Damping in RLC Circuits

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This Demonstration shows the variation with time of the current I in a series RLC circuit (resistor, inductor, capacitor) in which the capacitor is initially charged to a voltage . The resonant frequency of the circuit is and the plotted normalized current is . There are three types of behavior depending on the value of the quality factor : overdamping when (no oscillation); critical damping when , (no oscillation and the most rapid damping); and underdamping when (damped oscillations).

Contributed by: James Burgess (March 2011)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA



Snapshot 1: overdamping

Snapshot 2: critical damping

Snapshot 3: underdamping

For critical damping, and the current is For overdamping and underdamping, and the current is , where . So when , both and are complex, leading to a damped oscillating current. But when , both and are real and negative, so that the current is damped without any oscillations.


J. R. Reitz, F. J. Milford, and R. W. Christy, Foundations of Electromagnetic Theory, New York: Addison–Wesley, 1993.

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