By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Analyze circuits that have an inductor and resistor in series
- Describe how current and voltage exponentially grow or decay based on the initial conditions
A circuit with resistance and self-inductance is known as an
circuit. Figure 11.4.1(a) shows an
circuit consisting of a resistor, an inductor, a constant source of emf, and switches
is closed, the circuit is equivalent to a single-loop circuit consisting of a resistor and an inductor connected across a source of emf (Figure 11.4.1(b)). When
is opened and
is closed, the circuit becomes a single-loop circuit with only a resistor and an inductor (Figure 11.4.1(c)).
We first consider the
circuit of Figure 11.4.1(b). Once
is closed and
is open, the source of emf produces a current in the circuit. If there were no self-inductance in the circuit, the current would rise immediately to a steady value of
. However, from Faraday’s law, the increasing current produces an emf
across the inductor. In accordance with Lenz’s law, the induced emf counteracts the increase in the current and is directed as shown in the figure. As a result,
starts at zero and increases asymptotically to its final value.
Applying Kirchhoff’s loop rule to this circuit, we obtain
which is a first-order differential equation for
. Notice its similarity to the equation for a capacitor and resistor in series (See RC Circuits). Similarly, the solution to Equation 11.4.1 can be found by making substitutions in the equations relating the capacitor to the inductor. This gives
is the inductive time constant of the circuit.
is plotted in Figure 11.4.2(a). It starts at zero, and as
asymptotically. The induced emf
is directly proportional to
, or the slope of the curve. Hence, while at its greatest immediately after the switches are thrown, the induced emf decreases to zero with time as the current approaches its final value of
. The circuit then becomes equivalent to a resistor connected across a source of emf.
The energy stored in the magnetic field of an inductor is
Thus, as the current approaches the maximum current
, the stored energy in the inductor increases from zero and asymptotically approaches a maximum of
.The time constant
tells us how rapidly the current increases to its final value. At
, the current in the circuit is, from Equation 11.4.2,
of the final value
. The smaller the inductive time constant
, the more rapidly the current approaches
.We can find the time dependence of the induced voltage across the inductor in this circuit by using
and Equation 11.4.2:
The magnitude of this function is plotted in Figure 11.4.2(b). The greatest value of
; it occurs when
is greatest, which is immediately after
is closed and
is opened. In the approach to steady state,
decreases to zero. As a result, the voltage across the inductor also vanishes as
.The time constant
also tells us how quickly the induced voltage decays. At
, the magnitude of the induced voltage is
The voltage across the inductor therefore drops to about
of its initial value after one time constant. The shorter the time constant
, the more rapidly the voltage decreases.After enough time has elapsed so that the current has essentially reached its final value, the positions of the switches in Figure 11.4.1(a) are reversed, giving us the circuit in part (c). At
, the current in the circuit is
. With Kirchhoff’s loop rule, we obtain
The solution to this equation is similar to the solution of the equation for a discharging capacitor, with similar substitutions. The current at time
The current starts at
and decreases with time as the energy stored in the inductor is depleted (Figure 11.4.3).The time dependence of the voltage across the inductor can be determined from
This voltage is initially
, and it decays to zero like the current. The energy stored in the magnetic field of the inductor,
, also decreases exponentially with time, as it is dissipated by Joule heating in the resistance of the circuit.
An RL Circuit with a Source of emf
In the circuit of Figure 11.4.1(a), let
open (Figure 11.4.1(b)), (a) what is the time constant of the circuit? (b) What are the current in the circuit and the magnitude of the induced emf across the inductor at
, and as
The time constant for an inductor and resistor in a series circuit is calculated using Equation 11.4.3. The current through and voltage across the inductor are calculated by the scenarios detailed from Equation 11.4.2 and Equation 11.4.10.
a. The inductive time constant is
, we have, respectively,
From Equation 11.4.10, the magnitude of the induced emf decays as
, and as
, we obtain
If the time of the measurement were much larger than the time constant, we would not see the decay or growth of the voltage across the inductor or resistor. The circuit would quickly reach the asymptotic values for both of these. See Figure 11.4.4.
An RL Circuit without a Source of emf
After the current in the
circuit of Example 11.4.1 has reached its final value, the positions of the switches are reversed so that the circuit becomes the one shown in Figure 11.4.1(c). (a) How long does it take the current to drop to half its initial value? (b) How long does it take before the energy stored in the inductor is reduced to
of its maximum value?
The current in the inductor will now decrease as the resistor dissipates this energy. Therefore, the current falls as an exponential decay. We can also use that same relationship as a substitution for the energy in an inductor formula to find how the energy decreases at different time intervals.
a. With the switches reversed, the current decreases according to
At a time
when the current is one-half its initial value, we have
where we have used the inductive time constant found in Example 11.4.1.
b. The energy stored in the inductor is given by
If the energy drops to
of its initial value at a time
, we have
Upon canceling terms and taking the natural logarithm of both sides, we obtain
, the time it takes for the energy stored in the inductor to decrease to
of its initial value is
This calculation only works if the circuit is at maximum current in situation (b) prior to this new situation. Otherwise, we start with a lower initial current, which will decay by the same relationship.
CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING 11.7
have the dimensions of time.
CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING 11.8
(a) If the current in the circuit of in Figure 11.4.1(b) increases to
of its final value after
, what is the inductive time constant? (b) If
, what is the value of the self-inductance? (c) If the
resistor is replaced with a
resister, what is the time taken for the current to reach
of its final value?
CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING 11.9
For the circuit of in Figure 11.4.1(b), show that when steady state is reached, the difference in the total energies produced by the battery and dissipated in the resistor is equal to the energy stored in the magnetic field of the coil.
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Introduction to Electricity, Magnetism, and Circuits by Daryl Janzen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.
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