Thursday, July 24, 2008


A rheostat is a two-terminal variable resistor. Often these are designed to handle much higher voltage and current. Typically these are constructed as a resistive wire wrapped to form a toroid coil with the wiper moving over the upper surface of the toroid, sliding from one turn of the wire to the next. Sometimes a rheostat is made from resistance wire wound on a heat resisting cylinder with the slider made from a number of metal fingers that grip lightly onto a small portion of the turns of resistance wire. The 'fingers' can be moved along the coil of resistance wire by a sliding knob thus changing the 'tapping' point. They are usually used as variable resistors rather than variable potential dividers.

Any three-terminal potentiometer can be used as a two-terminal variable resistor, by not connecting to the 3rd terminal. It is common practice to connect the wiper terminal to the unused end of the resistance track to reduce the amount of resistance variation caused by dirt on the track.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How to read Resistor Color Codes

How to read Resistor Color Codes

First the code





















The mnemonic

Bad Boys Ravish Only Young Girls But Violet Gives Willingly PC_fascists

Black is also easy to remember as zero because of the nothingness common to both.

(Please don't add or change the mnemonic - it will only get reverted -admin)

How to read the code


  • First find the tolerance band, it will typically be gold ( 5%) and sometimes silver (10%).
  • Starting from the other end, identify the first band - write down the number associated with that color; in this case Blue is 6.
  • Now 'read' the next color, here it is red so write down a '2' next to the six. (you should have '62' so far.)
  • Now read the third or 'multiplier exponent' band and write down that as the number of zeros.
  • In this example it is two so we get '6200' or '6,200'. If the 'multiplier exponent' band is Black (for zero) don't write any zeros down.
  • If the 'multiplier exponent' band is Gold move the decimal point one to the left. If the 'multiplier exponent' band is Silver move the decimal point two places to the left. If the resistor has one more band past the tolerance band it is a quality band.
  • Read the number as the '% Failure rate per 1000 hour' This is rated assuming full wattage being applied to the resistors. (To get better failure rates, resistors are typically specified to have twice the needed wattage dissipation that the circuit produces). Some resistors use this band for temco information. 1% resistors have three bands to read digits to the left of the multiplier. They have a different temperature coefficient in order to provide the 1% tolerance.
  • At 1% the temperature coefficient starts to become an important factor. at +/-200 ppm a change in temperature of 25 Deg C causes a value change of up to 1%

BS 1852 Coding for resistor values

BS 1852(British Standard 1852). The letter R is used for Ohms and K for Kohms M for Megohms and placed where the decimal point would go.

At the end is a letter that represents tolerance Where M=20%, K=10%, J=5%, G=2%, and F=1% D=.5% C=.25 B=.1%

BS 1852 coding examples
R33 0.33 ohms
2R2 2.2 ohms
470R 470 Ohms
1K2 1.2K ohms
22K 22K ohms
22K2 22.2K ohms
4M7 4.7M ohms
5K6G 5.6K ohms 2%
33KK 33k Ohms 10%
47K3F 47.3 K Ohms 1%

Common surface mount coding

The third or forth digit is the multiplier

Thus 103 is a 10K resistor

475 is a 4.7M resistor

Measure resistors with Volt Ohm meter.

We now have a program that calculates the minimum error on resistor dividers of up to 4 values.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Other Components

Other Components

LDR | Thermistor | Piezo transducer | Loudspeaker | Buzzer & Bleeper | Inductor (coil)

Photograph © Rapid Electronics
LDR symbol
circuit symbol

Light Dependent Resistor (LDR)

An LDR is an input transducer (sensor) which converts brightness (light) to resistance. It is made from cadmium sulphide (CdS) and the resistance decreases as the brightness of light falling on the LDR increases.

A multimeter can be used to find the resistance in darkness and bright light, these are the typical results for a standard LDR:

  • Darkness: maximum resistance, about 1Mohm.
  • Very bright light: minimum resistance, about 100ohm.
For many years the standard LDR has been the ORP12, now the NORPS12, which is about 13mm diameter. Miniature LDRs are also available and their diameter is about 5mm.

An LDR may be connected either way round and no special precautions are required when soldering.


Photograph © Rapid Electronics
thermistor symbol
circuit symbol
A thermistor is an input transducer (sensor) which converts temperature (heat) to resistance. Almost all thermistors have a negative temperature coefficient (NTC) which means their resistance decreases as their temperature increases. It is possible to make thermistors with a positive temperature coefficient (resistance increases as temperature increases) but these are rarely used. Always assume NTC if no information is given.

