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2017 February 6

Hysteresis oscillator is voltage-dependent

Filed under: Circuits course,Data acquisition — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:42
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Today in class I did a demo where I tested the dependence of the frequency of my relaxation oscillator board on the power supply voltage.

The demo I did in class had to be debugged on the fly (it turns out that if you configure the power supplies of the Analog Discovery 2 to be low-speed waveform channels, then you can’t set them with the “Supplies” tool, but there is no warning that you can’t when you do the setting), but otherwise went well.

One surprising result (i.e., something else that hadn’t happened when I tested the demo at home on Sunday) was that the frequency appeared to go up instead of down when I touched the capacitive touch sensor.  This I managed to quickly debug by changing my sampling rate to 600Hz, and observing that the 60Hz frequency modulation was extreme at the podium, taking the oscillation frequency from 0Hz to 3MHz on each cycle.  Grounding myself against the laptop removed this interference and produced the smooth expected signal.

Anyway, when I got home I was much too tired to grade the lab reports turned in today (I’ve got a cold that is wiping me out), so after a nap and dinner, I decided to make a clean plot of frequency vs. power-supply voltage for my relaxation oscillator.  I stuck the board into a breadboard, with no touch sensor, so that the capacitance would be fairly stable and not too much 60Hz interference would be picked up.  I powered the board from the Analog Discovery 2 power supply, sweeping the voltage from 0V to 5V (triangle wave, 50mHz, for a 20-second period).

I used the Teensy LC board with PteroDAQ to record both the frequency of the output and the voltage of the power supply.  To protect the Teensy board inputs, I used a 74AC04 inverter with 3.3V power to buffer the output of the hysteresis board, and I used a voltage divider made of two 180kΩ resistors to divide the power-supply voltage in half.

When I recorded a few cycles of the triangle waveform, using 1/60-second counting times for the frequency measurements, I got a clean plot:

At low voltages, the oscillator doesn't oscillate. The frequency then goes up with voltage, but peaks around 4.2V, then drops again at higher voltages.

At low voltages, the oscillator doesn’t oscillate. The frequency then goes up with voltage, but peaks around 4.2V, then drops again at higher voltages.

I expected the loss of oscillation at low voltage, but I did not expect the oscillator to be so sensitive to power-supply voltage, and I certainly did not expect it to be non-monotone.  I need to heed my class motto (“Try it and see!”) more often.

Sampling at a higher frequency reveals that the hysteresis oscillator is far from holding a steady frequency:

Using 1/600 second counting intervals for the frequency counter reveals substantial modulation of the frequency.

Using 1/600 second counting intervals for the frequency counter reveals substantial modulation of the frequency.

This plot of frequency vs. time shows the pattern of frequency modulation, which varies substantially as the voltage changes, but seems to be repeatable for a given voltage. (One period of the triangle wave is shown.)

This plot of frequency vs. time shows the pattern of frequency modulation, which varies substantially as the voltage changes, but seems to be repeatable for a given voltage. (One period of the triangle wave is shown.)

Zooming in on a region where the frequency modulation is large, we can see that there are components of both 60Hz and 120Hz.

Zooming in on a region where the frequency modulation is large, we can see that there are components of both 60Hz and 120Hz.

I could reduce the 60Hz interference a lot by using a larger C and smaller R for the RC time constant. That would make the touch sensor less sensitive (since the change in capacitance due to touching would be the same, but would be a much smaller fraction of the total capacitance). The sensor is currently excessively sensitive, though, so this might be a good idea anyway.

2017 February 5

Units matter

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:37
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I was a little surprised by how many students had trouble with the following homework question, which was intended to be an easy point for them:

Estimate C2(touching) − C2(not touching), the capacitance of a finger touch on the packing-tape and foil sensor, by estimating the area of your finger that comes in contact with the tape, and assume that the tape is 2mil tape (0.002” thick) made of polypropylene (look up the dielectric constant of polypropylene on line). Warning: an inch is not a meter, and the area of your finger tip touching a plate is not a square meter—watch your units in your calculations!

Remember that capacitance can be computed with the formula C = \frac{\epsilon_r\epsilon_0 A}{d}~,
where \epsilon_r is the dielectric constant,  \epsilon_0=8.854187817E-12 F/m is the permittivity of free space, A is the area, and d is the distance between the plates.

The problem is part of their preparation for making a capacitance touch sensor in lab—estimating about how much capacitance they are trying to sense.

There is a fairly wide range of different correct answers to this question, depending on how large an area is estimated for a finger touch. I considered any area from 0.5 (cm)2 to 4 (cm)2 reasonable, and might have accepted numbers outside that range with written justification from the students.  Some students have no notion of area, apparently, trying to use something like the length of their finger times the thickness of the tape for A.

