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Instrumentation and Control Systems

Control Systems


Dr. V. Sugumaran Dr. V. Muralidharan

M. Tech., (Gold Medalist), Ph. O., M. Tech., Ph. O.,
SMBS, VIT University, Chennai Campus, Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Chennai, Tamil Nadu ? -IP+-:>_ar dO'ej 11k Rkfsbq:;fcy, Vanda/ur
Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Ravi C. Teja
B.Tech., M.S. (USA)
System Control and Mechatronics
Cha/mers University of Technology, Sweden


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Dedicated to
the lotus feet of our beloved AMMA
Matha Amritanandamayi Devi

astery of instrumentation is a challenge. The physics of measured process, principles
of sensing, different possible sensors, and the process environment are all to be well
understood and a well thought out selection made to match the application. The
book is a good balance in the sense that it does justice to all the relevant aspects. Sukumar
has organized it in a well thought out manner. Starting with the basics of measurement, the
book progresses through the need and scope of standardization and the modules of an
instrumentation scheme methodically; subsequently the schemes are dealt with in depth.
Their selection and organization is from an application angle. All major application segments
are discussed in adequate depth and detail. I am sure that the book will prove to be a valuable
asset to the student community as well as the interested professionals.

Dr T.R. Padmanabhan
Professor Emeritus, School of Engineering
Amrita University, Ettimadai, Coimbatore


nstrumentation and control systems are essential activities in every branch of science and technology. We
need to know our body temperature, the blood pressure, temperature of the induction stove, speed of our
car/bike, salt content level in the water, etc. Also, we need to control systems for water level control,
temperature control in oven, refrigerator and air conditioners. Therefore, the study of instrumentation and
control systems is essential for engineering and technology students. There are a number of books available in
the market on Instrumentation and Control systems, separately. In many universities, Instrumentation and
Control Systems are combined as a single subject and offered. Very few books are available in the market to
meet this requirement. Students always express the need for a comprehensive text on Instrumentation and
Control Systems. A small effort is taken in this direction by a group of Engineers to bring this book.
The book is divided into three parts. Part I (Chapters 1 to 7) introduces the fundamental concepts
required to understand the subject. This part discusses about standards, uncertainty management, errors in the
measurements and how to tackle them, characteristics of instruments, signal conditioning units, and signal
presentation units. Also, if one needs to use computers for measurement and control purposes, the necessary
fundamentals are presented with some sample codes.
Part II (Chapters 8 to 18) deals with individual measurement/instrumentation techniques. One can
approach this part in two ways: based on type of transducers and listing the applications and the other way is to
list the sensors for each of the parameters. In this book, the second approach is used, as it will be easy for the
learners to get a comprehensive idea about various options available to measure a particular parameter. Part II
specifically examines the principles, construction, working, advantage, disadvantage and applications of
transducers for measuring displacement, strain, liquid level, force, torque, pressure, flow, density, vibration,
temperature and PH.
Part III (Chapters 19 to 24) introduces control systems concepts. It gives a frame work for
mathematical modeling, block diagram, signal flow diagram, time and frequency domain analysis, and stability
analysis. The book is aimed at the students taking courses in Instrumentation and Control at undergraduate
and post graduate levels and the working professionals in this field.



e take this opportunity to thank Poojya Swamiji, Abhayamrita Chitanya, the driving force
AMRITA, for his timely support during our critical periods. We have learnt how to help people
and to whom to help, from Swamiji.
The first author conceived the idea of writing this book during his interaction with Dr T.R. Padmanabhan
regarding the subject matter. The interaction was mainly informal discussions for clarifying doubts from Dr
Padmanabhan. During that time he was Dean-Engineering, Amrita School of Engineering, who had already
written many books in engineering including Industrial Instrumentation. He inspired many (including authors)
not only by his words, but also by his dedicated actions. The pages are not sufficient to describe the enjoyable
timely small stories, the way he conducted short and effective meetings and so on. May we take this
opportunity to pay our accolade to a real teacher who took a lot of pain in training us for no gains.
A very similar and a saintly person there, is our Guide, Dr K.I. Ramachandran, who magnanimously and in
good nature guided us. We have learnt how to give freedom to the students from him. We are extremely
grateful and wish to place on record our deep sense of indebtedness and gratitude to Prof. K.I. Ramachandran,
the intellectual power house, for his valuable guidance, generosity, encouragement and immense help.
Our heartiest gratitude to Dr Joshi C. Haran, Chairman-Mechanical Engineering, who laid the foundation in
engineering fundamentals and insisted perfection in every minutest detail. We sincerely thank him for all that
he has done to us. The authors are grateful to Dr B.K. Vinayagam, Head (Department of Mechatronics, SRM
University) with whom the authors enjoyed working.
Our gratitude and sincere thanks to all people who are directly and indirectly involved in compilation of the
material presented in this book.
The help rendered by Mrs. Meena Sugumaran, Mrs. Manju Muralidharan, Mr. Dhruv and Ms. Niranjana
Manickam during the manuscript preparation is warmly acknowledged. We cherish the association with the
Publisher while bringing out this book (in just 5 years they brought out this book). This section will be
incomplete if we forget to thank the patience and efforts rendered by our family members to bring out this

Foreword (vii)
Preface (ix)
Acknowledgements (x)


CHAPTER 1 Introduction 317

1.1 Measurement 4
1.2 Why Measurement? 4
1.3 Why an Engineer should Learn Measurements? 8
1.4 What do we Measure and when do we Measure? 8
1.5 How do we Measure? 9
1.6 What is an Instrument? 9
1.7 Generalized Measurement System 9
1.8 Types of Instruments 11
1.9 Experimental Test Plan 15
1.10 Review Questions 16

CHAPTER 2 Standards 1835

2.1 Introduction 18
2.2 Standard 19
2.3 Standard Organizations 19
2.4 A Brief history of standards 20
2.5 Definition of Base Units 22
2.6 Classes of SI units 24
2.7 Units for Dimensionless Quantities 28
2.8 SI Prefixes (Decimal Multiples and Submultiples of SI Units) 28
2.9 Non-SI Units Accepted for use with SI Units 29
2.10 SI Unit Rules and Style Conventions 29
2.11 Classification of Standards 34
2.12 Review Questions 35


