On equivalent resistance of electrical circuits

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Abstract

While the standard (introductory physics) way of computing the equivalent resistance of nontrivial electrical circuits is based on Kirchhoff's rules, there is a mathematically and conceptually simpler approach, called the method of nodal potentials, whose basic variables are the values of the electric potential at the circuit's nodes. In this paper, we review the method of nodal potentials and illustrate it using the Wheatstone bridge as an example. We then derive a closed-form expression for the equivalent resistance of a generic circuit, which we apply to a few sample circuits. The result unveils a curious interplay between electrical circuits, matrix algebra, and graph theory and its applications to computer science. The paper is written at a level accessible by undergraduate students who are familiar with matrix arithmetic. Additional proofs and technical details are provided in appendices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1.4900918
JournalAmerican Journal of Physics
Volume83
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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