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Project Notes

#245 GeneralCurveTracer

Test a DC-powered general curve tracer circuit.



I’ve borrowed this general curve tracing circuit from stoneslice’s prototype and video. Rather than rely on an AC power supply, this uses a simple DC-powered oscillator to drive a test signal across the device under test. It features a DPDT switch to toggle and compare two devices under test.

X-Y signals are plotted on an oscilloscope to visualise the characteristic curve for the component.

  • X is the ground-referenced voltage at the anode of the DUT
  • Y is the voltage across the resistor at the cathode of the DUT, which is proportional to the current flowing through the DUT.

NB: see w2aew’s #49: Simple Component Tester using Oscilloscope - Octopus Curve Tracer for an example of a classic AC-powered curve tracer.

100nF Capacitor

The charge-discharge cycles result in an oval pattern:


10kΩ Resistor

Response is predictably linear:


1N4730 3.9V Zener Diode

The curve clearly illustrates characteristic Zener diode behaviour:

  • Forward-biased, it behaves like a normal diode rectifier
  • Relatively low reverse breakdown (Zener) voltage


Testing Rectifier Diodes

If a single rectifier diode is placed under test, this circuit generally fails to produce the characteristic forward voltage drop curve. I believe this is because at low voltages (when powered by 9V battery), it never hits reverse breakdown and the 1µF C4 never gets to cycle. The result is that the test signal ends up getting pushed just below the forward voltage threshold.

My fix for this is to test rectifier diode in a back-to-back pair. This allows C4 to cycle and a nice forward-voltage curve to be generated. the downside is that the reverse voltage curve is simply the inverse mirror of the forward-biased curve.

1N5819 Schottky Barrier Diode

Schottky Barrier Diodes exhibit extremely low forward voltage drop. NB: this curve is of two 1N5819’s back-to-back - see note above.


1N4148 High-speed Diode

A common rectifier diode. NB: this curve is of two 1N4148’s back-to-back - see note above.




The Schematic



Credits and References

Project Source on GitHub Project Gallery Return to the LEAP Catalog

This page is a web-friendly rendering of my project notes shared in the LEAP GitHub repository.

LEAP is just my personal collection of projects. Two main themes have emerged in recent years, sometimes combined:

  • electronics - usually involving an Arduino or other microprocessor in one way or another. Some are full-blown projects, while many are trivial breadboard experiments, intended to learn and explore something interesting
  • scale modelling - I caught the bug after deciding to build a Harrier during covid to demonstrate an electronic jet engine simulation. Let the fun begin..
To be honest, I haven't quite figured out if these two interests belong in the same GitHub repo or not. But for now - they are all here!

Projects are often inspired by things found wild on the net, or ideas from the many great electronics and scale modelling podcasts and YouTube channels. Feel free to borrow liberally, and if you spot any issues do let me know (or send a PR!). See the individual projects for credits where due.