A multimeter can be used to find the resistance at various temperatures, these are some typical readings for example:

  • Icy water 0°C: high resistance, about 12kohm.
  • Room temperature 25°C: medium resistance, about 5kohm.
  • Boiling water 100°C: low resistance, about 400ohm.
Suppliers usually specify thermistors by their resistance at 25°C (room temperature). Thermistors take several seconds to respond to a sudden temperature change, small thermistors respond more rapidly.

A thermistor may be connected either way round and no special precautions are required when soldering. If it is going to be immersed in water the thermistor and its connections should be insulated because water is a weak conductor; for example they could be coated with polyurethane varnish.

Piezo transducer

piezo transducer
Photograph © Rapid Electronics
piezo transducer symbol
circuit symbol
Piezo transducers are output transducers which convert an electrical signal to sound. They require a driver circuit (such as a 555 astable) to provide a signal and if this is near their natural (resonant) frequency of about 3kHz they will produce a particularly loud sound.

Piezo transducers require a small current, usually less than 10mA, so they can be connected directly to the outputs of most ICs. They are ideal for buzzes and beeps, but are not suitable for speech or music because they distort the sound. They are sometimes supplied with red and black leads, but they may be connected either way round. PCB-mounting versions are also available.

Piezo transducers can also be used as input transducers for detecting sudden loud noises or impacts, effectively behaving as a crude microphone.

Photograph © Rapid Electronics
capacitor in series with loudspeaker
capacitor in series to block DC
loudspeaker symbol
circuit symbol


Loudspeakers are output transducers which convert an electrical signal to sound. Usually they are called 'speakers'. They require a driver circuit, such as a 555 astable or an audio amplifier, to provide a signal. There is a wide range available, but for many electronics projects a 300mW miniature loudspeaker is ideal. This type is about 70mm diameter and it is usually available with resistances of 8ohm and 64ohm. If a project specifies a 64ohm speaker you must use this higher resistance to prevent damage to the driving circuit.

Most circuits used to drive loudspeakers produce an audio (AC) signal which is combined with a constant DC signal. The DC will make a large current flow through the speaker due to its low resistance, possibly damaging both the speaker and the driving circuit. To prevent this happening a large value electrolytic capacitor is connected in series with the speaker, this blocks DC but passes audio (AC) signals. See capacitor coupling.

Loudspeakers may be connected either way round except in stereo circuits when the + and - markings on their terminals must be observed to ensure the two speakers are in phase.

Correct polarity must always be observed for large speakers in cabinets because the cabinet may contain a small circuit (a 'crossover network') which diverts the high frequency signals to a small speaker (a 'tweeter') because the large main speaker is poor at reproducing them.

Miniature loudspeakers can also be used as a microphone and they work surprisingly well, certainly good enough for speech in an intercom system for example.

buzzer bleeper
Buzzer (about 400Hz)Bleeper (about 3kHz)
Photographs © Rapid Electronics
circuit symbol buzzer symbol

Buzzer and Bleeper

These devices are output transducers converting electrical energy to sound. They contain an internal oscillator to produce the sound which is set at about 400Hz for buzzers and about 3kHz for bleepers.

Buzzers have a voltage rating but it is only approximate, for example 6V and 12V buzzers can be used with a 9V supply. Their typical current is about 25mA.

Bleepers have wide voltage ranges, such as 3-30V, and they pass a low current of about 10mA.

Buzzers and bleepers must be connected the right way round, their red lead is positive (+).

Inductor (miniature)
ferrite rod
Ferrite rod
Photographs © Rapid Electronics
inductor symbol
circuit symbol

Inductor (coil)

An inductor is a coil of wire which may have a core of air, iron or ferrite (a brittle material made from iron). Its electrical property is called inductance and the unit for this is the henry, symbol H. 1H is very large so mH and µH are used, 1000µH = 1mH and 1000mH = 1H. Iron and ferrite cores increase the inductance. Inductors are mainly used in tuned circuits and to block high frequency AC signals (they are sometimes called chokes). They pass DC easily, but block AC signals, this is the opposite of capacitors.

Inductors are rarely found in simple projects, but one exception is the tuning coil of a radio receiver. This is an inductor which you may have to make yourself by neatly winding enamelled copper wire around a ferrite rod. Enamelled copper wire has very thin insulation, allowing the turns of the coil to be close together, but this makes it impossible to strip in the usual way - the best method is to gently pull the ends of the wire through folded emery paper.
Warning: a ferrite rod is brittle so treat it like glass, not iron!

An inductor may be connected either way round and no special precautions are required when soldering.