We have already learned how inductance and capacitance individually behave in a direct current circuit. In this part we will be shown how inductance, capacitance, and resistance affect alternating current.



This might be a good place to recall what you learned about phase in previous part. When two things are in step, going through a cycle together, falling together and rising together, they are in phase. When they are out of phase, the angle of lead or lag-the number of electrical degrees by which one of the values leads or lags the other-is a measure of the amount they are out of step. The time it takes the current in an inductor to build up to maximum and to fall to zero is important for another reason. It helps illustrate a very useful characteristic of inductive circuits-the current through the inductor always lags the voltage across the inductor.


A circuit having pure resistance (if such a thing were possible) would have the alternating current through it and the voltage across it rising and failing together. This is illustrated in figure (1-A),which shows the sine waves for current and voltage in a purely resistive circuit having an ac source. The current and voltage do not have the same amplitude, but they are in phase.

In the case of a circuit having inductance, the opposing force of the counter emf would be enough to keep the current from remaining in phase with the applied voltage. You learned that in a dc circuit containing pure inductance the current took time to rise to maximum even though the full applied voltage was immediately at maximum. Figure (1-B) shows the wave forms for a purely inductive ac circuit in steps of quarter-cycles.


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Figure (1). - Voltage and current waveforms in an inductive circuit.


With an ac voltage, in the first quarter-cycle (0 to 90) the applied ac voltage is continually increasing. If there was no inductance in the circuit, the current would also increase during this first quarter-cycle. You know this circuit does have inductance. Since inductance opposes any change in current flow, no current flows during the first quarter-cycle. In the next quarter-cycle (90 to 180) the voltage decreases back to zero; current begins to flow in the circuit and reaches a maximum value at the same instant the voltage reaches zero. The applied voltage now begins to build up to maximum in the other direction, to be followed by the resulting current. When the voltage again reaches its maximum at the end of the third quarter-cycle (270) all values are exactly opposite to what they were during the first half-cycle. The applied voltage leads the resulting current by one quarter-cycle or 90 degrees. To complete the full 360 cycle of the voltage, the voltage again decreases to zero and the current builds to a maximum value.

You must not get the idea that any of these values stops cold at a particular instant. Until the applied voltage is removed, both current and voltage are always changing in amplitude and direction.


As you know the sine wave can be compared to a circle. Just as you mark off a circle into 360 degrees, you can mark off the time of one cycle of a sine wave into 360 electrical degrees. This relationship is shown in figure (2). By referring to this figure you can see why the current is said to lag the voltage, in a purely inductive circuit, by 90 degrees. Furthermore, by referring to figures (2) and (1-A) you can see why the current and voltage are said to be in phase in a purely resistive circuit. In a circuit having both resistance and inductance then, as you would expect, the current lags the voltage by an amount somewhere between 0 and 90 degrees.


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Figure (2). - Comparison of sine wave and circle in an inductive circuit.


A simple memory aid to help you remember the relationship of voltage and current in an inductive circuit is the word ELI. Since E is the symbol for voltage, L is the symbol for inductance, and I is the symbol for current; the word ELI demonstrates that current comes after (Lags) voltage in an inductor.



When the current flowing through an inductor continuously reverses itself, as in the case of an ac source, the inertia effect of the cemf is greater than with dc. The greater the amount of inductance (L), the greater the opposition from this inertia effect. Also, the faster the reversal of current, the greater this inertial opposition. This opposing force which an inductor presents to the FLOW of alternating current cannot be called resistance, since it is not the result of friction within a conductor. The name given to it is INDUCTIVE REACTANCE because it is the "reaction" of the inductor to the changing value of alternating current. Inductive reactance is measured in ohms and its symbol is XL.

As you know, the induced voltage in a conductor is proportional to the rate at which magnetic lines of force cut the conductor. The greater the rate (the higher the frequency), the greater the cemf. Also, the induced voltage increases with an increase in inductance; the more ampere-turns, the greater the cemf. Reactance, then, increases with an increase of frequency and with an increase of inductance. The formula for inductive reactance is as follows:


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The following example problem illustrates the computation of X L.

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The four parts of figure (3) show the variation of the alternating voltage and current in a capacitive circuit, for each quarter of one cycle. The solid line represents the voltage across the capacitor, and the dotted line represents the current. The line running through the center is the zero, or reference point, for both the voltage and the current. The bottom line marks off the time of the cycle in terms of electrical degrees. Assume that the ac voltage has been acting on the capacitor for some time before the time represented by the starting point of the sine wave in the figure.



