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Instrumentation and

Measurement Systems
Week 4

Calibration of Instruments

Calibration
Calibration is the act or result of quantitative
comparison between a known standard and the output
of the system measuring the same quantity.
Calibration procedure is the process of checking the
inferior instrument against a superior instrument of
known traceability certified by a reputed standards
organisation.
Traceability refers to the certified accuracy of a
calibrating device when compared with a superior
standard of the highest possible accuracy.

Calibration
For linear instruments, single point calibration
is sufficient, i.e. only a single known standard
value of the input is applied.

For non-linear instruments, a set of standard


input values is applied to calibrate the
corresponding outputs generated by the
instrument.

Calibration
Primary Calibration: When a device is calibrated
against primary standards. After primary
calibration, the device is employed as a
secondary calibration device.

Secondary Calibration: When a secondary


calibration device is used for further calibrating
another device of lesser accuracy. Secondary
calibration devices are practical calibration
sources and are thus widely used in laboratory
practice and in the industry.

Calibration
Direct calibration with known input source:
Known input quantities based on primary
measurements are applied for calibration. In
general it is of the same order of accuracy as
primary calibration.
Indirect calibration: Based on the equivalence of
two different devices that can be employed for
measuring a certain physical quantity, i.e. to
predict the performance of one instrument on
the basis of experimental study of another.

Calibration
Routine calibration: The procedure of periodically checking the
accuracy and proper functioning of an instrument with standards
that are accurately reproducible. The usual calibration procedure is
given below;
1. Visual inspection of the instrument for obvious physical defects.
2. Checking the instrument for proper installation in accordance with
the manufacturers specifications.
3. Zero setting of all the indicators.
4. Leveling of the devices (if required).
5. Recommended operational tests to detect major defects.
6. Calibration against a standard both in ascending and descending
order of the input values to ensure that the errors due to
friction/stiction are accounted for. (The calibration device should
have superior level of traceability of standard as compared to the
calibrated device.)

Sensor Technologies

Sensor technologies
Capacitive and resistive sensors
Capacitive sensors consist of two parallel metal plates in which the dielectric
between the plates is either air or some other medium.
The capacitance C is given by C = 0 rA/ d, where 0 is the absolute permittivity, r is
the relative permittivity of the dielectric medium between the plates, A is the area of the
plates and d is the distance between them.
Capacitive devices are often used as displacement sensors, in which motion of a
moveable capacitive plate relative to a fixed one changes the capacitance. Often, the
measured displacement is part of instruments measuring pressure, sound or
acceleration.
Alternatively, fixed plate capacitors can also be used as sensors, in which the
capacitance value is changed by causing the measured variable to change the dielectric
constant of the material between the plates in some way. This principle is used in devices
to measure moisture content, humidity values and liquid level etc.

Sensor technologies
Capacitive and resistive sensors
Resistive sensors rely on the variation of the resistance of a material when
the measured variable is applied to it.
This principle is most commonly applied in:
Temperature measurement using resistance thermometers or
thermistors.
Displacement measurement using strain gauges or piezoresistive
sensors.
Also, some moisture meters work on the resistance-variation
principle.

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Sensor technologies
Magnetic sensors
Magnetic sensors utilize the magnetic phenomena of inductance, reluctance
and eddy currents to indicate the value of the measured quantity, which is usually
some form of displacement.
Inductive sensors translate movement into a change in the mutual
inductance between magnetically coupled parts. One example of this is the
inductive displacement transducer shown in figure.

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Sensor technologies
Magnetic sensors
In this, the single winding on the central limb of an E-shaped Ferromagnetic body is
excited with an alternating voltage. The displacement to be measured is applied to a
ferromagnetic plate in close proximity to the E piece. Movements of the plate alter
the flux paths and hence cause a change in the current flowing in the winding. By
Ohms law, the current flowing in the winding is given by I = V/L.

Figure 13.1. Inductive Displacement Sensor

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Sensor technologies
Magnetic sensors
By Ohms law, the current flowing in the winding is given by I = V/L. For fixed values
of and V, this equation becomes I = 1/KL, where K is a constant. The relationship
between inductance, L and the displacement, d, applied to the plate is a non-linear
one, and hence the output-current/displacement characteristic has to be calibrated.
The inductance principle is also used in differential transformers to measure
translational and rotational displacements.

