Full Wave Rectifiers

The circuits which convert the input alternating current (AC) into direct current (DC) are referred to as rectifiers. If such rectifiers rectify both the positive as well as negative pulses of the input waveform, then they are called Full Wave Rectifiers.
Figure 1 shows such a rectifier designed using a multiple winding transformer whose secondary winding is equally divided into two parts with a provision for the connection at its central point (and thus referred to as the center-tapped transformer), two diodes (D1 and D2) and a load resistor (RL). Here the AC input is fed to the primary winding of the transformer while an arrangement of diodes and the load resistor which yields the DC output, is made across its secondary terminals. full wave rectifier The circuit can be analyzed by considering its working during the positive and the negative input pulses separately.

Figure 2a shows the case where the AC pulse is positive in nature i.e. the polarity at the top of the primary winding is positive while its bottom will be negative in polarity. This causes the top part of the secondary winding to acquire a positive charge while the common center-tap terminal of the transformer will become negative. conduction path of full wave rectifier This causes the diode D1 to be forward biased which inturn causes the flow of current through RL along the direction shown in Figure 2a. However at the same time, diode D2 will be reverse biased and hence acts like an open circuit. This causes the appearance of positive pulse across the RL, which will be the DC output.
Next, if the input pulse becomes negative in nature, then the top and the bottom of the primary winding will acquire the negative and the positive polarities respectively. This causes the bottom of the secondary winding to become positive while its center-tapped terminal will become negative. Thus the diode D2 gets forward biased while the D1 will get reverse biased which allows the flow of current as shown in the Figure 2b. Here the most important thing to note is the fact that the direction in which the current flows via RL will be identical in either case (both for positive as well as for negative input pulses). Thus we get the positive output pulse even for the case of negative input pulse (Figure 3), which indicates that both the half cycles of the input AC are rectified. input and output waveforms of full wave rectifier Such circuits are referred to as
(i) Centre-Tapped Full Wave Rectifiers as they use a centre-tapped transformer, (ii) Two-Diode Full-Wave Rectifiers because of the use of two diodes and/or (iii) Bi-Phase Circuits due to the fact that in these circuits, the output voltage will be the phasor addition of the voltages developed across the load resistor due to two individual diodes, where each of them conducts only for a particular half-cycle. However as evident from Figure 3, the output of the rectifier is not pure DC but pulsating in nature, where the frequency of the output waveform is seen to be double of that at the input. In order to smoothen this, one can connect a capacitor across the load resistor as shown by the Figure 4.
This causes the capacitor to charge via the diode D1 as long as the input positive pulse increases in its magnitude. By the time the input pulse reaches the positive maxima, the capacitor would have charged to the same magnitude. Next, as long as the input positive pulse keeps on decreasing, the capacitor tries to hold the charge acquired (being an energy-storage element). full wave rectifier with a rc filter However there will be voltage-loss as some amount of charge gets lost through the path provided by the load resistor (nothing but discharging phenomenon). Further, as the input pulse starts to go low to reach the negative maxima, the capacitor again starts to charge via the path provided by the diode D2 and acquires an almost equal voltage but with opposite polarity. Next, as the input voltage starts to move towards 0V, the capacitor slightly discharges via RL. This charge-discharge cycle of the capacitor causes the ripples to appear in the output waveform of the full-wave rectifier with RC filter as shown in Figure 4.
Different parameters and their values for the center-tapped full-wave rectifiers are

  1. Peak Inverse Voltage (PIV): This is the maximum voltage which occurs across the diodes when they are reverse biased. Here it will be equal to twice the peak of the input voltage, 2Vm.
  2. Average Voltage: It is the DC voltage available across the load and is equal to 2Vm/π. The corresponding DC current will be 2Im/π, where Im is the maximum value of the current.
  3. Ripple Factor (r): This is the ratio of the root mean square (rms) value of AC component to the dc component at the output. It is given by and will be equal to 0.482 as the rms voltage for a full wave rectifier is given as
  4. Efficiency: This is the ratio of DC output power to the AC input power and is equal to 81.2 %.
  5. Transformer Utilization Factor (TUF): This factor is expressed as the ratio of DC power delivered to the load to the AC rating of the transformer secondary. For the full-wave rectifier this will be 0.693.
  6. Form Factor: This is the ratio of rms value to the average value and is equal to 1.11.
  7. Peak Factor: It is the ratio of peak value to the rms value and is equal to √2 for the full-wave rectifiers.
Further it is to be noted that the two-diode full-wave rectifier shown in Figure 1 is costly and bulky in size as it uses the complex centre-tapped transformer in its design. Thus one may resort to another type of full-wave rectifier called Full-Wave Bridge Rectifier (identical to Bridge Rectifier) which might or might not involve the transformer (even if used, will not be as complicated as a center-tap one). It also offers higher TUF and higher PIV which makes it ideal for high power applications. However it is to be noted that the full wave bridge rectifier uses four diodes instead of two, which in turn increases the magnitude of voltage drop across the diodes, increasing the heating loss.
Full wave rectifiers are used in general power supplies, to charge a battery and to provide power to the devices like motors, LEDs, etc. However due to the ripple content in the output waveform, they are not preferred for audio applications. Further these are advantageous when compared to half wave rectifiers as they have higher DC output power, higher transformer utilization factor and lower ripple content, which can be made more smoother by using π-filters. All these merits mask-up its demerit of being costly in comparison to the half-wave rectifiers due to the use of increased circuit elements.
At last, it is to be noted that the explanation provided here considers the diodes to be ideal in nature. So, incase of practical diodes, one will have to consider the voltage drop across the diode, its reverse saturation current and other diode characteristics into account and reanalyze the circuit. Nevertheless the basic working remains the same.


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