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Figure (3). - Phase relationship of voltage and current in a capacitive circuit.


At the beginning of the first quarter-cycle (0 to 90) the voltage has just passed through zero and is increasing in the positive direction. Since the zero point is the steepest part of the sine wave, the voltage is changing at its greatest rate. The charge on a capacitor varies directly with the voltage, and therefore the charge on the capacitor is also changing at its greatest rate at the beginning of the first quarter-cycle. In other words, the greatest number of electrons are moving off one plate and onto the other plate. Thus the capacitor current is at its maximum value, as part (A) of the figure shows.


As the voltage proceeds toward maximum at 90 degrees, its rate of change becomes less and less, hence the current must decrease toward zero. At 90 degrees the voltage across the capacitor is maximum, the capacitor is fully charged, and there is no further movement of electrons from plate to plate. That is why the current at 90 degrees is zero.


At the end of this first quarter-cycle the alternating voltage stops increasing in the positive direction and starts to decrease. It is still a positive voltage, but to the capacitor the decrease in voltage means that the plate which has just accumulated an excess of electrons must lose some electrons. The current flow, therefore, must reverse its direction. Part (B) of the figure shows the current curve to be below the zero line (negative current direction) during the second quarter-cycle (90 to 180).


At 180 degrees the voltage has dropped to zero. This means that for a brief instant the electrons are equally distributed between the two plates; the current is maximum because the rate of change of voltage is maximum. Just after 180 degrees the voltage has reversed polarity and starts building up its maximum negative peak which is reached at the end of the third quarter-cycle (180 to 270). During this third quarter-cycle the rate of voltage change gradually decreases as the charge builds to a maximum at 270 degrees. At this point the capacitor is fully charged and it carries the full impressed voltage. Because the capacitor is fully charged there is no further exchange of electrons; therefore, the current flow is zero at this point. The conditions are exactly the same as at the end of the first quarter-cycle (90) but the polarity is reversed.


Just after 270 degrees the impressed voltage once again starts to decrease, and the capacitor must lose electrons from the negative plate. It must discharge, starting at a minimum rate of flow and rising to a maximum. This discharging action continues through the last quarter-cycle (270 to 360) until the impressed-voltage has reached zero. At 360 degrees you are back at the beginning of the entire cycle, and everything starts over again.


If you examine the complete voltage and current curves in part D, you will see that the current always arrives at a certain point in the cycle 90 degrees ahead of the voltage, because of the charging and discharging action. You know that this time and place relationship between the current and voltage is called the phase relationship. The voltage-current phase relationship in a capacitive circuit is exactly opposite to that in an inductive circuit. The current of a capacitor leads the voltage across the capacitor by 90 degrees.

You realize that the current and voltage are both going through their individual cycles at the same time during the period the ac voltage is impressed. The current does not go through part of its cycle (charging or discharging), stop, and wait for the voltage to catch up. The amplitude and polarity of the voltage and the amplitude and direction of the current are continually changing. Their positions with respect to each other and to the zero line at any electrical instant-any degree between zero and 360 degrees-can be seen by reading upwards from the time-degree line.

 The current swing from the positive peak at zero degrees to the negative peak at 180 degrees is NOT a measure of the number of electrons, or the charge on the plates. It is a picture of the direction and strength of the current in relation to the polarity and strength of the voltage appearing across the plates.


At times it is convenient to use the word "ICE" to recall to mind the phase relationship of the current and voltage in capacitive circuits. I is the symbol for current, and in the word ICE it leads, or comes before, the symbol for voltage, E. C, of course, stands for capacitor. This memory aid is similar to the "ELI" used to remember the current and voltage relationship in an inductor. The phrase "ELI the ICE man" is helpful in remembering the phase relationship in both the inductor and capacitor.

Since the plates of the capacitor are changing polarity at the same rate as the ac voltage, the capacitor seems to pass an alternating current. Actually, the electrons do not pass through the dielectric, but their rushing back and forth from plate to plate causes a current flow in the circuit. It is convenient, however, to say that the alternating current flows "through" the capacitor. You know this is not true, but the expression avoids a lot of trouble when speaking of current flow in a circuit containing a capacitor. By the same short cut, you may say that the capacitor does not pass a direct current (if both plates are connected to a dc source, current will flow only long enough to charge the capacitor). With a capacitor type of hookup in a circuit containing both ac and dc, only the ac will be "passed" on to another circuit.

You have now learned two things to remember about a capacitor: A capacitor will appear to conduct an alternating current and a capacitor will not conduct a direct current.

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