# Parallel circuit of current sources

1. Mar 16, 2017

### BAJ

Assume I have a parallel circuit of current sources with 5 current sources generating 1mA each. Therefore from both the terminals I will get 5mA total. Now if I add a battery to one of the terminals where current(i) will flow into my circuit. If i = 50mA, will I get 55mA current from another terminal of my circuit??

2. Mar 17, 2017

### Baluncore

Welcome to PF.
Fixed current sources regulate a current flowing from a more positive node of the circuit to a more negative terminal. They do not fix the voltage, that is decided by the way external components respond to the sourced current.

If there are five 1mA sources in parallel, you will get the equivalent of a 5mA current source.

How do you “add a battery” to “one terminal”. You need to draw a couple of circuit diagrams showing the sources with and without the battery. Are you going to be charging that battery or is it an arbitrary fixed voltage source.

I can see no way that your statement could be true. So my answer is probably No.

But produce your circuit diagrams, (drag and drop them onto the edt window), so we can work out exactly how you modify the circuit when you add the battery.

3. Mar 17, 2017

### BAJ

Actually by adding a battery I meant connecting the battery in a way that it is able to deliver the current to one terminal. However here is my proposed circuit.

4. Mar 17, 2017

### FOIWATER

Replace the five current sources by a single 5 mA current source in series with a battery and resistor.

What would be the value of 'i' then?

5. Mar 17, 2017

### BAJ

55mA. Isn't it?

6. Mar 17, 2017

### FOIWATER

If you have a single loop and you know the value of current through any one component, isn't that the value of the current through out the circuit?

In this circuit the current source dictates the current. The voltage source would dictate the voltage level.

The ideal current source allows any voltage to be developed across it. The ideal battery allows any amount of current to flow through it.

That's the way I would look at this, some one else may have more insight.

7. Mar 17, 2017

### BAJ

But wont the resultant current add up although the current source is adding current to the circuit?

8. Mar 17, 2017

### FOIWATER

No the current source's value will determine total circuit current is my understanding of this. The voltage developed across the resistor will then be determined by ohm's law, and the voltage developed across the current source will be determined by the value of the battery voltage.

The amount of current through the battery is dictated by the current source is what I am saying.

The issue lies when we say "the battery supplies 50mA and the current sources supply 5mA.." That wouldn't happen.

9. Mar 17, 2017

### BAJ

"No the current source's value will determine total circuit current is my understanding of this." ----- didn't understand. can u explain a bit??

10. Mar 17, 2017

### BAJ

And moreover I don't want to consider it as equivalent of 5mA in series with the battery. Because if you consider only the parallel circuit and the current source, then both pts A and B will have 5mA current. Now when battery delivers 50mA current in pt A, then definitely backflow is going to happen for which the pt B will have a current reading of 55mA (theoretically). It looks correct, no?

11. Mar 17, 2017

### FOIWATER

Sure.

Have you ever read about what constitutes a current source? like you already know batteries and generators are examples of voltage sources right? what is an example of a current source?

have you studied transistors yet? This is something that comes up in very basic transistor circuits. Transistors are examples of current sources. The current through a transistor is a function of its amplification factor, and the base current. Not the voltage tied to the collector of the transistor.

Take a basic transistor circuit:

This is quite similiar to your circuit. You have a battery, Vcc, you have a resistor, and you have a current source. The current through the battery, resistor, and current source is affected only by the base current of the transistor. The voltage supply is a constant, and the current it delivers is a function of the current source. The current source is drawing current from the battery. They cannot be different..

If you have a circuit with no battery, you assume the current source is able to draw its current from an in-explicit source of energy that has been absorbed into the current source symbol.. but this is how I understand it..

Someone may come along and set us both straight, though.

12. Mar 17, 2017

### FOIWATER

The battery can't deliver 50mA in pt A. It can't deliver more than the current sources are drawing.

13. Mar 17, 2017

### BAJ

Thanks for your quick explanation, cleared the matter more. However consider this, the current sources are not drawing current from the battery, they are simply graphite placed parallely like the current sources drawing current from an electrolytic solution. And I have experimented earlier (without attaching the battery) that orienting 5 graphite blocks in this way can fetch you ~1mA of current. Now if I subject this parallel circuit to an external power supply, like the diagram I have provided, what will be the value of 'i' in this scenario.

