Signals in electronics – processes of changing a certain physical quantity or state of a physical object over time or in space. The signal depending on its purpose is a carrier of different information e.g. electrical, magnetic and acoustic signals and contains an information parameter e.g. amplitude, frequency (forwards-backwards cycles per second) or pulse width. In electronics the most important signals are the changes in electrical charge, current, voltage and electromagnetic field. They are used to analyze the behavior of electronic circuits or to measure the changing electrical values.
The periodic signal is a signal that is repeatable in the same time intervals. These intervals are called period of the signal, with a symbol “T”.
Types of signals in electronics
The basic division into electronic signals is the division into analogue and digital signals. In electronics, we distinguish between several types of signals, including:
- Analog signals – continuous in values and time,
- Sampled signals – continuous in values, discrete in time,
- Quantizated signals – discrete in values, continuous in time,
- Digital signals – discrete in values and time.
Examples of analog signals in electronics
Sine signal (wave) – is described by two parameters: amplitude and frequency. The following equation describes sine signal:
If we assume that ω = 2πf, then the sine signal can be described by the following formula:
Sometimes, instead of amplitude, the concept of root mean square (RMS) voltage VRMS or peak-to-peak voltage Vpp is used. The RMS value is equal to the product of the peak voltage and √2:
The peak-to-peak value is equal to the doubled value of amplitude Vpeak (peak voltage):
RMS values are used while calculating energy or power. During measurement of electric voltage and current multimeters usually show RMS values.
Square signal (wave) – like the sine signal it is described by two parameters: amplitude and frequency, with the difference that the RMS voltage value for the square wave is equal to its amplitude. Frequency is often replaced by the period “T” which equals to:
The square signal consists of rising edge, high level, falling edge and low level. Square signals can be „commonly seen” only with positive halves, which means that the low signal level is close to 0V.
Square signals are used both in digital electronics and in the borderline with analog electronics in such systems as: comparators, A/D or D/A converters.
In reality, shape of the wave differs from the ideal shape of the slope, since they will never be completely perpendicular.
Triangular signal – a triangular wave, that is rising and falling linearly at a certain speed. It can be obtained (in a very simplified way) by integration of the rectangular waveform.
Sawtooth signal (wave) – as the name suggests, it resembles the shape of a saw tooth. This signal has a linear waveform – the voltage changes at a fixed speed to a certain value and is repeated periodically.
Noise – is an intrinsic component of each signal and is generally not desired in electronic circuits.
Pulse signals – most of them are not periodic signals. They are described by two parameters: the amplitude and the width of these pulses. Pulse signals are divided into positive and negative. In case of digital electronics, we will also need to analyze periodic pulses, which are further described by frequency and fullness factor.
Unit steps and spike signals – it can be stated that these signals are not practically used in electronic systems but are used for their description and analysis.
Example of the digital signal in electronics
The following illustration shows a digital signal consisting of four 3-bit words in binary code.