Anyone who’s studied geometry should be familiar with the concept of a theorem: a relatively simple rule used to solve a problem, derived from a more intensive analysis using fundamental rules of mathematics. At least hypothetically, any pr blem in math can be solved just by using the simple rules of arithmetic (in fact, this is how modern digital computers carry out the most complex mathematical calculations: by repeating many cycles of additions and subtractions!), but human beings aren’t as consistent or as fast as a digital computer. We need “shortcut” methods in order to avoid procedural errors.
In electric network analysis, the fundamental rules are Ohm’s Law and Kirchhoff’s Laws. While these humble laws may be applied to analyze just about any circuit configuration (even if we have to resort to complex algebra to handle multiple unknowns), there are some “shortcut” methods of analysis to make the math easier for the average human.
As with any theorem of geometry or algebra, these network theorems are derived from fundamental rules. In this chapter, I’m not going to delve into the formal proofs of any of these theorems. If you doubt their validity, you can always empirically test them by setting up example circuits and calculating values using the “old” (simultaneous equation) methods versus the “new” theorems, to see if the answers coincide. They always should!
In Millman’s Theorem, the circuit is re-drawn as a parallel network of branches, each branch containing a resistor or series battery/resistor combination. Millman’s Theorem is applicable only to those circuits which can be re-drawn accordingly. Here again is our example circuit used for the last two analysis methods:
And here is that same circuit, re-drawn for the sake of applying Millman’s Theorem:
By considering the supply voltage within each branch and the resistance within each branch, Millman’s Theorem will tell us the voltage across all branches. Please note that I’ve labeled the battery in the rightmost branch as “B3” to clearly denote it as being in the third branch, even though there is no “B2” in the circuit!
Millman’s Theorem is nothing more than a long equation, applied to any circuit drawn as a set of parallel-connected branches, each branch with its own voltage source and series resistance:
Substituting actual voltage and resistance figures from our example circuit for the variable terms of this equation, we get the following expression:
The final answer of 8 volts is the voltage seen across all parallel branches, like this:
The polarity of all voltages in Millman’s Theorem are referenced to the same point. In the example circuit above, I used the bottom wire of the parallel circuit as my reference point, and so the voltages within each branch (28 for the R1 branch, 0 for the R2 branch, and 7 for the R3 branch) were inserted into the equation as positive numbers. Likewise, when the answer came out to 8 volts (positive), this meant that the top wire of the circuit was positive with respect to the bottom wire (the original point of reference). If both batteries had been connected backwards (negative ends up and positive ends down), the voltage for branch 1 would have been entered into the equation as a -28 volts, the voltage for branch 3 as -7 volts, and the resulting answer of -8 volts would have told us that the top wire was negative with respect to the bottom wire (our initial point of reference).
To solve for resistor voltage drops, the Millman voltage (across the parallel network) must be compared against the voltage source within each branch, using the principle of voltages adding in series to determine the magnitude and polarity of voltage across each resistor:
To solve for branch currents, each resistor voltage drop can be divided by its respective resistance (I=E/R):