CHAPTER 3 Characteristics of an Instrument 3653

3.1 Introduction 37
3.2 Static Terms 37
3.3 Dynamic terms 49
3.4 Impedance 51
3.5 Review Questions 52

CHAPTER 4 Uncertainty Management 5472

4.1 Introduction 55
4.2 Uncertainty in Measurement 55
4.3 Propagation of Uncertainty/Error 56
4.4 Statistical Tools 57
4.5 How to Calculate Standard Deviation? 61
4.6 Sources of Error 64
4.7 Classification of Sources of Error 64
4.8 Methods of Reducing Error Source 67
4.9 Measurement Arithmetic 69
4.10 Rules for Rounding 70
4.11 Significant Digits 70
4.12 Arithmetic Operations 71
4.13 Presenting Data 72
4.14 Review Questions 72

CHAPTER 5 Computer Fundamentals for Measurements and

Control 7391
5.1 Introduction 74
5.2 A Quick Tour Inside CPU Box 74
5.3 Getting StartedDigital Signals Out 76
5.4 Analog Signals Out 81
5.5 Taking Signals into the Computer 82
5.6 The Basics of Making Accurate Measurements 89
5.7 Review Questions 91

CHAPTER 6 Signal Conditioning 92111

6.1 Introduction 93
6.2 Amplifiers 94
6.3 Operational Amplifiers (OP-Amps) 97

6.4 Filters 103

6.5 Divider Circuit 106
6.6 Charge Amplifiers 106
6.7 Wheatstone Bridge 107
6.8 Rectifiers 108
6.9 Scaling Devices 109
6.10 Review Questions 111

CHAPTER 7 Signal Presentation 112130

7.1 Introduction 112
7.2 Electrical Display Units 113
7.3 Moving Coil Meters (Permanent Magnet Moving Coil Meters) 113
7.4 Digital Meters 120
7.5 Liquid Crystal Diode (LCD) 123
7.6 Oscilloscope 124
7.7 Recorders 126
7.8 Review Questions 130

CHAPTER 8 Displacement Measurement 133180
8.1 Basics of Motion 133
8.2 The Need for Displacement Measurement 135
8.3 How do we Measure Displacement? 135
8.4 Potentiometer 136
8.5 Other Types of Potentiometers 143
8.6 For Rotary Measurement 146
8.7 Potentiometer for Large Displacements 146
8.8 Capacitance Type Transducer 147
8.9 Measurement of Rotational Motion Using Capacitive Transducer 153
8.10 Inductance Type Transducers 156
8.11 Piezoelectric Transducer 166
8.12 Nozzle Flapper 167
8.13 Synchro-pair (Transmitter-transformer Pair) 169
8.14 Resolver 171
8.15 Microsyn 172
8.16 Linear Inductosyn 173
8.17 Laser Interferometer 174

8.18 Fotonic Sensor 175

8.19 Infra-red Sensor 176
8.20 Digital Transducer 176
8.21 Review Questions 180

CHAPTER 9 Strain Measurement 181209

9.1 Fundamentals 181
9.2 Why Strain is Expressed as a Ratio? 182
9.3 Types of Strain 182
9.4 Units of Strain 184
9.5 Types of Strain Gauges 184
9.6 Fundamentals Related to Resistance Strain Gauge 189
9.7 Expression for Gauge Factor 189
9.8 Wheatstone Bridge 191
9.9 Relation between Change in Resistance and Unbalanced Voltage
in Wheatstone Bridge 191
9.10 Resistance Type Strain Gauge 195
9.11 Temperature Effect 203
9.12 Other Temperature Compensation Techniques 205
9.13 Selection of Gauge 206
9.14 Advantages 208
9.15 Disadvantages 208
9.16 Review Questions 209

CHAPTER 10 Liquid Level Measurement 210217

10.1 Introduction 210
10.2 Level Measurement Methods 211
10.3 Direct Liquid Level Measurement 211
10.4 Indirect Level Measurement 212
10.5 Electric Liquid Level Sensors 214
10.6 Ultrasonic Sensor 215
10.7 Capacitance based Level Measuring Instruments 215
10.8 Proximity Measurements 216
10.9 Review Questions 217

CHAPTER 11 Force Measurement 218239

11.1 Introduction 218
11.2 Weight and Mass 219
11.3 Lever Arm Balances 219

11.4 Hydraulic Force Meter (Load Cell) 224

11.5 Pneumatic Load Cell 225
11.6 Alternate Arrangement of Pneumatic Load Cell 227
11.7 Elastic Element Load Cell 228
11.8 Proving Ring 232
11.9 DiaphragmLVDT Type Load Cell 233
11.10 Piezo-electric Load Cell 234
11.11 Electromagnetic Balance 235
11.12 Digital Force Transducer 236
11.13 Pressductor Load Cells 238
11.14 Review Questions 239

CHAPTER 12 Torque Measurement 240246

12.1 Introduction 240
12.2 Need for Torque Measurement 241
12.3 Types of Torque Measuring Devices 241
12.4 Review Questions 246

CHAPTER 13 Measurement of Pressure 247277

13.1 Introduction 248
13.2 Pressure 248
13.3 Different Faces of Pressure 250
13.4 PressureHead 251
13.5 Classification of Pressure Gauges 253
13.6 Selection of Pressure Gauge 253
13.7 Manometer 254
13.8 Dead Weight Tester 255
13.9 Bourdon Tube Pressure Gauge 257
13.10 Elastic Diaphragm Pressure Gauge 260
13.11 Bellows Type Pressure Gauge 261
13.12 Capacitive Pressure Sensor 263
13.13 Thermocouple Gauge 265
13.14 Pirani Gauge 267
13.15 Ionisation Gauge 268
13.16 Viscous Friction Vacuum Gauge 270
13.17 McLeod Gauge 271
13.18 Piezoelectric Pressure Transducer 274
13.19 Review Questions 276

