PHYS 404 :: Physics Illinois :: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Course Description


The objective of PHYS 404 is to give you the confidence with electronic circuits and instrumentation.  Roughly the first half of the course will focus on analog electronics.  We'll discuss steady state circuit analysis using complex numbers and simple time-domain analysis.  We'll then discuss some basic semiconductor physics, pn junctions and transistors.   After that we'll look at amplifiers, feedback, control circuits, filters and oscillators.  The focus will then move to digital electronics: field effect transistors, logic gates and microcontrollers.    We'll then return to more sophisticated circuits and deal with signals and noise, modulation techniques and some aspects of high frequency electronics.   Lecture notes will be posted for each class.   There is no required text but if you wish to buy one, I'd recommend P. Horowitz and W. Hill, The Art of Electronics.  Any of the 3 editions will be more than adequate for Physics 404. 

Physics 404 is a 5 credit hour course so it takes some time.  There are 4 hours of lecture/demo and 6 hours per week of on-time, mandatory lab attendance, followed by a lab report.  The course is now based around the Analog-Discovery 2,  a sophisticated electronic test station that fits in your pocket, communicates with your computer through a USB port and contains an oscilloscope, 2 signal generators, power supplies, logic and spectrum analyzers and digital input/output.  Each student will sign out one of these devices along with some other components.  This arrangement will allow you to continue working on the circuits at home if you wish to.   We will use Arduino microcontrollers for some of the circuits so you'll need to do some simple programming when the time comes.   However, this is absolutely not a course on using software to analyze or design circuits.   I am far more concerned with developing an intuitive feel and qualitative understanding of electronics.  

Course Structure


Two 3-hour sessions per week in 6106 Engineering Science Building (ESB).  There are two sections:

Lecture notes and Lab descriptions will be posted ahead of time. You will be asked to demonstrate circuits and explain how they work.  There will be a lab report due typically 7-10 days later.   Circuit schematics may be hand-drawn but the text should be typed.   


Two 2-hour lectures per week, Mondays & Wednesdays from 1:00 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. To begin, the lectures will be given in 222 Loomis but we may move up to ESB 6106 for demos. 

Problem sets

There will be 6 homework sets. Solutions will be posted online after the due date.


There will be 6 quizzes, announced one week ahead of time.  These are usually 20 - 30 minutes long.   They give me an excellent idea of how well everyone understands the material and quizzes are an inducement to keeping up with the subject matter.   

Final Exam

The only exam will be a 3-hour final.  You will be allowed to use anything posted on the course website during the exam.