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# ECEN2260 Supplementary notes on block diagrams

## Supplementary Notes on Block Diagrams

R.W. Erickson

Introduction
We have already viewed a circuit as a box containing an input u in (s) and an output
uout(s). The transfer function H(s) describes the operation which the circuit performs on the
input to obtain the output. The signal processing function performed by the circuit is then
represented as in Fig. 1. In this diagram, the lines represent signals while the boxes represent the
transfer function of a circuit or other funtional block. The details of the inner workings of the
circuit are ignored in this figure, and only the input/output relation is shown.

## uin (s ) H(s) uout (s )

= H (s ) u in (s )

## Fig. 1. Block diagram of a signal processing circuit.

When dealing with a system containing many elements, it is a good idea to break the
circuit down into its basic functional blocks. The transfer functions of each block are described,
and the details of the inner workings of the blocks are ignored. Input and output impedances and
other properties of the blocks are also not represented. This results in a high-level, simpler
functional description of the system, which can be more easily understood. Once this is done, it
then remains to figure out what happens when the blocks are connected together as in the actual
circuit. Doing so is the object of these notes.

Cascaded blocks

u 1 (s ) u2 (s ) u3 (s )
H 1 (s ) H 2(s )

## Fig. 2. Cascade connection of two blocks.

Consider next the cascade connection of two blocks, as in Fig. 2. The output of the first
block is connected to the input of the second block. We can write:
u2 (s) = H1 (s) u1 (s) (1)
u3 (s) = H2 (s) u2 (s) (2)
Hence,
u3 (s) = H2 (s) H1(s) u1 (s) (3)

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ECEN2260 Supplementary notes on block diagrams

So the cascaded blocks can be reduced to a single block with transfer function H 2 (s) H1(s), as
diagrammed in Fig. 3.

u 1 (s ) u3 (s )
H 1 (s ) H 2(s )

Fig. 3. Reduced block diagram which represents the cascade connection of blocks H1(s) and H2(s).

Some care must be taken when cascading blocks, to ensure that the transfer functions of
the two blocks do not change when the blocks are connected together. If the transfer functions
do change, then they must be modified to properly account for the change.

## Example: Effect of cascading simple R-C low-pass filters

Consider the R-C network of Fig. 4. The output V2(s) is
V2(s) = V1(s) 1
1 + sR1C1 (4)
and hence the transfer function is
V (s) 1
H 1(s) = 2 = (5)
V1(s) 1 + sR1C1
So the circuit can be represented by the block diagram given in Fig. 5.

+
R1 V1 (s) V2 (s)
v1 (t) + v2 (t) H 1 (s )
– C1

H1 (s) = 1
1 + sR1 C1
Fig. 4. Simple R-C low-pass filter example.
Fig. 5. Block diagram representation of the R-C low-
pass filter.

+ +
v1 (t) + R1 R2
– C1 v2 (t) C2 v3 (t)
– –

## Fig. 6. Cascade connection of two R-C low-pass filters.

Now let us cascade a second R-C section as in Fig. 6, to obtain a two-pole low pass filter.
We would like to represent this circuit using the block diagram of Fig. 7.

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ECEN2260 Supplementary notes on block diagrams

V1 (s ) V2 (s ) V3 (s )
H 1 (s ) H 2(s )

## Fig. 7. Block diagram of the cascaded R-C filter circuits.

The transfer function H2 (s) can be easily found. Given V 2 in Fig. 6, we can solve for V3 to find
V (s) 1
H 2(s) = 3 = (6)
V2(s) 1 + sR2C2
But H 1 (s) is no longer given by Eq. (5). The addition of the second R-C section loads down the
first section, and causes the transfer function H1(s) to change. Now, the impedance (R 2 + 1/sC2 )
appears effectively in parallel with capacitor C1 . The voltage divider relation for the first R-C
section becomes
1 || R2 + 1
sC 1 sC2
V2(s) = V1(s) (7)
R1 + 1 || R2 + 1
sC1 sC2
So the transfer function H1 (s) becomes
1 || R2 + 1
V2(s) sC 1 sC2
H 1(s) = = (8)
V1(s) R1 + 1 || R2 + 1
sC1 sC2
The cascade connection makes H1 (s) much more complicated.
It is usually a good idea to design your circuits so that the blocks do not interact, and so
that loading effects such as the one illustrated above are not significant. The resulting circuits
are much easier to understand, and there is greater likelihood that the analysis will be free of
algebra errors and that the final design will work as intended. Other people can also more easily
understand how your design works, which is a good idea in a team environment.
It is possible to choose the element values in the circuit above so that Eq. (8) and Eq. (5)
are essentially equal. By multiplying out Eq. (8) to express it in factored pole-zero form, one
obtains
1 + sR2C2
H 1(s) = (9)
1 + s R 1 C 1 + R2 C 2 + R1 C 2 + s 2 R 1 C 1 R 2 C 2
If R2 >> R 1 or C2 << C 1 , then the sR1 C2 term in the denominator is small compared to
s(R1 C1 + R2 C2 ). One can therefore neglect this term, and write H 1 (s) as
1 + sR2C2
H 1(s) ≈ (10)
1 + s R 1 C 1 + R2 C 2 + s 2 R 1 C 1 R 2 C 2
The denominator can now be factored as follows:
1 + sR2C2 1
H 1(s) ≈ = (11)
1 + sR1C1 1 + sR2C2 1 + sR1C1