I am a Biotech engineer, only have basic knowledge on electrical, sorry for my ignorance.

14. Mar 17, 2017

### FOIWATER

No apologies required ! I love the discussion..

The current sources would drop sufficient voltage to limit the current supplying capabilities of the voltage source to levels dictated by the current sources themselves. The current sources don't 'pick-up' the current injected by the battery and add it to their own current like that. They deliver what they deliver, and they drop voltage to limit the current through the battery to their own levels.

That may be wrong but it is my understanding.

I can say with certainty that the current in a series circuit has to be a constant. Different sources will not contribute different current levels that 'add up' that way.

15. Mar 17, 2017

### FOIWATER

You see, the current injected by the battery is determined itself by the current source. Current sources behave that way. That is, they drop voltage supplied externally (in your case the battery) and they just supply current.

If this makes sense and you are looking for a way to remember it from here on out, remember:

Current sources determine current levels.
Voltage sources determine voltage levels.

Current sources will drop any amount of voltage to ensure they continue to supply their current (ideally)
Voltage sources will sink any amount of current to ensure they supply their voltage (ideally)

16. Mar 17, 2017

### BAJ

But as I explained the components I am calling current sources are not conventional current sources, they draw current from an electrolysis of a solution, not from the battery. Or are you saying, if I attach the parallel circuit with battery, these graphites will draw current from the battery?

I agree to that in series, current has to be constant. But "The current sources would drop sufficient voltage to limit the current supplying capabilities of the voltage source to levels dictated by the current sources themselves." .... can u explain a bit more?

17. Mar 17, 2017

### FOIWATER

Sure.

Let me answer your question with a question. In your series circuit, what is the voltage drop across the current source?

Would you agree that, if the current source drops voltage, any voltage, that it limits the amount of current that the battery injects?

My understanding is that the current source will drop whatever voltage is necessary to ensure the current through the whole loop is determined by it alone. The batteries ability to inject current is commandeered by the current source.

Consider this: Consider replacing the current source with a resistor. For sure the battery would not be able to supply as much current then. Same is true for the current source, right? it has to drop some voltage?

That means the current source DOES in fact influence the batteries ability to source a current. Question then becomes, how much does it influence it? answer is, it influences it infinitely. The current source is a supplier of current and a dropper of voltage. It will drop whatever is required to supply its current.

It's the boss when it comes to current !

Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
18. Mar 17, 2017

### BAJ

The voltage drop across the current source must be determined by the circuit it is connected to. In my case, it may be ~50mV or something, I forgot actually. And yes I agree to your 2nd sentence too if the resistance in the circuit is considered constant. If the resistance is variable then it will be different matter.

19. Mar 17, 2017

### FOIWATER

Right. So my advice would be.... make the circuit ! Make the circuit and see if the current is limited to the value of the current supply.

Ensure in reality that the current source is rated for at least the voltage of the battery, though ! and vice versa for current ! The discussion here has been 100% theoretical using 'ideal' components.

In reality, there are levels to the voltages and currents components can accept.. as you know

20. Mar 17, 2017

### BAJ

Ok sure. Thanks for all of your explanations. It helped to get a clear understanding. "It's the boss when it comes to current !" ------ I will definitely remember this :)

21. Mar 17, 2017

### Baluncore

So the current sources are not regulated sources, but electrochemical cells. That probably makes them voltage sources rather than current sources. They will have a high series resistance, with open circuit voltage dependent on ionic species and current dependent on the concentration in the electrolyte and the load resistance.

By explaining what the “sources” really are we might be able to come up with a model circuit that is applicable to your situation. If you add a battery you will either strip ions of the graphite into the electrolyte or plate them onto an electrode.
Why are you even considering a circuit? What are you trying to do here? What is the experiment testing?

22. Mar 18, 2017

### BAJ

Ok. Explaining what I have done so far. The components I am calling current sources are commutator carbon brushes, attached to a wire which is attached to the circuit, parallely (as shown in my diagram .... the red part). They are dipped in sewage water where, through microbial respiration all the electrons that are released, are being captured and transferred to the circuit.
Now here a thing has to be considered since different amount of bacteria may adhere to each graphites on which the release of electrons are dependent. I assumed that the graphites are distributing all the electrons to both pts A and B since there is no P.D in this case. This is why I want to attach an external power supply (upto 2.5V) so that I can force this electron emission in only 1 point.

