Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Wiring Capacitors in Series and Parallel


A capacitor is defined as any two conductors, separated by an insulator where each conductor carries a net excess charge that is equal in magnitude and opposite in sign. Its capacitance, C, is defined as

C \equiv \frac{Q}  {V}

where Q is the magnitude of the excess charge on each conductor and V is the voltage (or potential difference) across the plates.

We can use Gauss’ Law to show that for an ideal parallel plate capacitor where the electric field lines are always perpendicular to the plates, the capacitance across the plates is related to the area, A, of the plates and spacing, d, between them as shown in Equation 2,

C = \frac{{\kappa {\varepsilon _0}A}}  {d}

where κ is the dielectric constant determined by the nature of the insulator between the conducting plates and ε0 is the electric constant (or permittivity).


In this activity, you will

  • Determine the effective capacitance when three different capacitors, labeled A, B, and C, are wired in series and when they are wired in parallel.
  • Predict the capacitance of a network of these capacitors that has both series and parallel elements in it.
  • Examine a “movie” showing what happens to the effective capacitance when these three capacitors are combined in different ways.

Software for Experiment

This experiment uses Logger Pro software for video analysis. The video for analysis is included with the lab book.

Physics with Video Analysis

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Rolling Ball
2Big and Small: How to Scale an Image
3Velocity Change
4Velocity and Speed
5Velocity and Acceleration
6Three Movies: Determining Constant Acceleration
7Demon Drop: A Mathematical Modeling Activity
8Jumping on the Moon
92D Vectors: Pool Ball Displacement, Velocity, and Speed
10Galileo's Projectile I: Using 17th Century Techniques
11Galileo's Projectile II: Using Contemporary Techniques
12Projectile Motion Vectors
13Frictional Slowing
14Impulsive Juggling
15Center of Mass Motions
16Finding a Spring Constant
17Net Work - Kinetic Energy Theorem
19Slinky Wave Speeds
20Superposition of Slinky Waves
21A Wave Pulse Equation
22Doppler Effect: Surface Water Waves
23Doppler Effect: Sound Waves
24A Heat Engine: Relating Work to the P-V Cycle
25Coulomb's Law for Two Charged Spheres
26Discharge Rate
27Electric Field Due to a Line of Charge
28Resistance and Ohm's Law
29Parallel Plate Capacitor: Potential Difference vs. Spacing
30Wiring Capacitors in Series and Parallel
31Using RC Decay to Determine Capacitance
32Exploring Faraday's Law
33Snell's Law of Refraction

Experiment 30 from Physics with Video Analysis Lab Book

<em>Physics with Video Analysis</em> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

Buy the Book

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