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Which textbook to learn electronics and standard lab apparatus?

  1. Jun 3, 2009 #1
    Hi guys,

    I need to find some textbooks which describe basic electronics. More precisely, I would like to learn

    1) the components of a circuit (e.g. capacitor, diode, transistor)
    2) how do these components work
    3) The uses of these components

    4) The standard appratus in a laboratory (e.g. multimeter, DC source, Oscilloscope)
    5) How do these apparatus work (e.g. how do they measure the current, voltage)
    6) The uses of these appratus

    My candidate for this study is something like "introduction to Electronics", or "Basic Experimental Apparatus in Laboratory". What do you all think?

    Thanks for your recommendation for the textbooks I should look for.

    Xian Yang
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 3, 2009 #2


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    Perhaps you could tell us what your background is, what it is that you're trying to do, and for what purposes? That might help us make recommendations a little better.
  4. Jun 3, 2009 #3

    I am a physics graduate and going to work as a research assistant in a low temperature lab.

    Therefore I need to equib myself with essential knowledge in lab apparatus. For example, how does a multimeter measure the temperature? So that when problems come out I have some ideas about how to fix it.

  5. Jun 3, 2009 #4


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    Could I suggest a couple of alternative approaches?

    Firstly, books are expensive and it is very unlikely that you can learn electronics from a book if you have no electronics training.
    By all means go to your local library and pick up a book about electronics meant for 14 year olds. This will at least get you started.
    If you have specific questions you can ask on this Forum or go to Wikipedia.

    I'm sure you are understating your experience, though. Didn't some part of your Physics degree include electricity, capacitance, inductance or semiconductors?

    The best way of all, is to get into a serious class where someone will teach you circuit theory. This really has to be done well. I have seen a lot of people who tried to teach themselves from a book and ended up creating an electronics background that was just fantasy.
    It is easy to skip pages in a book and pick out the interesting stuff, but those pages they skipped probably contained the gritty stuff they should have come to terms with.

  6. Jun 4, 2009 #5


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    Like many things in academia, you'll probably fall backwards into it, and acquire at least the basics through your labmates, or, more likely, by jumping into the fire (so to speak). You might become an expert in using something, even if you don't understand how it works (except at a high-level), or why you have to do certain things in order to make it work (functional knowledge vs. expert knowledge).

    The 'X-Y-Zs of Oscilloscopes', by Tektronix (they make oscilloscopes, and the tutorial references ones with lots of bells, and whistles, but the basics are conveyed):

    The book, "The Art of Electronics" by Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill is targeted towards those who seek functional knowledge of electronics, without necessarily the broad depth of knowledge that an EE would have. Written by Physicists, for Physicists (although it's a great reference for electronics guys as well). Most likely, if you asked around, you'll find someone in your lab / department who has a copy, if one isn't already in your lab. Skims over a great deal of theoretical knowledge that one would find over the course of several introductory EE textbooks; but that's not really what it's written for.

    Regarding your specific question, you wouldn't use a DMM (Digital MultiMeter) to measure temperature; you might do it with a thermistor (resistor with a fairly linear temperature dependence within a certain range), a thermocouple (uses the Seebeck effect), or something else entirely (like, say, an integrated circuit temperature sensor with a digital output). Some DMMs have a built-in thermometer, or (usually thermocouple) temperature sensor interface, but in general, one would not use a DMM, by itself, to measure temperature.

    EDIT: I learnt electronics mostly by doing it as a hobby as vk6kro suggests, and joining a robotics club when I was in undergraduate. However, all the EE courses I did probably helped a little as well :smile:
  7. Jun 4, 2009 #6
    I second "The Art of Electronics", and I think your university sucks, if you didn't get enough experimental exposure to multimeters by the time you graduate. There should also be an introductory electronics course at the uni.

    Interesting I didn't know that tAoE was written with physicists in mind. I loved the style, and just assumed that it was the first electrical engineer to understand how to write a good book :)
  8. Jun 4, 2009 #7


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    Points 1-3 should have been covered by you the course you have already taken; but "Art of Electronics" is a good reference.

    Points 4-6 you can't learn from a book, you learn it by actually measuring something, some of the basics you can learn part of a course but other than that you simply need experience (and to work alongside someone with the right experience).
    Again, you should have had at least SOME exposure to basic lab equipment as an undergraduate; didn't you do any lab work at all?

    Also, you never use a regular multimeter to measure the temperature in a low temperature lab. Most of the time you would simply use a temperature controller of some sort, or if you are working at really low temperatures (below 1K) an AC-bridge.

    btw, neither thermistors nor thermocouples are used at low temperatures; nowadays most people simply use Si diodes (although resistive sensors such as Cernox and RuO2 are also quite common).
  9. Jun 4, 2009 #8
    http://www.heathkit.com/electconcept.html [Broken]

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  10. Jun 4, 2009 #9


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    You can learn from equipment manufactures. From the equipment you have in the lab, read their manuals and any application notes they may provide. You might even be able to attend seminars on the certain types of instruments. http://www.ni.com/modularinstruments/" [Broken] have lots of modular instruments that might be used in laboratories. They provide some free seminars.

    One good way to accurately measure low temperature would be with a Resistive Thermal Devices (RTD). Here's one I've used: http://www.kayeinc.com/validationproducts/irtd.htm" [Broken]
    However this one may not go cold enough for your lab.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. Jun 4, 2009 #10
    Hi guys,

    Thanks for your warm replies. I just realised that I have made my post question ambiguous in some sense.

    so I will get a copy of "The Art of Electronics" soon, and read the XYZs of Oscilloscope now!

    Xian Yang
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