Circuit VR: The Wheatstone Bridge Analog Personal computer

Circuit VR: The Wheatstone Bridge Analog Personal computer

Table of Contents

We are usually impressed with a thing so easy can actually be so complicated. For case in point, what would you think goes into an analog pc? Of system, a “real” analog laptop has opamps that can do logarithms, square roots, multiply, and divide. But would it surprise you that you can make an analog machine like a slide rule working with a Wheatstone bridge — in essence two voltage dividers. You never even have to have any energetic equipment at all. It is an old plan and just one that employed to show up in electronic journals now and once more. I’ll exhibit you how they perform and simulate the gadget so you do not have to create it unless you just want to.

A voltage divider is one particular of the best circuits in the earth to analyze. Consider two resistors Ra and Rb in sequence. Voltage arrives in at the leading of Ra and the base of Rb is grounded. The node connecting Ra and Rb — let us get in touch with it Z — is what we’ll think about the output.

Let’s say we have a 10 V battery feeding A and a excellent voltmeter that does not load the circuit linked to Z. By Kirchoff’s present-day law we know the existing by means of Ra and Rb should be the similar. Immediately after all, there’s nowhere else for it to go. We also know the voltage drop across Ra moreover the voltage drop throughout Rb have to equal to 10 V. Kirchoff, conservation of power, regardless of what you want to connect with it.  Let’s connect with these portions I, Va, and Vb.

There are several approaches to go from listed here, but let’s acknowledge that the current by means of two sequence resistors will be the same as if it were one particular resistor of equal worth. That is, a 1 KΩ and a 2 KΩ resistor in series will draw as a great deal recent as a 3 KΩ resistor. That signifies Ohm’s legislation tells us:

I = 10/(Ra+Rb)

Now you can clear up for each individual voltage fall:

Va = I Ra

Vb = I Rb

In fact, our voltmeter at Z will evaluate Vb considering the fact that it is grounded.

Large Hairy Offer

Of training course, you possibly know about voltage dividers. But we were heading to talk about Wheatstone bridges. The truth of the matter is these are just two voltage dividers in parallel and you measure the voltage involving the two outputs (call them Z1 and Z2). You normally see this circuit drawn like a diamond, but do not let that fool you. It is still just two voltage dividers.

With out utilizing any math, you can see that if the voltage dividers are the exact same then Z1 and Z2 will be the exact and, hence, no recent will stream due to the fact the voltage in between the two factors is zero. What takes place when the divider is not the similar? There will be much more voltage on one particular Z level than the other.

Historically, this was utilized to measure resistance. You could use two matched resistors in aspect of the bridge, have an mysterious resistance in 1 of the remaining legs and a variable resistor with a dial calibrated to read through ohms. You’d turn the dial until a meter examine zero and read through the resistance benefit from the dial. If the electric power resource is AC, you can also measure reactance employing a very similar circuit.

But the Slide Rule?

So how do you get from a piece of antique test equipment to a slide rule? Let’s transform the bridge so the still left-hand divider has resistors Ra and Rb although the other a person has Rc and Rd. We can seem at the algebra:

Z1=V (Rb/(Ra + Rb))

Z2=V (Rd/(Rc + Rd))

We want Z1 to equivalent Z2 so:

V (Rb/(Ra + Rb)) = V (Rd/(Rc + Rd))

We can divide the two sides by V and get rid of that expression:

(Rb/(Ra + Rb)) = (Rd/(Rc + Rd))

So to balance the bridge we will need:

(Ra + Rb)/Rb  = (Rc + Rd)/Rd    reciprocal the two sides

(Ra Rd + Rb Rd) = (Rc Rb + Rb Rd)    multiply both of those sides by Rb Rd

Ra Rd = Rc Rb      subtract Rb Rd from both of those sides

Ra = (Rb Rc)/Rd    Remedy for Ra

As a easy assumed experiment, then, picture that Rd=1. If you set Rb and Rc then you can change Ra to harmony and the price of Ra will be the reply. Or you can set Rb to 1 and enter numbers in Rc and Rd. After you harmony Ra, you will know the final result of the division.

In exercise, however, you may well want to scale the final result, primarily for division. For example, if Rb=1, Rc=2, and Rd=1000 you would need to have to set A to .002 ohms which is tricky to do. In that circumstance, though, you could set Rb to a scale factor. If it have been, say, 10K, then Ra can be set to 20 ohms.


You could break out a number of potentiometers and have a go at this. We’d advise linear kinds until you are pretty useful at building logarithmic scale dials. But since this is Circuit VR, we’d rather do a simulation. Falstad fits the invoice, but any simulator is properly up to the process.

Analog slide rule simulation

There are two switches in the simulation. The top “C” swap allows you swap in the prime resistor or a 10X, 100X, or 1000X selection resistor for C. The bottom “D” switch allows you find a 1 ohm resistor or a variable resistor for D. The ammeter in the center shows the bridge equilibrium and will read through 0A when you are in stability.

Talking of variable resistors, I did put sliders for each individual of the resistors on the appropriate sidebar of the simulator. Even so, applying them generally puts values in like 10.002K which reads 10K on the display screen and is a resource of mistake. Of system, you’d have the exact trouble with authentic pots, so it’s possible that is a great simulation. Having said that, it is much better to double simply click the resistor you want to transform and enter its price directly. Definitely, you should not modify the three mounted C resistors or the preset D resistor.

Up coming Measures

A very similar gadget in a 1960 Radio Electronics

If you want to see what this circuit seemed like in the flesh, check out pages 48 and 49 of the June 1960 Radio Electronics. It may possibly have even been the extremely short article that spawned [Bil Herd’s] first computer kit. A similar kit from Edmund Scientific employed 3 potentiometers to sort the bridge in a typical configuration. We’ve even observed a model from GE that utilised an audio oscillator so you could hear the null place utilizing headphones. You can see each of all those on the posting commencing on site 65 of the December 1961 Well-known Electronics. Or test out a newer create about on

It would be an straightforward plenty of rainy day challenge. If you have an aged-fashioned mirror scale meter from an aged multimeter, it would seriously glow in this application. Generating the dials in a CAD system and printing them out would be easy, as well.

If you want a problem, why not use an AC supply along with variable capacitors and inductors to make a complicated selection calculator? That’d be a little something and if you pull it off, we’d cover it.

In the meantime, we’d like to place out that genuine analog computer systems were being not this very simple. On the other hand, by definition, this is an analog computer system just like a actual slide rule. If you browse the Radio Electronics short article, you will see it can even chain an answer into the next problem just like you would do on a slipstick.

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