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Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:

  • Explain the operation of series-limiter circuits.
  • Explain the operation of parallel-limiter circuits.
  • Describe the operation of a dual-diode limiter circuit.
  • Explain the operation of clamper circuits.
  • Explain the composition of nonsinusoidal waves.
  • Explain how RC and RL circuits are used as integrators.
  • Explain how RC and RL circuits are used as differentiators.
  • Explain the operation of a counting circuit.
  • Explain the operation of a step-by-step counter used as a frequency divider.


As a technician, you will be confronted with many different types of LIMITING circuits. A LIMITER is defined as a device which limits some part of a waveform from exceeding a specified value. Limiting circuits are used primarily for wave shaping and circuit-protection applications.

A limiter is little more than the half-wave rectifier you studied in NEETS, Module 6, Introduction to Electronic Emission, Tubes, and Power Supplies. By using a diode, a resistor, and sometimes a dc bias voltage, you can build a limiter that will eliminate the positive or negative alternations of an input waveform. Such a circuit can also limit a portion of the alternations to a specific voltage level. In this chapter you will be introduced to five types of limiters: SERIES-POSITIVE, SERIES-NEGATIVE, PARALLEL-POSITIVE, PARALLEL-NEGATIVE, and DUAL-DIODE LIMITERS. Both series- and parallel-positive and negative limiters use biasing to obtain certain wave shapes. They will be discussed in this chapter.

The diode in these circuits is the voltage-limiting component. Its polarity and location, with respect to ground, are the factors that determine circuit action. In series limiters, the diode is in series with the output. In parallel limiters, the diode is in parallel with the output.


You should remember, from NEETS, Module 7, Introduction to Solid-State Devices and Power Supplies, that a diode will conduct when the anode voltage is positive with respect to the cathode voltage. The diode will not conduct when the anode is negative in respect to the cathode. Keeping these two simple facts in mind as you study limiters will help you understand their operation. Your knowledge of voltage divider action from NEETS, Module 1, Introduction to Matter, Energy, and Direct Current will also help you understand limiters.

In a SERIES LIMITER, a diode is connected in series with the output, as shown in view (A) of figure 4-1. The input signal is applied across the diode and resistor and the output is taken across the resistor. The series-limiter circuit can limit either the positive or negative alternation, depending on the polarity of the diode connection with respect to ground. The circuit shown in figure 4-1, view (B), is a SERIES-POSITIVE LIMITER. Reversing D1 would change the circuit to a SERIES-NEGATIVE LIMITER.

Figure 4-1A. - Series-positive limiter.

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Figure 4-1B. - Series-positive limiter.

Series-Positive Limiter

Let's look at the series-positive limiter and its outputs in figure 4-1. Diode D1 is in series with the output and the output is taken across resistor R1. The input must be negative with respect to the anode of the diode to make the diode conduct. When the positive alternation of the input signal (T0 to T1) is applied to the circuit, the cathode is positive with respect to the anode. The diode is reverse biased and will not conduct. Since no current can flow, no output is developed across the resistor during the positive alternation of the input signal.

During the negative half cycle of the input signal (T1 to T2), the cathode is negative with respect to the anode. This causes D1 to be forward biased. Current flows through R1 and an output is developed. The output during each negative alternation of the input is approximately the same as the input (-10 volts) because most of the voltage is developed across the resistor.

Ideally, the output wave shape should be exactly the same as the input wave shape with only the limited portion removed. When the diode is reverse biased, the circuit has a small amount of reverse current flow, as shown just above the 0-volt reference line in figure 4-2.During the limiting portion of the input signal, the diode resistance should be high compared to the resistor. During the time the diode is conducting, the resistance of the diode should be small as compared to that of the resistor. In other words, the diode should have a very high front-to-back ratio (forward resistance compared to reverse resistance). This relationship can be better understood if you study the effects that a front-to-back resistance ratio has on circuit output.

Figure 4-2. - Actual output of a series-positive limiter.

The following formula can be used to determine the output amplitude of the signal:

Let's use the formula to compare the front-to-back ratio of the diode in the forward- and reverse-biased conditions.


You can readily see that the formula comparison of the forward- and reverse-bias resistance conditions shows that a small amount of reverse current will flow during the limited portion of the input waveform. This small amount of reverse current will develop as the small positive voltage (0.09 volt) shown in figure 4-2 (T0 to T1 and T2 to T3). The actual amount of voltage developed will depend on the type of diode used. For the remainder of this chapter, we will use only idealized waveforms and disregard this small voltage.

SERIES-POSITIVE LIMITER WITH BIAS. - In the series-positive limiter (figure 4-1, view (A)), the reference point at the bottom of resistor R1 is ground, or 0 volts. By placing a dc potential at point (1) in figure 4-3 (views (A) and (B)), you can change the reference point. The reference point changes by the amount of dc potential that is supplied by the battery. The battery can either aid or oppose the flow of current in the series-limiter circuit. POSITIVE BIAS (aiding) is shown in view (A) and NEGATIVE BIAS (opposing) is shown in view (B).

Figure 4-3A. - Positive and negative bias. POSITIVE BIAS

Figure 4-3B. - Positive and negative bias. NEGATIVE BIAS

When the dc aids forward bias, as in view (A), the diode conducts even with no signal applied. An input signal sufficiently positive to overcome the dc bias potential is required to reverse bias and cut off the diode.

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