Resistor-Capacitor (RC) Filters

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FAILURE ANALYSIS OF AN LC CHOKE-INPUT FILTER. - The filter capacitors are subject to open circuits, short circuits, and excessive leakage; the series inductor is subject to open windings and, occasionally, shorted turns or a short circuit to the core.

The filter capacitor in the LC choke-input filter circuit is not subject to extreme voltage surges because of the protection offered by the inductor. However, the capacitor can become open, leaky, or shorted.

Shorted turns in the choke may reduce the value of inductance below the critical value. This will result in excessive peak-rectifier current, accompanied by an abnormally high output voltage, excessive ripple amplitude, and poor voltage regulation.

A choke winding that is open, or a choke winding which is shorted to the core will result in a no-output condition. A choke winding which is shorted to the core may cause overheating of the rectifier element(s) and blown fuses.

With the supply voltage removed from the input to the filter circuit, one terminal of the capacitor can be disconnected from the circuit. The capacitor should be checked with a capacitance analyzer to determine its capacitance and leakage resistance. When the capacitor is electrolytic, you must use the correct polarity at all times. A decrease in capacitance or losses within the capacitor can decrease the efficiency of the filter and can produce excessive ripple amplitude.

Resistor-Capacitor (RC) Filters

The RC capacitor-input filter is limited to applications in which the load current is small. This type of filter is used in power supplies where the load current is constant and voltage regulation is not necessary. For example, RC filters are used in high-voltage power supplies for cathode-ray tubes and in decoupling networks for multistage amplifiers.

Figure 4-28 shows an RC capacitor-input filter and associated waveforms. Both half-wave and full-wave rectifiers are used to provide the inputs. The waveform shown in view A of the figure represent the unfiltered output from a typical rectifier circuit. Note that the dashed lines in view A indicate the average value of output voltage (E avg) for the half-wave rectifier. The average output voltage (E avg) is less than half (approximately 0.318) the amplitude of the voltage peaks. The average value of output voltage (Eavg ) for the full-wave rectifier is greater than half (approximately 0.637), but is still much less than, the peak amplitude of the rectifier-output waveform. With no filter circuit connected across the output of the rectifier circuit (unfiltered), the waveform has a large value of pulsating component (ripple) as compared to the average (or dc) component.

Figure 4-28. - RC filter and waveforms.

The RC filter in figure 4-28 consists of an input filter capacitor (C1), a series resistor (R1), and an output filter capacitor (C2). (This filter is sometimes referred to as an RC pi-section filter because its schematic symbol resembles the Greek letter p).

The single capacitor filter is suitable for many noncritical, low-current applications. However, when the load resistance is very low or when the percent of ripple must be held to an absolute minimum, the capacitor value required must be extremely large. While electrolytic capacitors are available in sizes up to 10,000 microfarads or greater, the large sizes are quite expensive. A more practical approach is to use a more sophisticated filter that can do the same job but that has lower capacitor values, such as the RC filter.

Views A, B, and C of figure 4-28 show the output waveforms of a half-wave and a full-wave rectifier. Each waveform is shown with an RC filter connected across the output. The following explanation of how a filter works will show you that an RC filter of this type does a much better job than the single capacitor filter.

C1 performs exactly the same function as it did in the single capacitor filter. It is used to reduce the percentage of ripple to a relatively low value. Thus, the voltage across C1 might consist of an average dc value of +100 volts with a ripple voltage of 10 volts peak-to-peak. This voltage is passed on to the R1-C2 network, which reduces the ripple even further.

C2 offers an infinite impedance (resistance) to the dc component of the output voltage. Thus, the dc voltage is passed to the load, but reduced in value by the amount of the voltage drop across R1. However, R1 is generally small compared to the load resistance. Therefore, the drop in the dc voltage by R1 is not a drawback.

Component values are designed so that the resistance of R1 is much greater than the reactance (XC) of C2 at the ripple frequency. C2 offers a very low impedance to the ac ripple frequency. Thus, the ac ripple senses a voltage divider consisting of R1 and C2 between the output of the rectifier and ground. Therefore, most of the ripple voltage is dropped across R1. Only a trace of the ripple voltage can be seen across C2 and the load. In extreme cases where the ripple must be held to an absolute minimum, a second stage of RC filtering can be added. In practice, the second stage is rarely required. The RC filter is extremely popular because smaller capacitors can be used with good results.

The RC filter has some disadvantages. First, the voltage drop across R1 takes voltage away from the load. Second, power is wasted in R1 and is dissipated in the form of unwanted heat. Finally, if the load resistance changes, the voltage across the load will change. Even so, the advantages of the RC filter overshadow these disadvantages in many cases.

Q.24 Why is the use of large value capacitors in filter circuits discouraged? answer.gif (214 bytes)
Q.25 When is a second RC filter stage used? answer.gif (214 bytes)

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