# 7 The Oscilloscope

## The Oscilloscope – Tektronix MDO3000

Learning Objective

This exercise is of a particularly practical nature, namely, introducing the use of the oscilloscope. The various input scaling, coupling, and triggering settings are examined along with a few specialty features.

## Theory Overview

The oscilloscope (or simply scope, for short) is arguably the single most useful piece of test equipment in an electronics laboratory. The primary purpose of the oscilloscope is to plot a voltage versus time although it can also be used to plot one voltage versus another voltage, and in some cases, to plot voltage versus frequency. Oscilloscopes are capable of measuring both AC and DC waveforms, and unlike typical DMMs, can measure AC waveforms of very high frequency (typically 100 MHz or more versus an upper limit of around 1 kHz for a general purpose DMM). It is also worth noting that a DMM will measure the RMS value of an AC sinusoidal voltage, not its peak value.

While the modern digital oscilloscope on the surface appears much like its analog ancestors, the internal circuitry is far more complicated and the instrument affords much greater flexibility in measurement.

Modern digital oscilloscopes typically include measurement aides such as horizontal and vertical cursors or bars, as well as direct readouts of characteristics such as waveform amplitude and frequency. At a minimum, modern oscilloscopes offer two input measurement channels although four and eight channel instruments are increasing in popularity.

Unlike handheld DMMs, most oscilloscopes measure voltages with respect to ground, that is, the inputs are not floating and thus the black, or ground, lead is always connected to the circuit ground or common node. This is an extremely important point as failure to remember this may lead to the inadvertent short circuiting of components during measurement. The standard accepted method of measuring a non-ground referenced potential is to use two probes, one tied to each node of interest, and then setting the oscilloscope to subtract the two channels rather than display each separately. Note that this technique is not required if the oscilloscope has floating inputs (for example, in a handheld oscilloscope). Further, while it is possible to measure non-ground referenced signals by floating the oscilloscope itself through defeating the ground pin on the power cord, this is a safety violation and should not be done.

## Equipment

 (1) DC power supply model: srn: (1) Function generator model: srn: (1) DMM model: srn: (1) Oscilloscope, Tektronix MDO 3000 series model: srn:

## Components

 (1) 10 kΩ actual: (1) 33 kΩ actual:

