Friday, May 30, 2014

Book Recommendation (Two, Actually...)

After setting up my 5V DC regulated power supply, I was left with some questions about capacitors. I sort of understand the chemistry involved, and I know the bare necessities for selecting capacitors and how to wire them properly into a circuit, but there's still a lot I don't know. I'm the kind of person who really digs into a subject when I'm interested, so I often head to my existing library before looking elsewhere for information on a subject. Luckily, I had two books on the shelf that helped expand my knowledge of capacitors and provided me with some basic circuits that use capacitors in interesting ways.

The first book is from an author you're probably already familiar with -- The Encyclopedia of Electronic Components Volume 1 by Charles Platt. (No, I don't own stock in Maker Media!) I bought this book back in 2012 after a quick scan of its contents and it has turned into a very reliable and useful source of info. Two more volumes are planned, but this one covers Power Sources & Conversion -- namely resistors, capacitors, inductors, switches, encoders, relays and transistors. Plus power sources. It's right there in the title. (Volume 2 is showing a September 2014 release date.)

This is not a book you just sit down and read. Maybe you can... but not me. Instead, I've used it a number of times over the last few years as a reference for finding the right component for a circuit. In the case of setting up my regulated power supply and my questions about capacitors, I turned to Chapter 12 and read through the 15-page section on capacitors... it's by no means comprehensive, and if you're looking for actual circuit schematics, that's not what the book is really about. But still... definitely recommended reading for what I call Experiment 0 that uses two different capacitors. My version uses three because I lacked a .33 microfarad and needed to put a 0.1 and 0.22 in parallel to mimic the behavior. Right there on page 106, when "two or more capacitors are wired in parallel, their total capacitance is the sum of their separate capacitance." Put capacitors in series, and you might get a surprise you weren't expecting... or not.

I've gotten quite a bit from this book -- helped me with understanding stepper motors better as well as motors in general. I'm now re-reading the chapter on voltage regulators (that other key component used in your regulated power supply). Like I said... I tend to sink myself in a subject when I have questions.

It's a great resource, especially if you're working your way through either of Charles' electronics books.

The second book is a bit older, but I've had fun with it here and there. It's Forrest M. Mims III's Getting Started in Electronics. It's a bit unusual to read at first... hand sketches and hand written notes on lined paper. But you'll be amazed at what extra info you'll pick up in its128 pages.

I seemed to recall it had something about voltage regulation, and sure enough on page 101 there's a simple circuit labeled Voltage Regulator, but this one uses silicon diodes and a resistor... no capacitor and no voltage regulator component needed. As a matter of fact, there's another version on page 103 that uses what's called a Zener diode. (And look at that... Zener diodes are covered in Chapter 26 of Charles' Encyclopedia!) There's even the simple algebra equations needed to calculate the desired diode value(s) and current and resistor value. Very useful!

This book is just too interesting. Want to wire up a simple voltage doubler? Page 102, but take note of the WARNING about high voltage! Oh, look... schematics for voltage triplers and quadruplers. Those could come in handy.

Page 100 to 128 provides 100 electronic circuits to play around with and use. (Hmmm... maybe another Hands-On blog-project idea... wire up all 100 circuits.)

Great book. Love the hand sketches of components and the easy-to-read notes -- Mr. Mims has some excellent hand writing.

Alright... back to prepping Experiment 2.

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