CHAPTER 14 Flow Measurement 278321

14.1 Introduction 279
14.2 Classification of Flow 280
14.3 The Need for Flow Measurement 282
14.4 Energy Equation 283
14.5 Development of Obstruction Meters for Flow Measurements 285
14.6 Basic Requirements for Measuring Techniques 286
14.7 Constant Area Differntial Pressure Flowmeters 287
14.8 Orifice Meter 287
14.9 Flow Nozzles 291
14.10 Venturi Meter 296
14.11 Variable Area Constant Pressure Flowmeters 298
14.12 Turbine Meters 302
14.13 Paddlewheel Flow Meter 304
14.14 Electronic Mass Flow Meters 304
14.15 Heated Tube Type Meters 305
14.16 Immersion Probe Type Flow Meters 307
14.17 Ultrasonic Doppler Flow Meters 308
14.18 Positive Displacement Meters 309
14.19 Magnetic Flow Meters 311
14.20 Hot Wire Anemometer 314
14.21 Laser Doppler Anemometer (LDA) 316
14.22 Pitot Static Tube (Total Pressure Probe) 317
14.23 Drag Force Flow Meter 319
14.24 Review Questions 321

CHAPTER 15 Density Measurement 322336

15.1 Introduction 323
15.2 Density Measurement Based on Weight 323
15.3 Measurement of Density Using Buoyancy 325
15.4 Density Measurement using Hydrostatic Head 325
15.5 Liquid Density Measurement 326
15.6 Gas Density Measurement 327
15.7 Magnetic Methods of Density Measurement 329
15.8 Density Measurement by Vibrational Methods 331
15.9 Vibrating Tube Densitometers 332
15.10 Hydrometers 333

15.11 Radiation Based Densitometers 334

15.12 Refractometric Densitometer 336
15.13 Review Questions 336

CHAPTER 16 Vibration Measurement 337359

16.1 Introduction 338
16.2 Classification of Accelerometers 341
16.3 Mechanical Lever Type Elementary Accelerometer 341
16.4 Acceleration Level Indicator 342
16.5 Brittle Member Acceleration Level Indicator 343
16.6 Seismic Accelerometer 344
16.7 Strain Gauge Type Accelerometer 346
16.8 Capacitance Type Accelerometer 348
16.9 Inductance Type Accelerometer 348
16.10 LVDT Type Accelerometer 349
16.11 Piezoelectric Type Accelerometer 350
16.12 Review Questions 359

CHAPTER 17 Temperature Measurement 360379

17.1 Introduction 361
17.2 Temperature Scales 361
17.3 International Practical Temperature Scale (IPTS) 362
17.4 Classification of Temperature Measuring Devices 363
17.5 Expansion Thermometers 363
17.6 Pressure Thermometer: (Fluid Expansion Type) 365
17.7 ThermocoupleFundamentals 367
17.8 Resistance Temperature DetectorRTDs 370
17.9 Thermistors 373
17.10 Pyrometers 375
17.11 Review Questions 379

CHAPTER 18 pH Measurements 380382

18.1 pH Measurement 380
18.2 pH Measurement Based on Glass Electrode 381
18.3 Review Questions 382

CHAPTER 19 Introduction to Control Systems 383393
19.1 Introduction 384
19.2 Control System 384
19.3 The Elements of a Control System 385
19.4 Classification of Control Systems 387
19.5 Feedback 391
19.6 Servomechanism 391
19.7 Review Questions 392

CHAPTER 20 Mathematical Modelling 394431

20.1 Introduction 395
20.2 Review of Laplace Transforms 395
20.3 The Big Picture 396
20.4 Linear Time Invariant Differential Equation 397
20.5 Mathematical Model 397
20.6 Mathematical Modelling of Electrical Networks 399
20.7 Transfer Functions for Electrical Networks 400
20.8 Example Problems 404
20.9 Mathematical Modelling of Mechanical Systems 412
20.10 Examples for Mechanical Systems 419
20.11 Mathematical Modelling of Thermal Systems 424
20.12 Mathematical Modelling of Hydraulic Systems 425
20.13 Modelling of Pneumatic Systems 427
12.14 Review Questions 428

CHAPTER 21 Block Diagrams and Signal Flow Graphs 432458

21.1 Introduction 432
21.2 Block Diagram 433
21.3 Signal Flow Graph 449
21.4 Review questions 457

CHAPTER 22 Time Response 459480

22.1 Introduction 459
22.2 Mathematical Modeling 460
22.3 Zero Order System 461
22.4 Dial Gauge 462

22.5 First Order Systems 465

22.6 Second Order System 472
22.7 Review Questions 480

CHAPTER 23 Frequency Response 481519

23.1 Introduction 482
23.2 Frequency Response Plots 483
23.3 Step by Step Procedure to Draw Bode Plot on a Semi-log Sheet 503
23.4 Polar Plot 508
23.5 Type-0 Feedback Control System 510
23.6 Type-1 Feedback Control System 511
23.7 Type-2 Feedback Control System 512
23.8 Review Questions 518

Chapter 24 Stability 520528

24.1 Introduction 520
24.2 Bibo Definition of Stability 521
24.3 Determination of Stability based on the Position of Closed Loop
Transfer Function Poles 522
24.4 Routh-hurwitz Criterion 523
24.5 Review Questions 527

Index 529539

This chapter will consider the overall introduction to measurement and instruments and
its classification. After you have read this chapter, you should be able to:
Answer what is measurement and why it is necessary
Say why an Engineer needs to learn measurement
Describe what an instrument is and its basic functional block
4 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Describe generalized measurement system

Identify the various units of measurement system
Describe different types of instruments.

