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Basic Theory of Eddy Current Testing

Electrical Current Electrical current is defined as the movement of

electrons through a conductor.

Symbol I

Unit of Measure : AMPERE

SUB-UNIT commonly used are:mA (milli-amperes) 1/1000 (0.001) of an

µA (micro-amperes)1/1000000 (0:000001)
of an ampere

Ampere = 6.28 X 1018 electron/sec


All Materials are made up of building blocks called atoms. An atom

consists of a heavy nucleus containing positively charged protons
around which orbit negatively charged electrons similar to the planets
orbiting the sun. The number of protons equals the number of electrons
and their positive/negative attraction balanced with the centrifugal
forces of the spinning electrons hold the electrons in orbits. Those
electrons orbiting farthest away leave the orbit and flow freely through
the material to exchange orbits with other loosely bonded
electrons. Therefore- electron flow is a movement of loosely bonded
Electrical Current Flow can be defined as – A unidirectional
flow of electrons through an electrical conductor. Electron flow
cannot exist in a non-conductor.

Undirectional Flow:

Flow can only be in one direction. The forces acting to cause, flow can be
impeded by a greater or lesser force. If the forces are equal there can be
no flow. If the impeding force is greater by X units of force flow will be
in the direction of the greater force.
Rectified Alternating Current

This "skin effect" limits the use of AC since many inspections call for the
detection of subsurface defects. However, the. convenient access to AC,
drive its use beyond surface flaw inspections. AC can be converted to a
current that is very much like DC by rectification. With the use of
rectifiers, the reversing-AC can be converted to a unidirectional current.
The three commonly used types of rectified current are described

Half Wave Rectified Alternating Current (HWAC)

When single-phase alternating current is passed through a rectifier,

current is allowed to flow in only one direction.. The reverse half of each
cycle is blocked out so that a one directional, pulsating current is
produced. The current rises from zero to a maximum and then returns
to zero. No current flows during the time when the reverse cycle is
blocked out. The HWAC repeats at same rate as the unrectified current
(60 hertz typical). Since.half of the current is blocked out, the-amperage
is half of the unaltered AC.

This type of current is often referred to as half wave DC or pulsating DC.

The pulsation of the HWAC helps magnetic particle indications form by
vibrating the particles and giving them added mobility. This added
mobility is especially important when using dry particles. The pulsation
is reported to significantly improve inspection sensitivity. HWAC is
available in electromagnetic yokes.

Full Wave Rectified Alternating Current (FWAC) (Single


Full wave rectification inverts the negative current to positive current

rather than blocking it out. This produces. a pulsating DC with no
interval between the pulses. Filtering is usually performed to soften the
sharp polarity switching in the rectified current. While particle mobility
is not as good as half-wave AC due to the reduction in pulsation, the
depth of the subsurface magnetic field is improved.

Three Phase Full Wave Rectified Alternating Current

Three phase current is often used to power industrial equipment

because it has more favorable power transmission and line loading
characteristics. It is also highly desirable for magnetic part testing
because when it is rectified and filtered, the resulting current very
closely resembles direct current. Stationary magnetic particle
equipment wire with three phase AC will usually have the ability to
magnetize with AC or DC (three phase full wave rectified), providing the
inspector with the advantages of each current form.
Basic Theory of Eddy Current Testing

Electrical Conductor:

A conductor is any material that is capable of carrying electrical current.

Some materials are conductors where others are not. This is dependent
on the electrons that surround the nucleus of the atom, if these are
loosely held they will pass from one atom to the next if an electrical
force is applied to the material.


A material consisting of atoms in which the nucleus has a strong bond

on the orbiting electrons. Non-conductors can become charged with
“static electricity” when rubbed vigorously against another non-
conductor. The action is to forcefully remove the outer electrons from
their stable orbit rendering the non-conductor positively charged. The
material will then stick to another non-conductor sharing the electrons
in an attempt to regain stability. Eventually this material will become
stable by capturing free electrons from the limitless supply within the
immediate environment.

Electrical Force

The electrical energy derived from mechanical, chemical, or other form

of energy that must be applied across the material to force the electrons
to flow. The potential energy required to cause current flow.

Symbol V (E)

Unit of Measure: VOLT

SUB-UNIT commonly used are:

mV (milli-volts) 1/1000 (0.001) of a Volt

µV (micro-volts)1/1000000 (0.000001) of a Volt

Potential Energy:

When a Hydroelectric dam is filled with water, the water in the dam
possesses potential energy provided by the earth's .gravity. When the
water is released down penstocks to the turbine, the potential energy is
converted to kinetic energy through the turbines to provide heat and

Similarly, an electrical battery is charged (given potential energy). When

the battery's circuit is completed, electrons will flow by virtue of the
energy having the higher potential at the negative terminal, causing the
electrons to be pushed around the circuit to the positive terminal.
Eventually, the energy will be expended and the current will cease to

Electrical Resistance

The opposition to the flow of electrical current. The amount of

resistance in a material is the factor tor that limits the amount of
current that flows through the material for a given electrical force. The
above example of the hydroelectric dam showed that the potential
energy of the water was not expended all at once, because it would time
for the water to empty down the penstocks, This is due to the fact that
the physical size of the penstock feeding the turbine offers resistance to
the rate of water flow.

