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AC bridges used for: Impedance measurement Oscillator circuit Filtering circuit Frequency Measurement

AC bridge circuits often have more than one adjustment. Some impedance bridge circuits are frequency-sensitive while others are not. The frequency-sensitive types may be used as frequency measurement devices if all component values are accurately known. A Wagner earth or Wagner ground is a voltage divider circuit added to AC bridges to help reduce errors due to stray capacitance coupling the null detector to ground.

AC bridge circuits work on the same basic principle as DC bridge circuits. Null detectors for AC bridges may be sensitive electromechanical meter movements, oscilloscopes (CRT's), headphones (amplified or unamplified), or any other device capable of registering very small AC voltage levels. AC bridge circuits can be of the "symmetrical" type where an unknown impedance is balanced by a standard impedance of similar type on the same side (top or bottom) of the bridge. Or "nonsymmetrical," using parallel impedances to balance series impedances, or even capacitances balancing out inductances.

The null detector is no longer a galvanometer but an instrument suited to AC measurement. Head Phone Vibration Galvanometer Tunable amplifier detector

Z1Z x = Z 2 Z 3
Reactive component is balanced by a similar impedance (capacitance for capacitance, or inductance for inductance) in an adjacent arm of the bridge, or by an opposite impedance (inductance balancing capacitance) in an opposite arm.


At bridge balance

Z1 Z 4 = Z 2 Z 3



Z4 = Z2


1 + 4 = 2 + 3

Maxwells bridge is suited to measuring low-Q inductors (between 1 and 10--- Medium Q coils).

Rs=R3 (R2/R1) Ls=R2R3C1

X S LS Q= = = R1C1 RS RS 1 + 4 = 2 + 3

Used to measure inductance of high Q value

C 1 R1 R 2 R 3 and Rs = 2 2 2 1 + C 1 R1 X S LS 1 = = Q= RS RS C1 R1
2 2

R2 R3C1 LS = 2 2 2 1 + C1 R1

Used to measure capacitance and its insulating properties


C 1R 2 = C3



C 3 R1 = R2

RS 1 = = R S C S = R1C 1 D= Q XS

The balance equation of phase angles is

1 + S = 2 + 3
At a given frequency , keeping R1 fixed, variation of C1 can be calibrated in terms of D

RS 1 = = R S C S = R1C 1 D= Q XS

Wein Bridge
Applications: Notch Filter Oscillators Frequency Measue.

C3 R2 R1 = + R4 R3 C1
f = 2

1 and = R1 R3C1C 3

1 R 1 R 3 C 1C 3

R1=R3=R and C1=C3=C

So far assumption was that bridge consists of lumped impedance units do not interact with each other. In practice following factors causes errors in bridge measurements: Stray conductance effect, due to imperfect insulation Mutual Inductance effects, due to magnetic coupling between various components of bridge Stray capacitance effects, due to electrostatic fields between conductors at different potentials Residuals in components e.g.- the existence of small amount of series inductance or shunt capacitance in non-reactive components

A potential problem in sensitive AC bridge circuits is that of stray capacitance between either end of the null detector unit and ground (earth) potential. Because capacitances can "conduct" alternating current by charging and discharging, they form stray current paths to the AC voltage source which may affect bridge balance:

The problem is worsened if the AC voltage source is firmly grounded at one end, the total stray impedance for leakage currents made far less and any leakage currents through these stray capacitances made greater as a result

Stray capacitances can be eliminated by: Wide separation of parts Enclose bridge components in conducting shields connected to place the bridge capacitance where it does not harm

One way of greatly reducing this effect is to keep the null detector at ground potential, so there will be no AC voltage between it and the ground, and thus no current through stray capacitances. However, directly connecting the null detector to ground is not an option, as it would create a direct current path for stray currents, which would be worse than any capacitive path. Instead, a special voltage divider circuit called a Wagner ground or Wagner earth may be used to maintain the null detector at ground potential without the need for a direct connection to the null detector.

A Wagner earth or Wagner ground is a voltage divider circuit added to AC bridges to help reduce errors due to stray capacitance coupling the null detector to ground.

The Wagner earth circuit is nothing more than a voltage divider, designed to have the voltage ratio and phase shift at each side of the bridge. Because the midpoint of the Wagner divider is directly grounded, any other divider circuit (including either side of the bridge) having the same voltage proportions and phases as the Wagner divider, and powered by the same AC voltage source, will be at ground potential as well. Thus, the Wagner earth divider forces the null detector to be at ground potential, without a direct connection between the detector and ground.

There is often a provision made in the null detector connection to confirm proper setting of the Wagner earth divider circuit: a two-position switch, so that one end of the null detector may be connected to either the bridge or the Wagner earth. When the null detector registers zero signal in both switch positions, the bridge is not only guaranteed to be balanced, but the null detector is also guaranteed to be at zero potential with respect to ground, thus eliminating any errors due to leakage currents through stray detector-to-ground capacitances:


Eliminates the stray capacitance effect.

