have the e"pression below. d&d6out92s'9d2c ; 6s&2c - 2s'98&2c 72s'B: #nd, that tells us that the ma"imum slope occurs when you pick 2c ; 2s. Summing that up, if you have a resistive sensor and you want to use it in a bridge circuit, the resistor in series with the sensor should be chosen so that the resistance in series has the same value as the nominal resistance of the sensor. +,am*le ,ou have a strain gage with a nominal resistance of B@< . The resistor in series with the strain gage should have the same value, i.e. B@< , if you want the bridge to have ma"imum sensitivity.

-inearity
There may be times when you want the output voltage to change linearly with resistance change in the sensor. .n that case, recall the result above. 6out ; 6top. 82b9&2a 7 2b': - 6top. 82s9&2c 7 2s': The only way that the output voltage will change linearly with the sensor resistance is if you have! 2c FF 2s Then, if you have that situation, the output from the right leg of the bridge will be almost -ero, and you will have sacrificed sensitivity for linearity. .t will be a tradeoff, and you will have to make the call.

## Bridge Circuit Pro lem

.n this bridge circuit, 2a is adEusted until the bridge balances. *hat is the value of 2a that balances the bridge1 ther circuit values are! 6s ; >?v 2o ; @< 2b ; ?<<< 2c ; ?<<< 2s ; G<<<