If you can express what you are talking about in terms of some number, then you know
something about it says Lord Kelvin and measurement is all about finding that number.
Measurement is the process of quantifying or assigning a number to a particular variable.
Any physical entity/parameter, which is to be quantified, is called as a variable. Entities
such as distance, pressure, and temperature are typical examples. Let us try to assign a
number to the distance between your home and office. Can we assign some number; say
1000, just like that? Even if we do so, can anybody understand the number 1000 without
knowing how much is 1, i.e., the unit distance in this case. For me, one means some
distance and for you it may mean some other distance. For both of us to understand the
same distance by means of a number it becomes necessary to define a common unit
distance (unit means one) and kept as reference. Similarly, for other parameters also, unit
quantity has to be defined. Once we have defined unit distance and named it as meter,
Distance between home and office = n m;
m meter in this case (In general, unit)
n is the number of times the unit occurs in the given distance.
Here, the job of measurement is to find out the n; the numerical multiplier of the


To answer this question, let us take some day-to-day events. Early morning, while getting
up, we look at the clock (the time measuring instrument) to know the time. While buying
milk, we use lactometer to monitor the quality (density) of the milk. We stand on weighing
machine to monitor the weight. We use water meter in water line and energy meter in the
electrical line to monitor the water consumption and electricity consumption respectively.
We use thermometer to measure temperature when we have fever. Here the role of the
measurement is to know/monitor the processes and operations through its parameters.
We use almost same size and shape spoon to add salt while preparing dishes and take
extreme care to add a particular quantity. Why? To control the taste of the food. We go to
tailoring shop and give measurement of our body. Why? To control the shape and size of
the shirt to fit properly. We use speedometer in bikes/cars to know and control the speed
for safe drive. The list is endless. Here, the role of measurement is to control the processes
and operations.
Introduction 5

Let us move on to a classroom. The physics teacher defines density as mass per unit
volume and claims that the density of water is 1000 kg/m3. A student asks, Sir, how do
I believe that density of water is 1000 kg/m3? The teacher takes exactly 1 m3 of water by
measurement and measures the mass of that water to be 1000 kg. Thus, he shows the
student that the density of water is 1000 kg/m3. Why do we need to measure here? It is
practical verification of already established quantity.
Physics Class

density as
mass per
unit volume
the density of
How do I believe
water is 1000 kg/m3 this man?!!

Fig. 1.1. Physics Class

The mechanics teacher, after deriving the equations of motion, claims that we can
predict the maximum height traveled by the stone, provided it is thrown vertically up and
with known initial velocity. He uses the equation,
v2 = u2 + 2gs
g acceleration due to gravity,
u, v are initial and final velocities respectively,
s displacement.

we can predict
the maximum
height traveled by
the stone provided
it is thrown vertically
up and with
known velocity.

How do I believe
this equation?!!

Fig. 1.2. Mechanics Class

6 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Here, g is a constant (9.81 m/s2) and at maximum height, the velocity v = 0. Hence,
the maximum height reached becomes, s = u2/2g. How do we believe this equation? We
need to measure the initial velocity of vertically thrown stone and measure the height it
has reached. This experimental result is used to verify the answer we got from the equation
(predicted one). Here the role of measurement is to validate the theoretical predictions.

stress is
proportional to
strain within
the elastic limit.

May be true
But what is the

Fig. 1.3. Strength of Materials Class

We know, stress is directly proportional to strain within the elastic limit. True, but
what is the practical use of this statement unless we establish a relation. Once we establish
the relation then we can apply the load such that the deformation (strain) is within the
limit. To establish an empirical relation for a given material, we apply to different loads
within its elastic limit and measure the strain in a tensile testing machine under standard
testing conditions. Then using these numerical values, we can establish the relation by
regression. Here the role of measurement is to form empirical relation where no relation
exists which can be derived from first principles. (If exact relation can be derived, we
wouldnt be doing this exercise).





Bevel gear

Fig. 1.4. Fly Ball Mechanisms

Refer Fig. 1.4, when the shaft rotates, the balls move up proportional to the speed of
the shaft. The pointer on to the scale shows this movement and it will give speed/velocity
Introduction 7

information. There is a counter connected through two bevel gears. The counter will give
the displacement information for a given time interval. We know the general relation
between displacement and velocity.
x = z

x distance, a function of time
v speed, function of time
From the description and equation, we understand that the counter value gives the
integration of speed in the time interval of t2 and t1. There are equations for which there
is no definite integral available. In that case if we could relate that function to shaft input
velocity, we will get the integral value of that function from counter reading. Here the role
of the measurement is to give solutions to mathematical equations by means of analogies.
Input data Conditioned data Quantized data

Sensor Sample & Hold ADC


Fig. 1.5. Input to Computer Aided Machines and Processes

Today, more and more intelligent machines are made with growth of computers and
allied electronic systems. They are fast, reliable, but they can understand only processed
electronic signals (digital signals). Here the role of the measurement is to give input to such
To summarize the above, measurement is:
1. To monitor processes and operations through its parameters.
2. To control processes and operations.
3. Determination of material, component, system parameters, variables, and performance
4. For practical verification of already established quantity.
5. To validate the theoretical predictions.
8 Instrumentation and Control Systems

6. To form empirical relationships where no adequate theory exists.

7. To provide solution of mathematical equations by means of analogies.
8. To give inputs to computer aided machines and processes.


Most of the engineering systems basically consist of three things:
1. Material
2. Energy
3. Signal
e.g., Plastic injection molding machine. It melts the plastics to semi solid state and
injects it into the die and allows it solidify to get the shape in the die.
Plastic beads

Movable die
Fixed die

Temperature sensor

Fig. 1.6. Injection Molding Machine

Material: The plastic beads, which is melted and molded.
Energy: Electric energy is used to heat the beads and melt.
Signal: The temperature of the heating element is measured and this signal (information)
is used to control the temperature.
If the signal system (measurement system) fails, then we loose control over energy and
waste material. If we overheat or under heat the plastic then it may produce defective
components. In all such engineering systems, measurements play a vital role.
An engineer needs to select a right instrument to measure a particular parameter. In
some experimental investigation and Industrial application a suitable instrument may not
be available in the market. In that case, he needs to design an instrument. For this, a
through knowledge of measurements is essential for an engineer.


It depends on the specific application.
Introduction 9


The rest of the book is all about answering this question. We use an appropriate instrument
to measure a particular parameter/variable.


An instrument is a device used for measurement, which is made up of basic functional

1.6.1 What is a Basic Functional Block?

Basic functional block (BFB) is made up of elements, which cannot perform any function
when the block is divided further in to sub blocks.
e.g., lever


Fig. 1.7. Lever

Here the lever is a basic functional block. It does the function of amplification of
displacement. i.e., if 1 mm displacement is given at the end A, there will be 5 mm
displacement at the end B.
Suppose, we divide the block further into arm and fulcrum separately, then it cannot
do any (intended) useful function in the instrument. Hence, the lever is called BFB.
Some of the examples of basic functional blocks:
1. Transducer
2. Transformer
3. Power amplifier
4. Converter
5. Differentiator
6. Integrator
7. Modulator
8. Demodulator.