People did not have trouble looking up the relative dielectric constant of polypropylene (about 2.2)—it might have helped that I mentioned that plastics were generally around 2.2 when we discussed capacitors a week or so ago.

What people had trouble with was the arithmetic with units, a subject that is supposed to have been covered repeatedly since pre-algebra in 7th grade. Students wanted to give me area in meters or cm (not square meters), or thought that inches, cm, and m could all be mixed in the same formula without any conversions.  Many students didn’t bother writing down the units in their formula, and just used raw numbers—this was a good way to forget to do the conversions into consistent units.  This despite the warning in the question to watch out for units!

A lot of students thought that 1 (cm)2 was 0.01 m2, rather than 1E-4 m2. Others made conversion errors from inches to meters (getting the thickness of the tape wrong by factors of 10 to 1000).

A number of students either left units entirely off their answer (no credit) or had the units way off (some students reported capacitances in the farad range, rather than a few tens of picofarads).

A couple of students forgot what the floating-point notation 8.854187817E-12 meant, even though we had covered that earlier in the quarter, and they could easily have looked up the constant on the web to figure out the meaning if they forgot.  I wish high-school teachers would cover this standard way of writing numbers, as most engineering and science faculty assume students already know how to read floating-point notation.

Many students left their answers in “scientific” notation (numbers like 3.3 10-11 F) instead of using more readable engineering notation (33pF). I didn’t take off anything for that, if the answer was correct, but I think that many students need a lot more practice with metric prefixes, so that they get in the habit of using them.

On the plus side, it seems that about a third of the class did get this question right, so there is some hope that students helping each other will spread the understanding to more students.  (Unfortunately, the collaborations that are naturally forming seem to be good students together and clueless students together, which doesn’t help the bottom half of the class much.)

2017 January 29

Thermistor lab graded

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:14
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I just spent my entire weekend grading 37 design reports for the thermistor lab—it has not been a fun weekend.  The coming week or two will be grading hell, as I have homework due for the 72-person class Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (with another lab report due next Monday), and no grader or TA.

This lab report was the first of the quarter, so there were a lot more problems with the submissions than I expect to see on future lab reports.  I’ve tried to collect some of my notes on the more common writing errors for this blog post, with the intent of trying to work them into the chapter on lab reports in the textbook:

  • Some students had wordy introductions. I want reports to start with a clear, concise statement of the engineering goal, not a dump of any random factoid that might be vaguely related to the report.
  • Report should be standalone—not referring to homework. If something in the homework is needed, incorporate it!
  • Use paragraphs with one topic each. Every paragraph should start with a topic sentence, and the rest of the paragraph (if there is any) should support and amplify that topic sentence. It is better to have one-sentence paragraphs than to ramble from topic to topic without a paragraph break.
  • Fit your model to your data, not your data to a model. You should never be changing your data to make it fit your theory—you should be changing your theory to fit your data.If you say you are fitting your data to your model, you are claiming to commit scientific fraud.
  • Best-fit curves are not necessarily lines—students don’t have a “line of best fit” in this lab, because the models we’re fitting are nonlinear.
  • Figure captions should be paragraphs below figure, not noun phrases above figure. Any anomalies or interesting features of the figure should be pointed out in the caption.  Most of the crucial content of the report should be in the figures and captions, because that is all 90% of readers ever look at in a science or engineering paper.
  • Refer to figures and equations by number, rather than “schematic below” or “equation above”.
  • Don’t use screenshots for schematics or gnuplot output—export graphics properly as PDF files and incorporate them into the report so that they can be printed at full resolution even when scaled.
  • Many students use way too much passive voice.  Using passive voice is a way to hide who did something or deny responsibility (see Nixon’s “mistakes were made”) and should not be necessary in a design report.
  • Use past tense for things that have been done, not present tense.  Also, “would” is not some formal version of the past tense—it is a marker for the subjunctive mood in English, which has a whole lot of different uses.  In technical writing, the most common use of subjunctive is for “contrary to fact”.  If you say “I would put the thermometer in the water”, I immediately want to know why you don’t—I expect to see the sentence continue with “, but I won’t because …”
  • “Software” is an uncountable noun, which means that it can’t be used with the indefinite article “a”.  There are a lot of uncountable nouns in English, and there isn’t much sense to which words are countable and which aren’t—even closely related languages with similar notions of countable and uncountable nouns mark different nouns as uncountable.  I’ve only found one dictionary that marks countability of English nouns—the Oxford Dictionary of American English, which is available used for very little money.
  • Equations are part of a sentence (as a noun phrase), not random blobs that can be sprinkled anywhere in the paper.  No equation should appear without a textual explanation of its meaning, and the meaning of its variables.
  • There was a lot of misuse of “directly proportional” and “inversely proportional”: A directly proportional relationship plots as a straight line through zero. The voltage output in the thermistor lab is not directly proportional to temperature—it is increasing with temperature, but the function is sigmoidal, not linear.  Similarly, an inversely proportional relationship between x and y is a direct relationship between 1/x and y. It plots as a hyperbola. The resistance of a thermistor is not inversely proportional to temperature, as the resistance is proportional to e^{B/T}  not B/T.
  • Read the data sheet carefully!  A lot of students claimed that their thermometers were good to 150°C, but the data sheet said that the thermistor they were using had a maximum temperature range of  –40°C to 105°C, not 150°C.
  • Students need to use the right metric prefixes.  For example, “kilo” is a lower-case “k” not an upper-case “K”.  This becomes even more urgent for “micro” (µ), “milli” (m), and “mega” (M).  At least one report needs to be redone because the students claimed a value around 200MΩ, when they (probably) meant 200mΩ.  What’s a factor of a billion between friends?
  • Some students are clearly not used to using the prefixes, because I saw a lot of values around 0.0001kΩ, which should have been written 0.1Ω (or even 100mΩ).  Even worse, a lot of students just wrote 0.0001, with no indication what the units were (that triggered a number of “redo” grades on the reports).
  • “Lastly” is not a word—”last” is already an adverb. The same goes for “first”, “second”, and “third”. Perhaps it is easier to keep this in mind if you think of “next”, which is in the same class of words that are both adjectives and adverbs. For some reason, students never write “nextly”.
  • The ×  symbol (\times in LaTeX) is only used for crossproduct, not for scalar multiplication (except in elementary school). The normal way to show scalar multiplication is juxtaposition of the variables, with no operator symbol.
  • “Before” and “after” make no sense in the voltage divider circuit. You can sometimes use those terms in a block diagram that has a clearly directed information flow from inputs to output, but not for talking about the two legs of a voltage divider.