Inductive Displacement Sensor

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Sensor technologies
Magnetic sensors
In variable reluctance sensors, a coil is wound on a permanent magnet
rather than on an iron core as in variable inductance sensors. Such devices are
commonly used to measure rotational velocities. Figure shows a typical
instrument in which a ferromagnetic gearwheel is placed next to the sensor.

As the tip of each tooth on the gearwheel moves towards and away from
the pick-up unit, the changing magnetic flux in the pick-up coil causes a induced
voltage in the coil proportional to the rate of change of flux. The output is a
sequence of positive and negative pulses whose frequency is proportional to
the rotational velocity of the gearwheel.

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Sensor technologies
Magnetic sensors
Eddy current sensors consist of a probe
containing a coil, as shown in Figure, that is
excited at a high frequency, which is typically
1MHz.

This is used to measure the displacement of the probe relative to a moving metal
target. Because of the high frequency of excitation, eddy currents are induced only
in the surface of the target, and the current magnitude reduces to almost zero a
short distance inside the target. This allows the sensor to work with very thin
targets, such as the steel diaphragm of a pressure sensor. The eddy currents alter the
inductance of the probe coil, and this change can be translated into a d.c. voltage
output that is proportional to the distance between the probe and the target.
Measurement resolution as high as 0.1 m can be achieved. The sensor can also
work with a non-conductive target if a piece of aluminium tape is fastened to it.

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Sensor technologies
Hall-effect sensors
Basically, a Hall-effect sensor is a
device that is used to measure the
magnitude of a magnetic field. It consists
of a conductor carrying a current that is
aligned orthogonally with the magnetic
field, as shown in Figure.
This produces a transverse voltage
difference across the device that is directly
proportional to the magnetic field
strength.
For an excitation current I and magnetic field strength B, the output voltage is given
by V = KIB, where K is known as the Hall constant. The conductor in Hall-effect
sensors is usually made from a semiconductor material as opposed to a metal,
because a larger voltage output is produced for a magnetic field of a given size.

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Sensor technologies
Hall-effect sensors
In one common use of the device as
a proximity sensor, the magnetic field is
provided by a permanent magnet that is
built into the device. The magnitude of
this field changes when the device
becomes close to any ferrous metal
object or boundary. The Hall effect is also
commonly
used
in
keyboard
pushbuttons, in which a magnet is
attached underneath the button.
When the button is depressed, the magnet moves past a Hall-effect sensor. The
induced voltage is then converted by a trigger circuit into a digital output. Such
pushbutton switches can operate at high frequencies without contact bounce.

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Sensor technologies
Piezoelectric transducers
Piezoelectric transducers produce an output voltage when a force is applied
to them. They are frequently used as:

Ultrasonic receivers

Displacement transducers, in devices measuring acceleration,


force and pressure.
In ultrasonic receivers, the sinusoidal amplitude variations in the ultrasound
wave received are translated into sinusoidal changes in the amplitude of the
force applied to the piezoelectric transducer.
In displacement transducers, the translational movement is caused by
mechanical means to apply a force to the piezoelectric transducer.
Piezoelectric transducers are made from piezoelectric materials; the
asymmetrical lattice of molecules distorts when a mechanical force is applied to
it. This distortion causes a reorientation of electric charges within the material,
resulting in a relative displacement of positive and negative charges.
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Sensor technologies
Piezoelectric transducers
This distortion causes a reorientation of electric charges within the
material, resulting in a relative displacement of positive and negative charges.
The charge displacement induces surface charges on the material of
opposite polarity between the two sides. By implanting electrodes into the
surface of the material, these surface charges can be measured as an output
voltage. For a rectangular block of material, the induced voltage is given by:

where F is the applied force in g, A is the area of the material in mm, d is the
thickness of the material and k is the piezoelectric constant. The polarity of the
induced voltage depends on whether the material is compressed or stretched.
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Sensor technologies
Piezoelectric transducers
The input impedance of the instrument used to measure the induced
voltage must be chosen carefully.
Connection of the measuring instrument provides a path for the induced
charge to leak away.
Hence, the input impedance of the instrument must be very high,
particularly where static or slowly varying displacements are being measured.
The materials (piezoelectric in behavior) include:
Natural; such as quartz
Synthetic ; such as lithium sulphate, and
ferroelectric ceramics such as barium titanate.
The piezoelectric constant varies widely between different materials. Typical
values of k are 2.3 for quartz and 140 for barium titanate.