The basic function of an instrument is to sense the variable, process it and present it to
human observer. Any measurement system is made up of three basic units.
10 Instrumentation and Control Systems

1. Signal input unit

2. Signal conditioning unit
3. Signal output unit

Signal input unit Signal conditioning unit Signal output unit

Fig. 1.8. Generalized Measurement System

1.7.1 Signal Input Unit

It comes in contact with measuring parameter. Mostly sensor, transducer combination
forms this unit. There can be one or more transducers in signal input unit. The sensor is
a physical element that uses some natural phenomenon to sense the variable being measured.
Transducer converts one form of a signal into another form.

1.7.2 Signal Conditioning Unit

The output of input unit is the input to the signal-conditioning unit. This unit conditions
the signal from transducer. This may have one or more basic functional blocks, connected
in series. Although signal conditioning unit is an optional unit, most of the transducer
output signals are:
Not compatible with output unit directly
Not having enough potential to be transmitted to a long distance
Not having enough potential to drive next unit.
Hence, signal conditioning unit may perform:
Increasing magnitude of signal by amplification
Remove noise through filtering
Give optical, mechanical linkage between transducer and output stage
Converting/translating displacement of sensor to rotary motion of points.

1.7.3 Signal Output Unit

The conditioned signals are the input to signal output unit. This unit outputs the information,
which is sensed and subsequently conditioned to the external world (Observer). The type
of output unit depends on the application.
For example, to know body temperature using thermometer, mere display of temperature
value is enough. There are industrial control panels in which many parameter values are
displayed simultaneously. Some critical parameter may demand a control action when it
crosses the limit set for it (usually an upper limit and a lower limit). For such applications,
the output unit may be a flickering light when the parameter value exceeds the limits, will
be preferred.
Introduction 11

In industry, there are still more critical parameters, which should be immediately
attended to, which otherwise leads to system shut down. Devices like smoke detectors are
fitted with an alarm bell as output unit. This is because the smoke detector detects fire
from the smoke and when factory catches fire, it should be known to all in the factory.
In vibration measurement, we may not be able to infer much information from the
instantaneous reading from pointer movement (Analog) or numerical (digital) display. It
needs a graphical waveform display. In such applications, the trend of the parameter,
frequency, velocity, acceleration (or) dynamical behavior may be sought for, which may
demand oscillometer / graph as output unit.
In certain situations, on-line analysis of parameter may not be possible. The signal
needs to be stored for future analysis. In such case magnetic tape/disk becomes the
A Case Study:
In liquid bulb thermometer, there is a bulb containing mercury and a scale graduated on
the stem. Where are the three units of generalized measurement system?

Fig. 1.9. Liquid Bulb Thermometer

The three units are present in the thermometer. Some units may be slightly hidden.
We need to just identify them. Liquid contained in the bulb absorbs the heat from the
surroundings (or where the temperature is to be measured) till it reaches the surrounding
temperature (thermal equilibrium). This absorbed heat is the input signal to the measurement
system. The liquid in the bulb acts as a sensor/transducer. We say the liquid acts as
transducer too, because liquid expands as per the thermal expansion phenomenon, thus
the temperature (one form of signal) is changed to expansion of liquid (another form of
signal). The liquid in the bulb forms the input unit.
The raise/fall in the height of liquid due to temperature change with the bulb diameter
is very small (signal strength is low) and reading such small variation is difficult. Hence,
beyond the bulb, the cross-section area of the liquid column is reduced so that the raise/
fall in liquid level is more for a given temperature difference. The signal strength is
amplified. The stem (capillary tube) with small diameter forms the signal-conditioning
The scale along with the liquid level shows the temperature value thus forms the
output unit.


The instruments can be classified based on many factors. The same instrument may fall
under many categories due to the factors considered.
Depending on domain
1. Mechanical instrument
12 Instrumentation and Control Systems

2. Electrical instrument
3. Electronic instrument
4. Optical instrument
5. Hydraulic and pneumatic instrument
Depending on pointer movement
1. Null deflection instrument
2. Deflection instrument
Depending on principle of functioning
1. Open loop instrument
2. Closed loop instrument
Depending on the display
1. Analog instrument
2. Digital Instrument
3. Hybrid instrument

1.8.1 Mechanical Instrument

The instrument is made up of only mechanical elements like linkage, gears, rack-pinion
etc. and works based on the mechanical principles like lever principle, screw-thread
principle, gear ratio, rack-pinion etc. It is suitable for static measurement and not suitable
for dynamic signals due to inertia problem (mass of moving part).
e.g., Dial gauge, mechanical speedometer, bourdon gauge, vernier caliper.

1.8.2 Electrical Instrument

The instrument is made up of electrical elements like coils, windings and works based on
electrical principles like Faradays law, Kirchaffs law. It is often coupled with mechanical
e.g., Volt meter, Ammeter, Watt meter, electrical type tachometer, current transducer.

1.8.3 Electronic Instrument

The main components in this type are electronic components and uses electronic principles
for its functioning. e.g., encoders, electronic comparator, electronic weighing machine. It
has low weight and power consumption. The response is faster and sensitivity and reliability
are high.

1.8.4 Optical Instrument

It makes use of light as major source of measurement. It can directly use light as in case
of profile projector, tool makers microscope etc., or the light can be converted into an
electrical signal using photo-cell, photo-transistor etc. and can be made use of. This type
makes extensive use of electronics. Non-contact type of measurement is also possible as in
the case of optical tachometer.
Introduction 13

1.8.5 Hydraulic and Pneumatic Instrument

It makes use of hydraulic and pneumatic principles to measure high capacity variables.
Principles/laws like Pascals law, backpressure are used in sensing and transmission units.
e.g., load cell.