Hope u can understand the scenario. If further explanation is required, do tell.

23. Mar 18, 2017

### Baluncore

If all four single brushes hang in the water, and all brushes are in parallel, then where is the second electrode? Is it the water container, or maybe another set of brushes somewhere else?

That is a bold assumption. If a few electrons collect on an electrode then they will polarise that electrode negative and so prevent more electrons from moving that way.

If electrons are moving they must have somewhere to go.
Your circuit diagram shows a short circuit at the end of the line of parallel “sources”.

It seems like you recognise that you need to make a closed circuit.
You now have two independent electrodes in the solution. If you apply a small DC voltage between the electrodes you will get a current flow that is proportional to the reaction rate at the electrode surfaces. If you apply a voltage greater than 1.23 volt you will start to electrolyse the water and force other species out of solution and onto the electrodes.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrochemical_cell#Half-cells

I expect that you would carry out an experiment by very slowly ramping up the voltage while measuring the current. That current graph will identify the species present by their electrochemical series cell voltage, the integral will be the total charge that flows which will identify concentration of each species. Once you have plated the electrodes with various species, you can reverse the circuit and strip those species from the electrode.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_electrode_potential_(data_page)

You have not said why you are doing this. Do you want to measure the rate of reaction to assess something like water quality, or do you want to control the rate of reaction by providing the energy needed?
Is the electrolyte flowing in a channel or is it a static pool?
Do you know anything about the bacterial reaction that releases the electrons?
Do you know the energy or electrochemical voltage of the bacterial respiration chemical reaction?

24. Mar 19, 2017

### BAJ

Yes that electrode is placed above the circuit. It is also made of graphite powder and separated from the circuit using a cloth, mainly a polyester-cloth like J-cloth. It is also called air-cathode as it is in contact with the air. I also attached a copper wire to it for taking readings. Because when I attach a multimeter to take reading, the circuit gets completed as the cathode reaction would be 4(H+) + O2 + 4e- = 2H2O.
Actually during this microbial respiration or metabolism they breakdown the glucose content of the sewage as C12H22O11 + 13H2O = 12CO2 + 48H(+) + 48e- inside the anode compartment. This e- are captured by the graphite and the H+ travels towards the cathode.

Agree but why would they prevent? As I am taking readings periodically, the electrons that were accumulated on the graphite surface would be moving along the circuit towards the cathode for completing the reaction.

Yes that was kept intentional. You see building up of electrons in those graphite surface takes time (minimum an hour). Each of the brushes generated current in microAmpere range. To get a good reading I had to ensure the generated electrons don't go to the cathode and forms water through the reaction.

That means if I apply around 1.20 volt of power supply it wont electrolyse the water and might serve my purpose too, no? But I didnt understand this ".....force other species out of solution and onto the electrodes." If you are referring to the bacterial species, they are already attached to the electrode (i mean the carbon brushes), its their nature to accumulate on a substratum, when provided.

The thing is I conducted this experiment in my college with a very very low funding. Around 1000/- (about 20 dollars). But now I am working in a different field and thats why want to continue my experiment with good materials. And by various species you meant coating with Pt/Ti/Zn/Mn?

The thing I worked upon is to upgrade 'Microbial fuel cell (or MFC)' with electrode configurations. The theory is about a century old and research is going on all over the world to scale it up. The main purpose of MFC is to generate sustainable energy while treating wastewater. One of the primary challenges in scaling up is to reduce the internal resistance of the wastewater (which comes in range of 2K to 3K range). So formulated the idea to increase the current output so that it can reduce it (if we apply the standard Ohm's law). In parallel circuit for current sources, current will add up but voltage will remain constant. Thats why implemented this way.

The electrolyte can be static or flowing, both. However researches proved flowing electrolyte with a retention time of about 10 hrs can increase the voltage output.

The way bacterial metabolism (sorry not respiration) is generating the electrons is a complex but fully enzymatic reaction. It is called ETC or electron transport chain that occurs within the mitochondrion of a cell. You can check it up in google.

The metabolism doesnt yield energy in its raw form but in form of ATP required to drive cellular functions. It is about 2ATP that is about 20Kcals/mole of glucose.

25. Mar 20, 2017