Much of what you have learned about resonance and series-LC circuits can
be applied directly to parallel-LC circuits. The purpose of the two
circuits is the same — to select a specific frequency and reject all
others. XL still equals XC at resonance. Because the inductor and
capacitor are in parallel, however, the circuit has the basic
characteristics of an a.c. parallel circuit. The parallel hookup causes
frequency selection to be accomplished in a different manner. It gives
the circuit different characteristics. The first of these
characteristics is the ability to store energy.

The Characteristics of a Typical Parallel-Resonant Circuit

Look at the figure below. In this circuit, as in other parallel circuits, the voltage is the same across the inductor and capacitor. The currents through the components vary inversely with their reactances in accordance with Ohm's law. The total current drawn by the circuit is the vector sum of the two individual component currents. Finally, these two currents, IL and IC, are 180 degrees out of phase because the effects of L and C are opposite. There is not a single fact new to you in the above. It is all based on what you have learned previously about parallel a.c. circuits that contain L and C.

Curves of impedance and current in an RLC parallel-resonant circuit.

Now, at resonance, XL is still equal to X C. Therefore, IL must equal IC. Remember, the voltage is the same; the reactances are equal; therefore, according to Ohm's law, the currents must be equal. But, don't forget, even though the currents are equal, they are still opposites. That is, if the current is flowing "up" in the capacitor, it is flowing "down" in the coil, and vice versa. In effect, while the one component draws current, the other returns it to the source. The net effect of this "give and take action" is that zero current is drawn from the source at resonance. The two currents yield a total current of zero amperes because they are exactly equal and opposite at resonance.

A circuit that is completed and has a voltage applied, but has zero current, must have an INFINITE IMPEDANCE (apply Ohm's law — any voltage divided by zero yields infinity).

By now you know that we have just ignored our old friend resistance from previous discussions. In an actual circuit, at resonance, the currents will not quite counteract each other because each component will have different resistance. This resistance is kept extremely low, but it is still there. The result is that a relatively small current flows from the source at resonance instead of zero current. Therefore, a basic characteristic of a practical parallel-LC circuit is that, at resonance, the circuit has MAXIMUM impedance which results in MINIMUM current from the source. This current is often called line current. This is shown by the peak of the waveform for impedance and the valley for the line current, both occurring at fr the frequency of resonance in the figure above.

There is little difference between the circuit pulsed by the battery in the figure shown in the previous tutorial that oscillated at its resonant (or natural) frequency, and the circuit we have just discussed. The equal and opposite currents in the two components are the same as the currents that charged and discharged the capacitor through the coil.

For a given source voltage, the current oscillating between the reactive parts will be stronger at the resonant frequency of the circuit than at any other frequency. At frequencies below resonance, capacitive current will decrease; above the resonant frequency, inductive current will decrease. Therefore, the oscillating current (or circulating current, as it is sometimes called), being the lesser of the two reactive currents, will be maximum at resonance.

If you remember, the basic resonant circuit produced a "damped" wave. A steady amplitude wave was produced by giving the circuit energy that would keep it going. To do this, the energy had to be at the same frequency as the resonant frequency of the circuit.

So, if the resonant frequency is "timed" right, then all other frequencies are "out of time" and produce waves that tend to buck each other. Such frequencies cannot produce strong oscillating currents.

In our typical parallel-resonant (LC) circuit, the line current is minimum (because the impedance is maximum). At the same time, the internal oscillating current in the tank is maximum. Oscillating current may be several hundred times as great as line current at resonance.

In any case, this circuit reacts differently to the resonant frequency than it does to all other frequencies. This makes it an effective frequency selector.

Summary of Resonance

Both series- and parallel-LC circuits discriminate between the resonant frequency and all other frequencies by balancing an inductive reactance against an equal capacitive reactance.

In series, these reactances create a very low
impedance. In parallel, they create a very high impedance. These
characteristics govern how and where designers use resonant circuits. A
low- impedance requirement would require a series-resonant circuit. A
high-impedance requirement would require the designer to use a
parallel-resonant circuit.

Tuning a Band of Frequencies

Our resonant circuits so far have been tuned to a single frequency - the resonant frequency. This is fine if only one frequency is required. However, there are hundreds of stations on many different frequencies.

Therefore, if we go back to our original application, that of tuning to different radio stations, our resonant circuits are not practical. The reason is because a tuner for each frequency would be required and this is not practical.

What is a practical solution to this problem? The answer is simple. Make either the capacitor or the inductor variable. Remember, changing either L or C changes the resonant frequency.

Now you know what has been happening all of these years when you "pushed" the button or "turned" the dial. You have been changing the L or C in the tuned circuits by the amount necessary to adjust the tuner to resonate at the desired frequency. No matter how complex a unit, if it has LC tuners, the tuners obey these basic laws.