1.8.6 Analog Instruments

The pointer in the display unit moves continuously on the calibrated dial and can take
infinite possible position on dial. It is preferred in control panel where the parameter of
interest is to be monitored manually within a range and accurate value is not so important.
The limitation of analog type of instrument is that the accurate reading is difficult and
prone to observation errors.
e.g., Analog type volt meter, bourdon gauge etc.
Pressure Gauge

4 6
3 7
3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0 7.0
2.0 8.0 2 8
1.0 9.0
0.0 10.0
1 MPa 9
0 10

Fig. 1.10. Analog Type Instruments

1.8.7 Digital Instrument

It uses a seven-segment display or LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) or a CRT (Cathode Ray
Tube) for its display. It has resolution problem, for example, if display has 3-digit capability,
it can display say, 238 and 239. Not the intermediate value. It is preferred in measuring
instruments where reading the exact value is important. e.g., Optical tachometer, mechanical
type energy meter.

Fig. 1.11. Digital Type Instruments

1.8.8 Null Deflection Instrument

In this type of instruments reading is taken when the pointer is at zero position (Null
position). e.g., Physical balance. The reading (sum of weights on pan) is taken when the
pointer is in null position. It is more sensitive than deflection type as there is no need of
wide range and calibration for wide range. Null deflection instrument is suitable for static
14 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Fig. 1.12. Null Deflection Instrument

1.8.9 Deflection Type Instrument

In this type of instrument the pointer moves over the calibrated dial to show the value of
the parameter. e.g., Spring balance, voltmeter. In spring balance, as the weight increases,
the pointer moves down to show the weight. Deflection instrument is suitable for dynamic

Fig. 1.13. Deflection Type Instrument

1.8.10 Open Loop Instrument

In this type of instrument there is no feedback. This can be seen using signal flow diagram
as shown in the Fig. 1.14. e.g., Pressure gauge.
Displacement Displacement

P q1 q2
Tube Linkage Gear Pointer

Fig. 1.14. Example of Open Loop Instrument

1.8.11 Closed Loop Instrument

Feedback of output signal is taken and fedback for functioning of the instrument.
Introduction 15


Suppose we want to find out the fuel consumption (mileage) of new bike. What will be our
test plan? Just to meet the objective (mileage), we need to measure two variables, the
distance traveled and corresponding fuel consumed. Then, we can find mileage and express
it as so much km/l. This will give mileage at a given time.
But, if we are interested in finding mileage over a period of time, then the effect of
other variables/factors will be more and they should be considered during the test plan.
The mileage in city ride (more traffic) will be less than the mileage in National Highways
(less traffic). Mileage in damaged road will be different from the smooth one. The mileage
while carrying one person will be different from carrying two or more persons. The style
of driving also will affect the mileage. So, who drives also matters and all such factors will
affect the parameter of interest. So, while designing an experimental test plan, we need to
conceptualize the variable of interest and influencing variables and interaction between
them. The following steps may be followed to design a test plan.
1. Parameter design
2. System design
3. Data interpretation design

1.9.1 Parameter Design

In this step, we define the objective of the test plan by answering the questions like:
1. What is the problem we are trying to solve?
2. What parameters need to be measured?
3. What are all the variables, which will affect the result?

1.9.2 System Design

In this step, we fix the accuracy of the information sought for and the cost affordable based
on the application requirement. Then we select the instrument, procedure, and technique
to meet the accuracy and the cost factor by answering the questions like:
1. How important is the parameter to be measured?
2. How accurate the result should be?
3. What are all the devices that will give results with such accuracy?
4. What is the cost involved?
5. Is there any better instrument/technique to reduce cost with same accuracy?

1.9.3 Data Interpretation Design

In this step, we will decide in advance how to interpret and present the data to meet our
objective by answering questions like:
1. How do we interpret the reading (result)?
2. How do we present the data?
3. How do we analyze the data?
16 Instrumentation and Control Systems

These questions deserve an example. Let us say, we are interested in monitoring the
condition of a motor bearing using vibration signal. The vibration signal value will vary
with respect to time; so, we measure amplitude of vibration as a function of time. This data
can be presented well by graphical waveform taking time in x axis and amplitude in y
axis. This representation requires special methods to infer meaning from the measured
data, to name a few techniques: signature analysis, wavelet based condition monitoring etc.


1. What is measurement?
2. What is the need for measurement?
3. What are the three basic ingredients of Engineering systems?
4. What is a signal?
5. What is an instrument?
6. What is a basic functional block?
7. How an instrument is selected?
8. What are the three basic units of measurement systems?
9. What is a signal input unit? Give examples.
10. What is a sensor?
11. What is a transducer?
12. What is a signal-conditioning unit? Give examples.
13. What is generalized measurement system?
14. What is signal output unit?
15. When can an output unit be a flickering light?
16. When can an output unit be an alarm bell?
17. When can an output unit be an oscillator/graph?
18. Give some functions of signal output unit.
19. When do we go for magnetic tape/disk as the output?
20. How instruments are classified?
21. Why cant the dynamic signals (High frequency) be measured using the mechanical
22. What are the drawbacks of output of transducer signals?
23. Give some examples for mechanical instruments.
24. What are the components of electrical instruments?
25. Give some examples for electrical instruments.
26. What are the components of electronic instruments?
27. What are the advantages of electronic instruments?
28. What are optical instruments? Give some examples.
29. Give some examples for basic functional block.
30. What are hydraulic and pneumatic instruments?
Introduction 17

31. What are analog instruments?

32. When are analog instruments preferred?
33. What are the limitations of analog instruments?
34. What are digital instruments?
35. What do you mean by resolution problem in digital instruments?
36. When the digital instruments preferred?
37. What are null deflection instruments?
38. Give an example for null deflection instruments.
39. When can a null deflection instrument be preferred?
40. What do you mean by a null deflection instrument?
41. Give an example for deflection type instruments.
42. When can a deflection type instrument be preferred?
43. What are open loop instruments? Give examples.
44. What are closed loop instruments? Give examples.
45. Give the difference between open loop and closed loop instruments.
46. What are the steps involved in experimental test plan?
47. Give an experimental test plan to find the weight of a person.
48. What is data interpretation design?
49. Define unit in a measurement.
50. What is Lord Kelvins statement about measurement?