 

 

 

2017 January 7

Book draft 2017 Jan 7

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 17:03
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I’ll be releasing an updated version of the Applied Electronics for Bioengineers text on LeanPub today.  I’ll probably raise the minimum price next week, to reflect the improved quality, but I’ll give people a few days to get the book at the old price.  (Remember that the LeanPub model allows you to get all future editions of the book free, as long as I continue publishing through them, so there is no reason to wait until a new edition comes out.)

I’ll list the changes in two sections: changes that were made since the October 2016 release, then changes that were made in the Oct 2016 release (because I don’t seem to have posted those to the blog).

Changes since October 2016

  • Fleshed out assignment schedule and moved to Preface.
  • Rearranged several of the early chapters (without significant content change) for better ordering of assignments.
  • Added mention of Analog Discovery 2 to oscilloscope chapter, replaced some Bitscope traces with Analog Discovery~2 traces.
  • Added bonus frequency response activity to pressure sensor lab.
  • Added Lego-brick pictures for the optical-pulse-monitor lab.
  • Revised all chapters and labs from the microphone chapter to the EKG lab (the second half of the course).  Many of the changes were minor revisions (typo fixes, indexing, changing to numbered exercises, spell check).
  • Added exercises to the microphone chapter and moved some exercises from the microphone lab to the microphone chapter.
  • Moved some of the oscilloscope introduction from the microphone lab to the sampling lab.
  • Rewrote DC analysis of microphone to use function generator, rather than potentiometer, for variable voltage.
  • Added R+L figure to loudspeaker chapter, rather than referring to impedance chapter.
  • Moved inductor description to new chapter just before loudspeakers.
  • Added RMS power exercise and R-L plot exercise to loudspeaker chapter.
  • Moved some intro amplifier material from preamplifier lab to pressure-sensor lab, reflecting change in order of labs.
  • Moved some instructions about color coding wiring from preamplifier to an earlier lab.
  • Added mention of using earbuds instead of loudspeakers for preamplifier lab.
  • Redid Miller plateau oscilloscope trace using Analog Discovery 2, using smaller gate resistor to get higher speed.
  • Added cross-section of a power nFET (still needs to be redrawn)
  • Fixed clipping on several schematics (the Vdd power symbol gets clipped if at the top of the schematic—a known bug in SchemeIt).
  • Put inductive load in the single-nFET driver schematic, including flyback diode.
  • Added explanation of why the crude model for computing slew rate is so far off.
  • Removed most references to obsolete AOI514 nFETs (using NTD4858N nFETs instead).  This required gathering new data to characterize the transistors.
  • Redid the section on open-collector outputs for LM2903 comparators.
  • Added table of conductivity for NaCl solutions.
  • Added section on 4-electrode conductivity measurements.
  • Moved information about nulling ohmmeters when measuring resistance from electrode lab to loudspeaker lab.
  • Reiterated some of the EKG safety info in the EKG lab.