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Sensor technologies
Piezoelectric transducers
The piezoelectric constant varies widely between different materials.
Typical values of k are 2.3 for quartz and 140 for barium titanate.

Applying equation (13.1) for a force of 1 g applied to a crystal of area 100


mm2 and thickness 1 mm gives:

An output of 23 V for quartz and


An output of 1.4 mV for barium titanate.

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Sensor technologies
Piezoelectric transducers
Some polymeric films, such as polyvinylidine, also exhibit piezoelectric
properties. These have a higher voltage output than most crystals and are very
useful in many applications where displacement needs to be translated into a
voltage. However, they are fragile and hence unsuitable for applications where
resonance (mechanical vibrations) might be generated in the material.
The piezoelectric principle is invertible, and therefore distortion in a
piezoelectric material can be caused by applying a voltage to it. This is commonly
used in ultrasonic transmitters, where the application of a sinusoidal voltage at a
frequency in the ultrasound range causes a sinusoidal variation in the thickness
of the material and results in a sound wave being emitted at the chosen
frequency.

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Sensor technologies
Strain gauges
Strain gauges are devices that experience a change in resistance when they
are stretched or strained.
They are able to detect very small displacements, usually in the range 050
m.
They are typically used as part of some transducers, for example diaphragm
pressure sensors that convert pressure changes into small displacements of the
diaphragm.
Measurement inaccuracies as low as (+/-) 0.15% of full-scale reading are
achievable and the quoted life expectancy is usually three million reversals.
Strain gauges are manufactured to various nominal values of resistance, of
which 120, 350 and 1000 are very common.
The typical maximum change of resistance in a 120 device would be 5 at
maximum deflection.

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Sensor technologies
Strain gauges
The traditional type of strain gauge consists of a
length of metal resistance wire formed into a zigzag
pattern and mounted onto a flexible backing sheet, as
shown in Figure.
The wire is nominally of circular cross-section. As
strain is applied to the gauge, the shape of the crosssection of the resistance wire distorts, changing the crosssectional area. Since, the resistance of the wire per unit
length is inversely proportional to the cross-sectional
area, there is a consequential change in resistance.
The inputoutput relationship of a strain gauge is
expressed by the gauge factor, which is defined as the
change in resistance (R) for a given value of strain (S), i.e.
gauge factor = R/S

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Sensor technologies
Strain gauges
In recent years, wire-type gauges have largely been
replaced, either by metal-foil types as shown in Figure, or by
semiconductor types.
Metal-foil types are very similar to metal-wire types
except the active element consists of a piece of metal foil cut
into a zigzag pattern.
Cutting a foil into the required shape is much easier than
forming a piece of resistance wire into the required shape,
and this makes the devices cheaper to manufacture.
A popular material in metal strain gauge manufacture is
a coppernickelmanganese alloy, which is known by the
trade name of Advance.

Semiconductor types have piezoresistive elements, which are discussed next.


Compared with metal gauges, semiconductor types have a much superior gauge
factor (up to 100 times better) but they are more expensive.
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Sensor technologies
Strain gauges
Also, metal gauges have an almost zero temperature
coefficient, semiconductor types have a relatively high
temperature coefficient.
In use, strain gauges are bonded to the object whose
displacement is to be measured. The process of bonding
presents a certain amount of difficulty, particularly for
semiconductor types.
The resistance of the gauge is usually measured by a d.c.
bridge circuit and the displacement is inferred from the
measured bridge output.
The maximum current that can be allowed to flow in a
strain gauge is in the region of 5 to 50 mA, depending on the
type of gauge.

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Sensor technologies
Strain gauges
The maximum current that can be allowed to flow
in a strain gauge is in the region of 5 to 50 mA,
depending on the type of gauge.
To keep the above current limited, the maximum
voltage that can be applied to a strain-gauge bridge is
limited,
Hence, the resistance change in a strain gauge is
typically small and the bridge output voltage is also
small. Therefore, amplification of the output is required.
This adds to the cost of using strain gauges.

