A bridge is a special class of circuits that can be used for measuring resistance, capacitance, or
inductance. A resistance bridge is especially useful when a very accurate measurement of a
resistance is required. The Wheatstone bridge or four arm bridge, invented by C. Wheatstone in
1843, is the most widely used resistance bridge for measuring resistance values above 1 ?.
Commercial Wheatstone bridges are accurate to about 0.1 percent, making the values of resistance
obtained far more accurate than values obtained from many types of meters. For resistances below 1
?, a Kelvin Bridge can used [1].
A Wheatstone bridge consists of a voltage source and two parallel voltage dividers, as shown in
figure 1. The bridge is said to be balanced when v12 = 0 . For the balanced condition, the voltage
v3 is divided in the path containing resistors Ra and Rb in the same ratio as in the path containing
resistors Rc and Rx, which allows the unknown resistance Rx to be determined in terms of Ra, Rb and

Vs 1 2
Figure 1
We can find Rx in terms of Ra, Rb and Rc as follows. Using the voltage divider relation,
v1 = Rb
Rb + Ra
v3 , v2 = Rx
Rx + Rc
For the balanced condition, v , or v 12 = 0 1 = v2. Equating the above expressions for v1 and v2 gives
Rb + Ra
= Rx
Rx + Rc
Multiplying both sides by R and x + R ( )c Rb + R ( a ) gives Rb Rx + R ( c )= Rx Rb + R ( a ). Subtracting
Rb Rx from both sides and solving for Rx gives
Rx = RbRc
In order to achieve balance for a specific unknown resistance Rx, let Ra and Rc have fixed, known
values, and let Rb be a calibrated (adjustable) resistor. The procedure is to adjust Rb until v12 = 0 ,
and then use the expression derived above to determine Rx.
Lab Work
1. Construct the Wheatstone bridge shown in figure 1. Use resistor values Ra = 1 k? ,
Rc = 10 k? , and Rs = 10 k? Use a decade resistance box for Rb and a DC power supply
adjusted to 5 volts.
2. Measure the value of an “unknown” resistance supplied by your lab GTA 1 k? = Rx = 10 k? .
In adjusting Rb using the decade resistance box, start with the coarsest scale and work toward the
finest scale, while monitoring v12 with the DMM.
3. Calculate the unknown resistance.
Next, perform one (or both, if time permits) of the following exercises (your choice):
4. Measure the resistance of a photo-resistor under various lighting conditions.
5. Measure the resistance of ten different 1 k? resistors and plot their values in terms of percent
deviation from the nominal value. A bar graph is a convenient form for this plot.
[1] Wolf, Stanley, Guide to Electronic Measurements and Laboratory Practice. Prentice-Hall,
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1973.

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