When plotted as voltage (V) as a function of phase (θ), a square wave looks similar to the figure to the right.
The waveform repeats every 2
π radians (360°), and is symmetrical about the voltage axis
(when no DC offset is present). Voltage and current exhibiting cyclic behavior is referred to as alternating; i.e., alternating current (AC).
One full cycle is shown here. The basic equation for a square wave is as follows:
There are a number of ways in which the amplitude of
a square wave is referenced, usually as peak voltage (V
_{pk} or V
_{p}), peak-to-peak voltage (V
_{pp} or V
_{p-p}
or V
_{pkpk} or V
_{pk-pk}), average voltage (V
_{av} or V
_{avg}), and root-mean-square voltage (V
_{rms}).
Peak voltage and peak-to-peak voltage are apparent by looking at the above plot. Root-mean-square and average voltage are not so apparent.
Also see
Sinewave Voltages and
Triangle Wave Voltages page.
Root-Mean-Square Voltage (V_{rms})As the name implies, V
_{rms}
is calculated by taking the square root of the mean average of the square of the voltage in an appropriately chosen interval. In the case of
symmetrical waveforms like the square wave, a quarter cycle faithfully represents all four quarter cycles of the waveform. Therefore, it is
acceptable to choose the first quarter cycle, which goes from 0 radians (0°) through
π/2
radians (90°).
V
_{rms} is the value indicated by the vast majority of AC voltmeters. It is the value that, when applied across
a resistance, produces that same amount of heat that a direct current (DC) voltage of the same magnitude would produce. For example, 1 V applied
across a 1 Ω resistor produces 1 W of heat. A 1 V
_{rms} square wave applied across a 1 Ω resistor also produces 1 W of heat. That 1
V
_{rms} square wave has a peak voltage of 1 V, and a peak-to-peak voltage of 2 V.
Since finding a full derivation of the formulas
for root-mean-square (V
_{rms}) voltage is difficult, it is done here for you.
So, V_{rms} = V_{pk}
Average Voltage (V_{avg})
As the name implies, V_{avg} is calculated by taking the average of the voltage in an appropriately chosen interval. In the case
of symmetrical waveforms like the square wave, a quarter cycle faithfully represents all four quarter cycles of the waveform. Therefore,
it is acceptable to choose the first quarter cycle, which goes from 0 radians (0°) through π/2
radians (90°).
As with the V_{rms} formula, a full derivation for the V_{avg} formula is given here as well.
So, V
_{avg} = V
_{pk}
* I have no idea why we write "Sinewave," but not "Trianglewave" and "Squarewave."