This relationship can be shown as:

Length of Pipe
Diameter of Pipe

The rate of water flow is inversely proportional to resistance.

Rate of water flow 1


In electrical terms the same relationships apply.

Resistance Length of wire

Diameter of wire

Rate of current flow (Amperes) 1


True electrical resistance is dependent on the ability of the material to

conduct electron flow. From the earlier discussions we know that
electron flow is dependent on the ease with which the free electrons can
leave their orbit. Therefore a highly conductive material contains free
electrons loosely held in their orbit by virtue of their large distance from
the nucleus, and conversely a poor conductor contains free electrons
that are strongly held in their orbits.

Symbol Ω (R)

Unit of Measure: Ohm

Sub-UNIT commonly used are:

M Ω (Mega-ohms) 100000 Ohms

Ω (Kilo-ohms) 1000 Ohms

K Ω (milli-ohms) 1/1000 (0.001) of an ohm

Another word to refer to this is the Conductivity of the material. However this is
not a true relationship it is inversely proportional.

Conductivity: Is the ability of the material to conduct an electrical

current. It is opposite of resistance. Materials that hace high resistance
have poor conductivity and materials that hace low resistance have high
conductivity. The unit of conductivity is called the “mho”.

Unit of Measure % IACS

(International Annealed Copper Standard)

IACS: A percentage scale that relates the purest grade of copper as
having 100% conductivity and all more electrically resistive materials
as being some percentage less than 100%
OHMS Law: Ohms law states that in any electrical circuit current
flow (I) equals the driving voltage (V) or (E) divided by the circuit
resistance (R).
I = V/R or I = E/R
This is the opposite of conductivity. For example, Copper, which is
highly conductive, has a very low resisitivity. (See hand out Table).


Unit of Measure: µ Ω. CM

This can also be calculated from the % (IACS) Table as shown aby
= 172.41 where = conductivity in IACS
= resistivity in micro-ohm. Centimeter
With this in mind we can now look at the true formulae for electrical resistance:

Resistance = Length x p

From this Formula we can see that resistance to electron flow is:
1. Directly proportional to Length

2. Directly proportional to Resistivity

3. Inversely proportional to Area

The wire resistance is very small and can be calculated using the
following relationship of resistivity, length and area of the copper wire.
A sample calculation of resistivity in a copper wire follows:

The value of resistivity for a given material is determined by precise

measurement in a standards laboratory with a pure form of the
material, and the values obtained are listed in tables.

The following Table provides a list of the common metals and their
resistivity values, we will use often in this course presentation.
Copper 1.72
Aluminum 4
Brass 7
Zirconium 50
304 Stainless Steel 72

The unit of conductivity s the International Annealed Copper Standard
(IACS), which relates all conductors by percent, to a pure grade of
annealed (stress relieved) copper.

Conductivity is the opposite of resistivity and can be calculated using

the following relationship of conductivity to resistivity:

Current = Electromotive Force
R Amperes = Volts
Resistance = Electromotive Force
I OHMS = Volts
Electromotive Force =
Current X Resistance

E = IR Volts = Amperes X OHMS

• Measure values of voltage and current in a series circuit.

Series circuits are characterized by the fact that they contain only one
path for current flow.
There are three rules concerning series circuits that, when used
with Ohm's Law, permit values of current, voltage, and resistance to
be determined.
Assume that an electron leaves the negative terminal of the battery
in Figure 3-1 and must travel to the positive terminal. Notice . that the
only path the electron can travel is through each resistor. Since there
is only one path for current flow, the current must be the same at any
point in the circuit. Regardless of where an ammeter is connected in the
circuit it will indicate the same value. The first rule concerning series
circuits states that the current must be the same at any point in the


 The first rule concerning series circuits states that the

current must be the same at any point in the circuit.

 The second rule of series circuits states that the total

resistance is the sum of the individual resistances.

 The third rule of series circuits states that the total voltage is
equal to the sum of the voltage drops around the circuit.
Another rule concerning circuits is that watts (power) will
add in any type of circuit.

• Measure values of voltage and current in a parallel circuit.

Parallel circuits are characterized by the fact that they have more than
one path for current flow. There are three rules concerning parallel
circuits that, when used in conjunction -with Ohm's Law, permit values
of voltage, current, and resistance to be determined for almost any
parallel circuit. As with series circuits, the total power consumption of
the circuit is the sum of the power consumption of each component of
the circuit.

 The first rule of parallel circuits --- the total current is the
sum of the currents through each branch of the circuit.

 The second rule of parallel circuits -- the voltage is the same

across all branches of a parallel circuit.

 The third rule for parallel circuits -- the reciprocal of the total
resistance is equal to the sum of the reciprocals of each

SO -- Since the voltage across each branch is known and the

amount of current flowing through each is known, the resistance of
each branch can be determined using Ohm's Law:


The total resistance of a parallel circuit will always be less than the
resistance of any single branch.