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Sensor technologies
Piezoresistive sensors
A piezoresistive sensor is made from semiconductor material in
which a p-type region has been diffused into an n-type base. The
resistance of this varies greatly when the sensor is compressed or
stretched.
This is frequently used as a strain gauge, where it produces a
significantly higher gauge factor than that given by metal wire or foil
gauges.
Also, measurement uncertainty can be reduced to +/- 0.1%. It is also
used in semiconductor-diaphragm pressure sensors and in
semiconductor accelerometers.
It should also be mentioned that the term piezoresistive sensor is
sometimes used to describe all types of strain gauge, including metal
types.

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Sensor technologies
Piezoresistive sensors
It should also be mentioned that the term piezoresistive sensor is
sometimes used to describe all types of strain gauge, including metal
types.
However, this is incorrect since only about 10% of the output from
a metal strain gauge is generated by piezoresistive effects, with the
remainder arising out of the dimensional cross-section change in the
wire or foil.
Proper piezoelectric strain gauges, which are alternatively known as
semiconductor strain gauges, produce most (about 90%) of their output
through piezoresistive effects, and only a small proportion of the output
is due to dimensional changes in the sensor.

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Sensor technologies
Optical sensors (air path)
Optical sensors are based on the modulation of light travelling between a
light source and a light detector, as shown in Figure, below.
The transmitted light can travel along either an air path or a fibre-optic cable.
Either form of transmission gives immunity to electromagnetically induced noise,
and also provides greater safety than electrical sensors when used in hazardous
environments.

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Sensor technologies
Optical sensors (air path)

Light sources suitable for transmission across an air path include tungstenfilament lamps, laser diodes and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Light from tungsten
lamps is in the visible part of the light frequency spectrum, it is prone to
interference from the sun and other sources. Hence, infrared LEDs or infrared
laser diodes are usually preferred. These emit light in a narrow frequency band in
the infrared region and are not affected by sunlight.
The usual light detector used with optical systems are photocells (cadmium
sulphide or cadmium selenide being the most common), phototransistors and
photodiodes. These are devices, whose resistance is reduced according to the
intensity of light to which they are exposed. Photocells and phototransistors are
particularly sensitive in the infrared region, and so are ideal partners for infrared
LED and laser diode sources. Air-path optical sensors are commonly used to
measure proximity, translational motion, rotational motion and gas concentration.
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Sensor technologies
Optical sensors (fibre-optic)

As an alternative of the air as the transmission medium, fibre-optic cable can be


used to transmit light between a source and a detector. In such sensors, the
variable being measured causes some measurable change in the characteristics of
the light transmitted by the cable.
The basis of operation of fibre-optic sensors is the translation of the physical
quantity measured into a change in one or more parameters of a light beam. The
light parameters that can be modulated are one or more of the following:
Intensity, Phase, Polarization, Wavelength / f Hz and Transmission time.
Fibre-optic sensors usually incorporate either glass/plastic cables or all plastic
cables. All glass types are rarely used because of their fragility.
Plastic cables have particular advantages for sensor applications because they
are cheap and have a relatively large diameter of 0.51.0mm, making connection
to the transmitter and receiver easy.

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Sensor technologies
Optical sensors (fibre-optic)

Plastic cables should not be used in hostile environments where they may be
damaged. The cost of the fibre-optic cable itself is insignificant for sensing
applications, as the total cost of the sensor is dominated by the cost of the
transmitter and receiver.
Fibre-optic sensors characteristically enjoy long life. For example, the life
expectancy of reflective fibre-optic switches is quoted at ten million operations.
Their accuracy is also good; typical inaccuracy of +/- 1% of full-scale reading for a
fibre-optic pressure sensor.
Advantages are: their simplicity, low cost, small size, high reliability and
capability of working in many kinds of hostile environment.
Two major classes of fibre-optic sensor exist: intrinsic sensors and extrinsic
sensors. In intrinsic sensors, the fibre-optic cable itself is the sensor, whereas in
extrinsic sensors, the fibre-optic cable is only used to guide light to/from a
conventional sensor. A third may also be included in this list called Distributed
Sensors (next slide)
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Sensor technologies
Optical sensors (fibre-optic)

Distributed sensors
Current research is looking at ways of distributing a number of discrete
sensors measuring different variables along a fibre-optic cable. Alternatively,
sensors of the same type, which are located at various points along a cable, are
being investigated as a means of providing distributed sensing of a single
measured variable. For example, the use of a 2 km long cable to measure the
temperature distribution along its entire length has been demonstrated,
measuring temperature at 400 separate points to a resolution of 1C.

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