The Simplest Curve Tracer Ever

To a lot of us, curve tracing seems to be one of those black magic things that only the true wizards understand. But as [DiodeGoneWild] explains, curve tracing really isn’t all that complicated, and it doesn’t even require specialized test instruments — just a transformer, a couple of resistors, and pretty much whatever oscilloscope you can lay your hands on.

True to his handle, [DiodeGoneWild] concentrates on the current-voltage curves of Zener diodes in the video below, mainly as a follow-up to his recent simple linear power supply project, where he took a careful look at thermal drift to select the best Zener for the job. His curve tracer is super simple — just the device under test in series with a bunch of 10-ohm resistors and the secondary winding of a 12-volt transformer. The probes of his oscilloscope — a no-frills analog model — go across the DUT and the resistor, and with the scope in X-Y mode, the familiar current-voltage curve appears. Sure, the trace is reversed, but it still provides a good visualization of what’s going on. The technique also works on digital scopes; just be ready for a lot of twiddling to get into X-Y mode and to get the trace aligned.

Of course it’s not just diodes that can be tested with a curve tracer, and [DiodeGoneWild] showed a bunch of other two-lead components on his setup. But for our money, the neatest trick here was using a shorted bridge rectifier to generate a bright spot on the curve to mark the zero crossing point. Clever indeed, and pretty useful on a scope with no graticule.

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