This chapter will consider the development, need and usage of different types of standards.
After you have read this chapter, you should be able to:
Answer what is standard and why it is necessary
Describe the development of various standards
Describe different types of standards
Define unit quantities as per S.I. System.

Let us consider a phrase; I have 10 kg of Sugar. What do we understand from the phrase?
kg Kilogram is unit of mass. Here, the dimension is mass; unit is kg and the standard
for kg is mass of the standard mass kept as reference. We understand that I have sugar
10 times of standard mass.
Standards 19

Standard is commonly agreed and accepted quantity/quality for the given unit by a group
of people or a society. It is definition/meaning of a unit.

2.2.1 The Need for Standard

Measurement is basically a process of comparing the measurand with standard value and
tell how many times is the measurand that of standard. (Measurand is parameter to be
measured) Measurement is finding the numerical multiplier of the measurand with the
standard. For the result of the measurement to make sense, first, the standard is to be
established. If the standard is questionable, then the whole process of measurement becomes
meaningless. In the phrase we have considered, without proper definition/description of the
one kg, 10 kg sugar is meaningless. As an observer, standard is needed to completely
represent the result of measurement. Here, observer is one who has the sugar and necessary
weighing devices to find the mass of the sugar. After weighing, the observer puts a label
to the container of the sugar as 10 kg. Now, a third person comes and looks at the label.
What will he understand? He will understand that the mass of the sugar is ten times that
of standard mass (one kg). For the third person the standard is needed in order to understand
the result of the measurement. Thus, standard is needed:
(i) To represent the result of the measurement completely.
(ii) To understand the result of the measurement.
(iii) To communicate the result of the measurement to others.
Before we go through the history of standards, let us learn some of the standard
organizations and its functions and acronyms.


CGPM: General Conference on Weights and Measures
(CGPM, Confrence Gnrale des Poids et Mesures).
The CGPM is the primary intergovernmental treaty organization responsible for the
SI, representing nearly 50 countries. It has the responsibility of ensuring that the SI is
widely disseminated and modifying it as necessary so that it reflects the latest advances
in science and technology.
CIPM: International Committee for Weights and Measures
(CIPM, Comit International des Poids et Mesures).
The CIPM comes under the authority of the CGPM. It suggests modifications to the
SI to the CGPM for formal adoption. The CIPM may also on its own authority to pass
clarifying resolutions and recommendations regarding the SI.
BIPM: International Bureau of Weights and Measures
(BIPM, Bureau International des Poids et Mesures).
20 Instrumentation and Control Systems

The BIPM, located outside Paris, has the task of ensuring worldwide unification of
physical measurements. It is the international metrology institute, and operates under the
exclusive supervision of the CIPM.


Man used parts of his body and his natural surroundings as measuring instruments. We can
see in early Babylonian and Egyptian records that length was first measured using forearm,
hand or finger and that time was measured by the periods of the sun, moon, and other
heavenly bodies. To measure the capacities of containers made up of clay or metal, they
were fill with plant seeds that were then counted to measure volumes. The carat, still used
as unit of mass for gems, is derived from the carob seed.
As societies evolved, measurements became more complex. It was not only to measure
accurately complex things but also reproduce from time to time in different places. As the
international exchange of goods and ideas were limited in those days, different systems
were developed for same purpose and established in different parts of the world.

2.4.1 The English System

The ancient digit, palm, span, and cubic units of length slowly lost preference to
the length units inch, foot and yard. The word yard comes from the Saxon word
gird meaning the circumference of a persons waist. They wore a sash (or) girdle around
the waist that could be removed and used as a convenient measuring device.
King Henry-I declared that a yard should be the distance from the tip of his nose to
the end of his out stitched thumb. The length of a furlong (or furrow long) was established
as 220 yards. In 16th century Queen Elizabeth I declared that henceforth the traditional
roman mile of 5000 feet would be replaced by one of 5280 feet, making the mile exactly
eight furlongs and providing a convenient relationship between the furlong and the mile.
Thus England by the 18th century had achieved a greater degree of standardization than
other European countries.
The constitution of the U.S. gave the power to fire uniform standards for weights and
measure to congress. Today, standards supplied to all the states by the National Institute
of Standards and Technology (NIST) ensures uniformity through the country.

2.4.2 The Metric System

About 300 years ago, the need for a worldwide measurement system was recognized.
In 1670, a comprehensive decimal system based on the length of one minute of arc
of a great cycle of earth was introduced. Mouton also proposed swing length of
pendulum with a frequency of one beat per second as unit of length, which can be
easily reproduced.
In 1790, During French revolution, the National Assembly of France requested the
French Academy of Science to establish standard for all weights and measures. The
commission defined unit of length to be a portion of the earths circumference. The
units for mass and volume were derived from unit of length, thus having a relationship
Standards 21

among units, Larger and smeller. Units were created with powers of 10. This provided
great convenience.
The commission assigned the name meter-metre to the unit of length, which was
derived from Greek word matron, meaning a measure. The initial metric unit of
mass, the gram was defined as mass of one cubic centimeter of water at 4C
(temperature of water at maximum density). The cubic decimeter was chosen as the
unit of capacity (volume). A cubic decimeter fluid volume was given a name liter.
The creation of the decimal metric system at the time of the French revolution and
the subsequent deposition of two platinum standards representing meter and kilogram
in 1799 in the Archieves de la Rpublique in paris is the first in the development
of the present SI Units.
Along with second (defined in astronomy), Gauss encouraged the use of metric
system for physical sciences. Gauss made the first absolute measurement of Earths
magnetic field in terms of decimal system based on millimeter, gram and second.
Measurement of some electrical phenomena was done by Gauss and Weber in later
In 1860s Maxwell and Thomson formulated the requirement for a coherent system
of units with base units and derived units through BAAS (British Association for the
Advancement of Science).
In 1874, the BAAS introduced the CGS system, a three-dimensional unit system
using centimeter, gram and second. The prefixes were ranging from micro to mega
to express decimal sub multiples and multiples.
The sizes of the CGS units in the field of electricity and magnetism were inconvenient.
In 1880s, the BAAS and the International Electrical Congress approved some practical
units like the ohm for electrical resistance, the Volt for electromotive force and the
Ampere for electric current.
In 1889, first CGPM sanctioned the international prototypes for meter and kilogram.
Together with second, MKS system came to existence.
In 1901, Giorgi showed the possibility of combining mechanical units (MKS) and
electrical units (one of three) and rewrote the equations in electromagnetism in
rationalized form. In 1939, based on Giorgis proposal, a four dimensional system
MKSA (meter, kilogram, second, Ampere) was adopted.
In 1954, the Ampere, the Kelvin and the Candela as base units respectively, for
electric current, thermodynamic temperature and luminous intensity were approved.
In 1960, during 11th CGPM, the name Systeme International dUnites (SI) was
given to the system.
In 1971, during 14th CGPM, mole was added as base unit summing to seven base
22 Instrumentation and Control Systems