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ECEN2260 Supplementary notes on block diagrams

which is the original H1(s) in Eq. (5). So if R2 >> R1 or C2 << C1 , then the loading effect of the
second R-C section on the first section is negligible.
In general, if the Thevenin-equivalent output impedance of the H 1 network is small in
magnitude compared to the impedance at the input of the H2 block, then connecting the blocks
together has little effect on the transfer function H 1 (s).

## Summing nodes and pick-off points

V3 (s )

V1 (s )
V1 (s ) V4 (s )
+–
+
V1 (s )
V1 (s )
V2 (s )

Fig. 7. Block diagram of a summing node. Fig. 8. Block diagram of a pick-off point.

## The summing node diagrammed in Fig. 7 is a block-diagram representation of the

following equation:
V4 (s) = V1 (s) + V2 (s) – V3(s) (12)
Figure 8 shows a “pick-off” point. All lines shown are V1(s). Figure 9 is a block diagram which
represents the following set of equations:
V2 (s) = H1 (s) V1(s)
V3 (s) = V2 (s) – V1(s)
V4 (s) = H2 (s) V3(s) (13)

V1 (s ) V2 (s ) V3 (s ) V4 (s )
H 1 (s ) + H 2 (s )

## Reduction of block diagrams

We now consider how to reduce a block diagram down to a single box, representing the
transfer function from the system input to its output. Several rules for manipulating block
diagrams can be defined, summarized in Table 1. Most of these rules are self-evident, and can be
shown to be correct by comparing the equations corresponding to the original form and the
equivalent. The rules show how to combine cascaded blocks, to push a summing node through a

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ECEN2260 Supplementary notes on block diagrams

## Table 1. Rules for manipulation of block diagrams

Original Equivalent

V1 (s ) V2 (s ) V1 (s ) V2 (s )
H 1 (s ) H 2(s ) H 1 (s ) H 2(s )

V1 (s ) V3 (s ) V1 (s ) V3 (s )
H 1 (s ) +

+
– H 1 (s )

V2 (s ) 1 V2 (s )
H1 (s)

V1 (s ) V3 (s ) V1 (s ) V3 (s )
+
– H 1 (s ) H 1 (s ) +

V2 (s ) V2 (s )
H 1 (s )

V1 (s ) V2 (s ) V1 (s ) V2 (s )
H 1 (s ) H 1 (s )

1 V3 (s )
V3 (s ) H1 (s)

V1 (s ) V2 (s ) V1 (s ) V2 (s )
H 1 (s ) H 1 (s )

V3 (s )
V3 (s ) H 1 (s )

V1 (s ) V2 (s ) V3 (s )
+
– G(s) V1 (s) G(s) V3 (s )
1 + G(s) H(s)
H(s)

block, to push a pick-off point through a block, and to reduce a feedback connection to a single
block.
The last rule, for reducing the feedback connection to a single block, requires some
analysis. We can write

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ECEN2260 Supplementary notes on block diagrams

## V2(s) = V1(s) – H(s) V3(s) (14) V1 (s ) V2 (s ) V3 (s )

+
– G(s)
and
V3(s) = G(s) V2(s) (15)
Now eliminate V2 (s) by plugging Eq. (14) into Eq. (15):
H(s)
V3(s) = G(s) V2(s) = G(s) V1(s) – H(s) V3(s)
(16) Fig. 10. Feedback connection of blocks.
Solve for V3 (s):

G(s)
V3(s) = V1(s) (17)
1 + G(s) H(s)
which yields the equivalent block shown in the table.

Some examples

V2 (s )
V1 (s ) +

G1 (s) +
– G2 (s)

H2 (s)

H1 (s)

## Fig. 11. Example 1.

Consider first the block diagram given in Fig. 11. We can reduce this to a single block,
and therefore find the transfer function from V1(s) to V 2 (s), by the following steps. First, we
reduce the feedback connection of the G2 (s) and H2 (s) blocks, yielding the diagram of Fig. 12.