## Procedure

1. Figure 1 is a photo of the face of a Tektronix MDO 3000 series oscilloscope. Compare this to the bench oscilloscope and identify the following elements:
1. Channel one through four BNC input connectors.
2. RF input connector and settings section.
3. Channel one through four select buttons.
4. Horizontal Scale (i.e., Sensitivity) and Position knobs.
5. Four Vertical Scale (i.e., Sensitivity) and Position knobs.
6. Trigger Level knob.
7. Math and Measure (in Wave Inspector) buttons.
8. Save button (below display).
9. Autoset button.
2. Note the numerous buttons along the bottom and side of the display screen. These menu buttons are context-sensitive and their function will depend on the most recently selected button or knob. Menus may be removed from the display by pressing the Menu Off button (multiple times for nested menus). Power up the oscilloscope. Note that the main display is similar to a sheet of graph paper. Each square will have an appropriate scaling factor or weighting, for example, 1 volt per division vertically or 2 milliseconds per division horizontally. Waveform voltages and timings may be determined directly from the display by using these scales.
3. Select the channel one and two buttons (yellow and blue) and also press the Autoset button. (Autoset tries to create reasonable settings based on the input signal and is useful as a sort of “panic button”). There should now be two horizontal lines on the display, one yellow and one blue. These traces may be moved vertically on the display via the associated Position knobs. Also, a trace can be removed by deselecting the corresponding channel button. The Vertical and Horizontal Scale knobs behave in a similar fashion and do not include calibration markings. That is because the settings for these knobs show up on the main display. Adjust the Scale knobs and note how the corresponding values at the bottom of the display change. Voltages are in a 1/2/5 scale sequence while Time is in a 1/2/4 scale sequence.
4. When an input is selected, a menu will pop up allowing control over that input’s basic settings. One of the more important fundamental settings on an oscilloscope channel is the Input Coupling. This is controlled via one of the bottom row buttons. There are two choices: AC allows only AC signals through thus blocking DC, and DC allows all signals through (it does not prevent AC).
5. Set the channel one Vertical Scale to 5 volts per division. Set the channel two Scale to 2 volts per division. Set the Time (Horizontal) Scale to 1 millisecond per division. Finally, set the input Coupling to DC for both input channels and align the blue and yellow display lines to the center line of the display via the Vertical Position knob (note that pushing the vertical Position knobs will automatically center the trace).
6. Build the circuit of figure 2 using E=10 V, R1=10 kΩ and R2= 33kΩ. Connect a probe from the channel one input to the power supply (red or tip to the positive terminal, black clip to ground). Connect a second probe from channel two to R2 (again, red or tip to the high side of the resistor and the black clip to ground).
7. The yellow and blue lines should have deflected upward. Channel one should be raised two divisions (2 divisions at 5 volts per division yields the 10 volt source). Using this method, determine the voltage across R2 (remember, input two should have been set for 2 volts per division). Calculate the expected voltage across R2 using measured resistor values and compare the two in Table 1. Note that it is not possible to achieve extremely high precision using this method (e.g., four or more digits). Indeed, a DMM is often more useful for direct measurement of DC potentials. Double check the results using a DMM and the final column of Table 1.
8. Select AC Coupling for the two inputs. The flat DC lines should drop back to zero. This is because AC Coupling blocks DC. This will be useful for measuring the AC component of a combined AC/DC signal, such as might be seen in an audio amplifier. Set the input coupling for both channels back to DC.
9. Replace the DC power supply with the function generator. Set the function generator for a one volt peak sine wave at 1 kHz and apply it to the resistor network. The display should now show two small sine waves. Adjust the Vertical Scale settings for the two inputs so that the waves take up the majority of the display. If the display is very blurry with the sine waves appearing to jump about side to side, the Trigger Level may need to be adjusted. Also, adjust the Time Scale so that only one or two cycles of the wave may be seen. Using the Scale settings, determine the two voltages (following the method of step 7) as well as the waveform’s period and compare them to the values expected via theory, recording the results in Tables 2 and 3. Also crosscheck the results using a DMM to measure the RMS voltages.
10. To find the voltage across R1, the channel two voltage (voltage across R2) may be subtracted from channel one (E source) via the Math function. Use the red button to select the Math function and create the appropriate expression from the menu (ch1 − ch2). This display shows up in red. To remove a waveform, press its button again. Remove the math waveform before proceeding to the next step.
11. One of the more useful aspects of the oscilloscope is the ability to show the actual waveshape. This may be used, for example, as a means of determining distortion in an amplifier. Change the waveshape on the function generator to a square wave, triangle, or other shape and note how the oscilloscope responds. Note that the oscilloscope will also show a DC component, if any, as the AC signal being offset or “riding on the DC”. Adjust the function generator to add a DC offset to the signal and note how the oscilloscope display shifts. Return the function generator back to a sine wave and remove any DC offset.
12. It is often useful to take precise differential measurement on a waveform. For this, the bars or cursors are useful. Select the Cursors button toward the top of the oscilloscope. From the menu on the display, select Vertical Bars. Two vertical bars will appear on the display (it is possible that one or both could be positioned off the main display). They may be moved left and right via the Multipurpose knobs (next to the Cursors button). The Select button toggles between independent and tandem cursor movement. A read out of the bar values will appear in the upper portion of the display. They indicate the positions of the cursors, i.e., the location where they cross the waveform. Vertical Bars are very useful for obtaining time information as well as amplitudes at specific points along the wave. A similar function is the Horizontal Bars which are particularly useful for determining amplitudes. Try the Horizontal Bars by selecting them via the Cursors menu again (holding the Cursors button will bring up the menu).
13. For some waveform parameters, automatic readings are available. These are accessed via the Measure button. Press Measure, select Add Measurement, and page through the various options using the Multipurpose b knob. Select Frequency. Note that a small readout of the frequency will now appear on the display. Multiple measurements are possible simultaneously. Important: There are specific limits on the proper usage of these measurements. If the guidelines are not followed, erroneous values may result. Always perform an approximation via the Scale factor and divisions method even when using an automatic measurement!
14. Finally, a snap-shot of the screen may be saved for future work using the USB port and a USB memory stick via the Save Menu button. The pop up menu has options for saving the image as well as the trace data or setup info. Select Save Screen Image to save a bit mapped graphics file that can be used as is or processed further in a graphics program (for example, inverting the colors for printing). The .PNG format is recommended.

## Data Tables

Table 1
VR2 Scale (V/Div) Number of Divisions Voltage Scope Voltage DMM
Oscilloscope
Theory X X
Scale (V/Div) Number of Divisions Voltage Peak E Oscilloscope E Theory X X VR2 Oscilloscope VR2 Theory X X
Scale (S/Div) Number of Divisions Period Frequency E Oscilloscope E Theory X X X