Using an Adjustable Parallel-Plate Capacitor to Verify the Theoretical Equivalence of Stacked Dielectrics and Capacitors in Series

Quinn Brodsky (The Hockaday School), Garrett Gu (Texas Academy of Mathematics and
Science), Danita Mathew (Garland High School), Aaron McAnalley (Harmony Science Academy Euless), 
Swati Ravi (Greenhill School), Dylan Robertson (Plano Senior High School), Aniya Showers (Garland 
High School), Vijay Vuyyuru (Plano East Senior High School) QuarkNet Students

John Thompson
Science Department, Plano East Senior High School 3000 Los Rios Blvd, Plano, TX 75074

Jingbo Ye
Physics Department, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275 USA

An experimental setup that involves an adjustable parallel-plate capacitor that can be used in an 
undergraduate or high school laboratory to further the understanding of individual capacitors in 
series and the effects of dielectrics. The setup is used to quantitatively test the theoretical 
equivalence of dielectrics stacked between plates of a single capacitor and multiple parallel-plate 
capacitors connected in series. The results of the experiment correlate with theoretical 
predictions and include a discussion of possible sources of error to enrich a student’s
understanding of ideal versus measured conditions of capacitance.