The other day, at university we were mounting a circuit for test. When switched on, it didn't work (nothing surprising yet).

After looking for what was wrong for a while, I measured the DC power supply (configured for simmetric +- 10 V) with the oscilloscope between GND and the positive terminal (and also between GND and the negative terminal).

For both cases I got a 20 Vpp sinusoid at 50 Hz (line / utility / mains frequency). I measured the power supply disconnected from the rest of the citcuit with the same result.

Another scary thing is that the multimeter shown +10 V and -10 V (it should be 10/sqrt(2) V for both terminals).

The workaround was to move to another bench with another equipment and continue the exercise, but I'm curious about what can cause this effect.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Device malfunction? You know, things do break sometimes... \$\endgroup\$ – Laszlo Valko Dec 3 '13 at 9:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Verify correct scope settings with a working power supply before worrying about what's wrong with this one \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Dec 3 '13 at 11:33

There is a reasonable possibility you made a simple error. Many bench power supplies provide +/- dc outputs but also have an earth connection. The earth connection is of course earth BUT, the power supply's dc outputs may well be isolated from this earth stud/socket. Many power supplies are configured like this.

What you might have done is connect the scope between earth and Vdc outputs and seen an ac waveform and then connected your meter (on dc because you mentioned + and - voltages) to the correct points and seen the correct dc voltages.

It's too much of a coincidence that your power supply was set to +/-10V and your meter measured +/- 10V for it to be some obscure earth fault or power supply fault. I'd re-check if I were you.

Why would you see an ac waveform on your scope? The power supply outputs were floating wrt earth and connecting anything to the probe would produce ac mains voltages on the display - touching the probe with your fingers would do the same.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I still get chills when I see people not tying the unused DC terminal to ground because I just do it out of habit. \$\endgroup\$ – scld Dec 3 '13 at 15:31

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