V2 (s )
V1 (s ) G2 (s)
+

G1 (s)
1 + G2 (s) H2 (s)

H1 (s)

## Next, we combine the cascaded blocks to obtain Fig. 13.

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ECEN2260 Supplementary notes on block diagrams

G1 (s) G2 (s) V2 (s )
V1 (s ) +
– 1 + G2 (s) H2 (s)

H1 (s)

## Finally, we reduce the feedback connection, to obtain Fig. 14.

G1 G2 V2 (s )
V1 (s ) 1 + G2 H2
1 + G1 G2 H1
1 + G2 H2

## The transfer function is therefore

G 1 G2
V2(s) 1 + G2 H 2 = G 1 G2
= (18)
V1(s) 1 + G 1 G2 H1 1 + G 2 H2 + G1 G2 H1
1 + G2 H 2

Z 3 (s )
V1
Z1 V3
Z 1 (s ) Z3

Z 2 (s )
V2 + +
V1 (s ) +
– V2 (s ) +

Z2 V3 (s )

## Fig. 15. Op amp summing circuit example.

Consider next the op-amp circuit given in Fig. 15. For this circuit, we can write
– V3 = V1 + V2 (19)
Z3 Z1 Z2
and hence the output V3 is given by,
V3 = – Z3 V1 + V2 (20)
Z1 Z2

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ECEN2260 Supplementary notes on block diagrams

## This has the block diagram representation shown in Fig. 16.

V1 (s ) 1 V3 (s )
+
+
– Z3
Z1

V2 (s ) 1
Z2

## Example 3: the biquad filter circuit

This is also called a “state variable” filter. It can yield a bi-quadratic transfer function,
i.e., a transfer function with up to two poles and two zeroes. The poles and zeroes may be
complex if desired. It is free from a tendency to oscillate, and is relatively easy to tune. The
basic circuit is given in Fig. 17.

R3
R1

R5
R4 C1
C2
– R5

+ R2 –
V1 (s ) + +
– + V4 (s )

V2 (s ) V3 (s )

## Fig. 17. Basic circuit of the Biquad filter.

A block diagram of this circuit can be developed using a method similar to the previous
example. The equations of each op amp circuit are:

R1 V1 + V4
V2 = – (21)
1 + s R 1 C1 R 4 R 3

V3 = – 1 V2 (22)
s C2 R 2
V4 = – V3 (23)

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ECEN2260 Supplementary notes on block diagrams

## A block diagram which corresponds to these equations is given in Fig. 18.

1
R3

V1 (s ) 1 R1 1
++ – – –1
R4 1 + s R1 C1 s R2 C2 V4 (s )

V2 (s ) V3 (s )

## Fig. 18. Block diagram of the basic biquad circuit.

Let us manipulate the block diagram, to solve for the transfer function from V 1 (s) to V3 (s).Figure
18 can be re-drawn as in Fig. 19.

1
R3

V1 (s ) 1 R1 1
+- – –
R4 1 + s R1 C1 s R2 C2
V3 (s )

Fig. 19. The block diagram of Fig. 18, with V 3 treated as the output.

## We can next combine the cascaded blocks to obtain Fig. 20.

1
R3

V1 (s ) 1 R1
+-
R4 s R2 C2 1 + s R1 C1 V3 (s )

## Fig. 20. Reduction of cascaded blocks in Fig. 19.

Reduction of the feedback connection, and simplification of the transfer function of the resulting
block into standard normalized form, yields Fig. 21.

V1 (s ) 1 R3
R4 1 + s C2 R2 R3 / R1 + s2 C1 C2 R2 R3 V3 (s )

## Fig. 21. Reduction of feedback connection of Fig. 20.

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ECEN2260 Supplementary notes on block diagrams

## From Fig. 21, it is apparent that the transfer function is

V3 = R3 1 (24)
V1 R 4 1 + s C 2 R 2 R 3 / R1 + s 2 C 1 C 2 R 2 R 3
Therefore, the transfer function contains two poles. Writing this transfer function in the standard
form
V3 = H 1
0 (25)
V1 1+ s + s 2
Q ω0 ω0
and equating coefficients of s yields the following analytical expressions for the transfer function
salient features:
R
dc gain H0 = 3 (26)
R4

## corner frequency ω0 = 1 (27)

C 1 C2 R2 R3

C1
Q-factor Q = R1 (28)
C 2 R2 R3
It can be seen that these quantities can be chosen arbitrarily. For example, the dc gain is given
by R3 /R4. R2 , R3 , C1 , and C2 determine the corner frequency ω0. The Q is set by R1 .
A version of the biquad filter which contains both quadratic poles and quadratic zeroes is
given in Fig. 22. By proper choice of the element values, it is possible to design this circuit to
obtain any desired values of pole and zero corner frequencies and Q-factors.

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ECEN2260 Supplementary notes on block diagrams

R3
R1

R5
R4 C1
C2
– R5

+ R2 –
V1 (s ) + +
– +

– output
+

Fig. 22. Biquad filter circuit whose transfer function contains quadratic zeroes and quadratic poles.

An invalid manipulation
A common mistake made by students is to push a pickoff point through a summing node.
The two block diagrams illustrated in Fig. 23 are not equivalent!

V3 (s ) V1 (s )

V1 (s ) V3 (s ) V1 (s ) V3 (s )
+ +
– –

V2 (s ) V2 (s )

Fig. 23. It is not valid to push a pickoff point through a summing node! The block diagrams
illustrated above are not equivalent.

This suggests that, when attempting to simplify block diagrams, one should usually attempt to
push pickoff points away from summing nodes.

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