Voltage divider In electronics, a voltage divider is a simple device designed to create a voltage (V_{out}) which is proportional to another voltage (V_{in}). It is commonly used to create a reference voltage, and may also used as a signal attenuator at low frequencies. Voltage dividers are also known by the terms resistor divider and potential divider. Resistor divider A voltage divider referenced to ground is created by connecting two resistors as shown in the following diagram: The output voltage V_{out} is related to V_{in} as follows: It may be useful to note that R_{1} and R_{2} may each be comprised of many resistors in series. As a simple example, if R_{1} = R_{2} then As a more specific and/or practical example, if V_{out}=6V and V_{in}=9V (both commonly used voltages), then: and by solving using algebra, R_{2} must be twice the value of R_{1}. Any ratio between 0 and 1 is possible. That is, using resistors alone it is not possible to either reverse the voltage or increase V_{out} above V_{in} Voltage divider as a voltage source While voltage dividers may be used to produce very precise reference voltages, they make very poor voltage sources. This is because if a load is connected between the output voltage and ground the effective resistance between V_{out} and ground decreases. A change in the resistance of R_{2} changes the load voltage, an undesirable situation for a voltage source. In terms of the above equation, if current flows into a load resistance (through V_{out}), that load resistance must be considered in parallel with R_{2} to determine the voltage at V_{out}. In this case, the voltage at V_{out} is calculated as follows: where R_{L} is a load resistor in parallel with R_{2}. Note that for high impedence loads it is possible to use a voltage divider as a voltage source, as long as R_{1} and R_{2} have very small values compared to the load. This technique is rarely used, as the power disipated in such a divider would be considerable. Use of voltage dividers Voltage dividers are often used to produce stable reference voltages. These reference voltages may be used at a device with a high input impedence, such as an opamp without fear of loading the divider. Alternatively, the reference voltage may be used to set the voltage being produced by a voltage source. A simple way of doing this (for low power applications) is to simply input the reference voltage into the noninverting input of an opamp buffer. Impedance divider A voltage divider is usually thought of as two resistors, but for electronics signals at a given frequency capacitors, inductors, or any combined impedance can be used. For general impedances Z_{1} and Z_{2}, the voltage becomes For instance, a divider can be made with a resistor and capacitor: The resistor's impedance is simply its resistance:  Z_{R} = R
The capacitor's impedance is a large resistance at low frequencies and a low resistance at high frequencies. The exact formula is: where j is the imaginary unit, and ω is frequency in radians per second. This divider will then have the voltage ratio: The ratio then depends on frequency, in this case decreasing as frequency increases. This circuit is, in fact, a basic (firstorder) lowpass filter, or, in the world of audio, a treblecut filter. The ratio contains an imaginary number, and actually contains both the amplitude and phase shift information of the filter. To extract just the amplitude ratio, calculate the magnitude of the ratio, or just use the reactance of the capacitor instead of the impedance. External links References  Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill, The Art of Electronics, Cambridge University Press, 1989.
