Fundamental Electronics (2017)


The purpose of this course is to teach students basic laboratory electronics. Students completing the course will be well-versed in the most important measurement techniques used in modern experimental physics laboratories. The course focuses on practical applications of electronics and will not explore electrodynamics or the theory of electromagnetism.

We will begin with the very basics of DC circuits and work our way up to more complicated analog circuits. The use of transistors, operational amplifiers, and feedback will be discussed. We will then move to the basics of digital circuits and the interface between digital and analog circuitry. High-frequency and low-noise measurement techniques will also be covered.

Format and Requirements

The course consists of one 2-hour lecture per week and one 1-hour practical session per week. Practical sessions will vary from week to week. Depending on the topic the sessions will involve the actual building of electronic circuits, the programming of a measurement script, or the resolution of circuit design problems. Satisfactory completion of all of the assignments is required in order to pass the course. The course will be conducted in English. The grading is pass/fail.

This course will be aimed at 3rd-year bachelor and master students in physics and nanoscience. Physics II is suggested as a prerequisite, though not required.

Large portions of the course will be based on the The Art of Electronics, P. Horowitz and W. Hill (Cambridge, 1997) and Student Manual for the Art of Electronics, T. C. Hayes and P. Horowitz (Cambridge, 1996). While The Art of Electronics (AE) is an excellent reference, we will more closely follow its practical companion Student Manual for the Art of Electronics (SMAE), which you are required to have and encouraged to buy. Copies of the readings for more modern topics will be distributed in class.


Lectures: Wednesdays, 14.00-16.00, 3.12
Lab/Exercise Session 1: Mondays, 15:00-17:00, 3.12
Lab/Exercise Session 2: Thursdays, 09:00-11:00, 3.12


Preliminary Logistics and Introduction

Course outline and expectations; What are laboratory electronics? Why study laboratory electronics? We then begin by studying simple DC circuits.

Practical Session: none.

Reading: SMAE: p. 1-24; AE: 1.1-1.11, Appendix A, C.

Downloads: Lecture notes, Lecture slides.


AC Circuits and Diodes

Capacitors, RC circuits, diode circuits, radio, and LC ringing.

Practical Session: Lab 1: DC Circuits (SMAE).

Reading: SMAE: p. 24-81; AE: 1.12-1.34 Appendix B, E.

Downloads: Lecture notes.


Transistors I

A first model for a transistor, emitter followers, and corrections to the first model.

Practical Session: Lab 2: Capacitors (SMAE).

Reading: SMAE: p. 82-141; AE: chp. 2.

Downloads: Lecture notes.


Transistors II

More corrections to the first model, common-emitter amplifiers, and differential amplifiers.

Practical Session: Problem Set 1: Passive Devices.

Reading: SMAE: p. 82-141; AE: chp. 2.

Downloads: Lecture notes.



Field effect transistors, FET current sources, FET source follower, and FET switches.

Practical Session: Problem Set 2: Bipolar Transistors.

Reading: SMAE:p. 142-162; AE: 3.01-3.15.

Downloads: Lecture notes.


More FETs and Introduction to OpAmps

FET circuits, idealized operational amplifiers, iverting amplifiers, summing amplifiers, integrators, and differentiators.

Practical Session: Lab 6: Transistors III (SMAE).

Reading: SMAE:p. 175-183; AE: 4.01-4.09.

Downloads: Lecture notes.


More OpAmps and Feedback

Deviations from the ideal, positive and negative feedback, active filters, and inner workings of an OpAmp.

Practical Session: None (holiday).

Reading: SMAE: p. 184-243; AE: 4.10-4.22.

Downloads: Lecture notes.


More OpAmps and Feedback (cont.)

Deviations from the ideal, positive and negative feedback, active filters, and inner workings of an OpAmp.

Practical Session: Lab 8: Op amps I (SMAE).

Reading: SMAE: p. 184-243; AE: 4.10-4.22.

Downloads: Lecture notes.


High Frequencies and Transmission Lines

High Frequencies, electromagnetic spectrum, transmission lines, impedance matching, reflections.

Practical Session: Problem Set 3: JFETs and Differential Amplifiers (Thursday 27.04 & Monday 08.05).

Reading: AE: chp. 13.

Downloads: Lecture notes.


Noise and Precision Circuit Design

Circuit errors, Johnson noise, shot noise, 1/f noise, interference, noise temperature, ENBW.

Practical Session: Lab 9: Op amps II (SMAE) (Thursday 04.05 & Monday 15.05).

Reading: AE: chp. 15.

Downloads: Lecture notes.


Gates and Combinatorial Logic

Digital gates, combinatorial logic.

Practical Session: Problem Set 4: Operational Amplifiers (Thursday 11.05 & Monday 22.05).

Reading: SMAE: p. 281-294; AE: p. 484-504.

Downloads: Lecture notes.


Multiplexers and Binary Arithmetic

Multiplexers, decoders, arithmetic logic units (ALUs).

Practical Session: Free Lab (Thursday 18.05).

Reading: SMAE: p. 295-308.

Downloads: Lecture notes.


Sequential Logic, Counters, and Clocks

Devices with memory, flip-flops, shift registers, counters, counter use, timing, and typical problems with digital circuits.

Practical Session: Problem Set 5: Digital Circuits (Monday 29.05 & Thursday 01.06).

Reading: SMAE: p. 320-331, 342-361 AE: p. 504-523.

Downloads: Lecture notes, Lecture notes.


Digital meets Analog

Basic concepts: bandwidth, sampling rate, Nyquist theorem, aliasing, quantization error, dithering, sensitivity, resolution, jitter, etc.

Practical Session:  Free Lab (Monday 08.06).

Reading: SMAE: p. 406-415; AE: 613-640.

Downloads: Lecture notes.