Changes between April 2016 and October 2016

  • Added more background to first chapter (logarithms, picture of complex plane) and started chapter numbering at 1 instead of 0.
  • Rearranged chapters for new lab order, with all the audio labs after the pressure sensor and optical pulse monitor.
  • Updated information on using lead-free solder.
  • Added a generic block diagram to lab report guidelines, and added definition of “port” to the block diagram discussion.
  • Added subsection on Thévenin equivalent of voltage divider.
  • Added section on series and parallel connections to resistance chapter, to reflect lower prerequisite expectations of course.
  • Moved some gnuplot exercises into thermistor lab from sampling and aliasing, to reflect new lab order, also moved PteroDAQ installation instructions.
  • Added picture of metal thermometer to thermistor lab.
  • Added voltmeter connection schematic to DAQ chapter.
  • Moved details of PteroDAQ out of DAQ chapter to separate appendix.
  • Added potentiometer schematic and photo to resistance chapter.
  • Split data acquisition from sampling and aliasing into separate chapters.
  • Improved figure showing aliasing and Nyquist frequency.
  • Added pictures for wire stripping and flying resistors to sampling lab.
  • Added scaffolding for oscilloscope probe exercise.
  • Hysteresis measurement changed to use function generator.
  • Moved multi-stage amplifier discussion to beginning of amplifier chapter and beefed it up.
  • Added introduction to differential amplifiers before instrumentation amps and op amps.
  • Added pH meter block diagram to beginning of amplifier chapter.
  • Moved discussion of clipping to the end of the instrumentation amplifier section.
  • Added active low-pass filters to amplifier chapter.
  • Added chapter on transimpedance amplifiers with section on log-transimpedance amplifiers and rewrote pulse-monitor lab to use logarithmic current-to-voltage conversion.
  • Added discussion of absorbance of melanin, fat, and water to blood section.
  • Moved the instrumentation amplifier internals to new chapter, before the EKG chapter.
  • Simplified the sensitivity calculation for LEDs and phototransistors, making the exercise more productive.
  • Added text to caption of microphone preamp photo.
  • Moved loudness section from the amplifier chapter to the microphone chapter.
  • Added notes at end of loudspeaker lab to improve student reporting of models.
  • Added more safety information to EKG chapter
  • Made all exercises be numbered, and changed most of the prelab questions into numbered exercises.
  • Added equipment-needed lists to the beginning of each lab.
  • Redrew several block diagrams using draw.io, and added captions to several figures to indicate what drawing tool was used.
  • Changed caption formatting to be more distinctly different from body text.
  • Cleaned up several schematics.

2017 January 2

LM2903 open-collector comparator characterization

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 18:02
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In Last power-amp lecture, I posted an I-vs-V plot for the LM2903 comparator’s open-collector output, which I had made sometime in 2013, I think:

There are two regions of operation for the open-collector output of the LM2903. In the saturation region, the current goes up slowly with voltage (as about V^0.15, while in the "linear" region, it goes up as about V^1.5). The transition occurs when VOL is about 0.25 V, so we are almost always in the saturation region.

There are two regions of operation for the open-collector output of the LM2903. In the saturation region, the current goes up slowly with voltage (as about V^0.15, while in the “linear” region, it goes up as about V^1.5). The transition occurs when VOL is about 0.25 V, so we are almost always in the saturation region.

I decided to redo the plot using the Analog Discovery~2, as I now include the open-collector curve in the textbook (in an optional section, since we no longer use open-collector comparators). I used a 12V wall-wart and both the function generator and oscilloscope functions. I used the “custom channel” and XY plot features to get the I-vs-V plot on the screen (though I saved the data and replotted with gnuplot, to superimpose different runs). I also averaged 10 sweeps to reduce noise.

R1 was 56Ω for testing high voltages and currents, and R1 was 2.2kΩ for testing low voltages and low currents.

R1 was 56Ω for testing high voltages and currents, and R1 was 2.2kΩ for testing low voltages and low currents.

The triangle-wave generator and the nFET makes a variable load for the comparator, from slightly more than R1 up to about 1MΩ.

Even up to 11V, the LM2903 collector stays below the 20mA maximum current, but I'd want to make sure that there was some current-limiting resistor for any power-supply voltage above 12V.

Even up to 11V, the LM2903 collector stays below the 20mA maximum current, but I’d want to make sure that there was some current-limiting resistor for any power-supply voltage above 12V.

The results with the Analog Discovery 2 are much cleaner than my old results, which were most likely done with an Arduino, which has a very low resolution ADC.

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