Z5 and Z6 are impedances of Wagner earth branch (consist of variable resistor and (or) variable capacitor)

The major drawback of Wheatstones bridge is that the compensations are essentially locked in- typically not adjustable after manufacture and very rarely adjustable after installation when the actual operating conditions become known . Anderson loop circuit topology use active subtraction to observe the change in the output level of the variables instead of the passive subtraction accomplished by the Wheatstones bridge


The output is uninfluenced by any common mode potential difference, Vcm1 and Vcm2, or interior mode potential difference from one input to the other



IS =
Sensing wires

Vref Zref

V O = I S A1 ( Z g + Z ) A 2 Z ref
When A1=A2 and Zg=Zref=Z


Compared to Wheatstone bridge output , the output in Anderson Loop is very large. Using only 25% of the excitation power, this loop can deliver the same sensor output voltage level as a Wheatstone Bridge

Z Vref VO = I S Z VO = Z ref Z VO (Ratiometeric observations) = Zref Vref

Ratiometeric operation of the Anderson Loop is accomplished by using Vref, the voltage drop across the reference element as the reference input to the system observing VO (e.g. A/D converter) With ratiometeric operation, regulation of the excitation current becomes unnecessary.

Problem 5.1: A highly sensitive galvanometer can detect a minimum current of 0.1nA. This galvanometer is used in a wheatstone bridge as a detector. The resistance of the galvanometer is negligible. Each arm of the bridge has resistance of 1K. The source voltage connected to the bridge is 20 V. calculate the smallest change in resistance which can be detected by this bridge.

Problem 5.2: The given circuit is used to linearise relation between input and output. Verify that the output voltage is given by R
Vout = VB 2R

Problem 5.4: The given circuit is used for linearizing a single element varying bridge. The bottom of the bridge is driven by an op-amp, which maintain a constant current in the varying resistance element. Verify that the output voltage is given by
V R R2 Vout = B 1 + 2 R R 1




LCR meters are capable of displaying R, L, C parameters and can easily calculate and display many other parameters such as Z, Y, X, G, B, D, etc.

Definitions Impedance Z, its real part Rs, its imaginary part jXs (reactance), and the phase angle . Because series impedances add, an equivalent circuit for an impedance would put Rs and Xs is series hence subscript s. The reciprocal of Z is Admittance, Y which is also a complex number having a real part Gp (conductance) and an imaginary part jBp (susceptance) with a phase angle . Note = - . Because admittances in parallel add, an equivalent circuit for an admittance would put Gp and Bp in parallel. Gp does not equal (1/Rs) and Bp does not equal -(1/Xs).


Most recently instruments have been developed which employ elaborate softwaredriven control and signal processing techniques.

The real and imaginary components of Ex and Es are by themselves meaningless. The real and imaginary components of Vx (Vxr and Vxi) are combined with the real and imaginary components of Vs (Vsr and Vsi) and the known characteristics of the reference resistor to determine the apparent impedance of the complex impedance of Zx using complex arithmetic.

FUNCTIONS / PERFORMANCE PARAMETERS Test Voltage The ac output of most LCR meters can be programmed to select the signal level applied to the DUT. Generally, the programmed level is obtained under an open circuit condition. A source resistance (Rs, internal to the meter) is effectively connected in series with the ac output and there is a voltage drop across this resistor. When a test device is connected, the voltage applied to the device depends on the value of the source resistor (Rs) and the impedance value of the device.

Ranging In order to measure both low and high impedance values measuring instrument must have several measurement ranges. Ranging is usually done Automatically and selected depending on the impedance of the test device. Range changes are accomplished by switching range resistors and the gain of detector circuits. This helps maintain the maximum signal level and highest signal-to-noise ratio for best measurement accuracy. The idea is to keep the measured impedance close to full scale for any given range, again, for best accuracy.

Range holding, rather than auto ranging, is a feature sometimes used in specific applications. For example, when repetitive testing of similar value components, range holding can reduce test time. Another use of range hold occurs when measuring components whose value falls within the overlap area of two adjacent ranges, where if allowed to auto range the instruments display can sometimes change resulting in operator confusion.

Integration Time The length of time that an LCR meter spends integrating analog voltages during the process of data acquisition can have an important effect on the measurement results. If integration occurs over more cycles of the test signal the measurement time will be longer, but the accuracy will be enhanced. This measurement time is usually operator controlled by selecting a FAST or SLOW mode, SLOW resulting in improved accuracy. To improve repeatibility, the measurement averaging function is used. In averaging mode multiple measurements are made and the average of these is calculated for the end result. All of this is a way of reducing unwanted signals and effects of unwanted noise, but does require a sacrifice of time.

Median Mode A further improvement of repeatability can be obtained by employing the median mode function. In median mode 3 measurements are made and two thrown away (the lowest and the highest value). The remaining value then represents the measured value for that particular test. Median mode will increase test time by a factor of 3.

Compensation Compensation reduces the effects from error sources existing between the device under test and the calibrated connection to the measuring instrument. The calibrated connection is determined by the instrument manufacturer, which can be front or rear panel connections, or at the end of a predefined length of cable. Compensation will ensure the best measurement accuracy possible on a device at the selected test conditions. When a measurement is affected by a single residual component the compensation is simple.

Load Correction Load Correction is a compensation technique which uses a load whose impedance is accurately known and applies a correction to measurements of similar components to substantially improve measurement accuracy. The purpose being to correct for nonlinearity of the measuring instrument and for test fixture or lead effects which may be dependent on the test frequency , test voltage, impedance range, or other factors.

Load Correction Criteria for selecting the appropriate load include: a. Load whose impedance value is accurately known. b. Load whose impedance value is very close to the DUT (this ensures that the measuring instrument selects the same measurement range for both devices). c. Load whose impedance value is stable under the measurement conditions.

Computer Interface Many testers today must be equipped with some type of standard data communication interface for connection to remote data processing, computer or remote control. The typical interface for this is the IEEE- 488 general purpose interface bus or the RS- 232 serial communication line. These interfaces are commonly used for monitoring trends and process control in a component manufacturing area or in an environment where archiving data for future reference is required.