MeterUnit of Length
We could trace back the origin of meter up to 18th century. There were two definitions of
meter at that time.
1. Meter is the length of a pendulum having a half-period of one second.
2. Meter is one ten-millionth of the length of earths meridian along a quadrant (one
fourth circumference of the earth).
After French revolution, in 1791, the French Academy of Science chose meridian
definition over the pendulum definition because the force of gravity varies over the surface
of the earth, affecting the period of the pendulum.
The first prototype made up of platinum-iridium alloy was short by 0.2 mm because
researchers miscalculated the flattening of the earth due to its rotation.
In 1889, a new international prototype was made of an alloy of 90% platinum-10%
iridium, to within 0.0001 that was to be measured at melting point of ice.
In 1927, the meter was defined as distance, at 0C, between the axes of two central
lines marked on the bar of platinum-iridium kept at BIPM and declared prototype of the
meter by the 1st CGPM.
In 1960, CGPM replaced the 1889 definition based on wavelength of krypton-86
radiation to reduce uncertainty with which the meter may be realized. The meter is the
length equal to 1,650,763.73 wavelengths in vacuum of radiation corresponding to the
transition between the levels 2p10 and 5d5 (orange red line) of the krypton-86 atom (excited
at the triple point of nitrogen, 63.15 K). It is the unit of length.
In 1983, the CGPM replaced this definition with the following one to further reduce
the uncertainty.
Meter is the length of the path traveled by light in vacuum during a time interval of
1/299792458 of a second.
It is denoted by m. (Small letter m)

At the end of the 18th century, a kilogram was the mass of a cubic decimeter of water. In
1889, the 1st CGPM sanctioned the international prototype of the kilogram, made of
platinum-iridium, and declared: This prototype shall henceforth be considered to be the unit
of mass. It is denoted by kg. (Small k and small g).
The 3rd CGPM (1901), in a declaration intended to end the ambiguity in popular usage
concerning the word weight, confirmed that: The kilogram is the unit of mass; it is equal
to the mass of the international prototype of the kilogram. It means that the unit of weight
is NOT kg but N.

Originally, a second was a fraction of 1/86400 of a mean solar day. The exact definition
of mean solar day was left to the astronomical theories and could not measure the
Standards 23

irregularities in the rotation of earth. In 1960, the 11th CGPM redefined the unit of time
based on tropical year. The need of formulating a precise definition, which can be reproduced
in laboratory, was remained unsatisfied.
In 1967, 13th CGPM decided to replace the tropical year definition with atomic energy
level definition, which states:
A second is defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of radiation corresponding
to the transition between the two hyper fine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom
at rest at a temperature of 0 K..
It is unit of time. It is denoted by s. (Small letter s).

Although the International Electrical Congress held in Chicago in 1893 introduced the
international ampere, it was adopted in 9th CGPM in 1948.
The ampere is that constant current which, if maintained in two straight parallel
conductors of infinite length, of negligible circular cross section, and placed one meter apart
in vacuum, would produce between these conductors a force equal to 2*107 Newton per
meter of length. It is unit of current. A denotes it. (Capital A).

The 10th CGPM defined the unit of thermodynamic temperature based on triple point of
water as follows:
The Kelvin is the fraction of 1/273.16 of the thermodynamic temperature of triple point
of water.
It is the unit of temperature. K denotes it. (Capital letter K). The 13th CGPM(1967)
adopted the name Kelvin (symbol K) instead of degree Kelvin (symbol K).

The Candela is defined as the luminous intensity, in a perpendicular direction, of a surface
of 1/600,000 m2 of a black body at the temperature of freezing platinum under a pressure
101,325 N/m2 (Newton per square meter). In 1979, the definition was replaced with a new
one because of the experimental difficulties in realizing a planck radiator at high temperatures
and new possibilities offered by radiometry (the measurement of optical radiation power).
The candela is the luminous intensity in a given direction of a source that emits
monochromatic radiation of frequency 540 1012 Hertz and that radiant intensity in that
direction of 1/683 watt/steradian.
It is unit of light intensity and denoted as cd. (Small letter c and d).

The mole is the amount substance of a system, which contains as many elementary entities
as there are atoms in 0.012 kg of carbon-12.
Since the elementary entities can be atoms, molecules, ions, electrons and so on, one
should explicitly mention the entity adopted. It is unit of concentration and denoted by
mol. (All are small letters).
24 Instrumentation and Control Systems

The radian is defined as the plane angle obtained by an arc of a circle in length to the
radius of the circle.
It is unit of angular displacement and denoted rad. (All are small letters).

r r

Fig. 2.1. Illustration of Radian

Area = r

Solid angle

Fig. 2.2. Illustration of Steradian

Steradian is defined as the solid angle obtained at the center of the sphere by the
surface whose area is equal to the square of the radius of the sphere. In other words, it is
the ratio of spherical surface area to the square of the radius.
It is denoted by a symbol sr.


The SI units are classified into two classes as follows:
1. Base units
2. Derived units

2.6.1 Base units

The CGPM decided to base the International System on a choice of seven well-defined
units, which by convention are regarded as dimensionally independent. They are namely,
the meter, the kilogram, the second, the Ampere, the Kelvin, the mole and the candela.
These SI units are called base units.
Standards 25

Table 2.1: SI Base Units

Base quantity Name Symbol

Length meter m
Mass kilogram kg
Time second s
Electric current Ampere A
Thermodynamic temperature Kelvin K
Amount of substance mole mol
Luminous intensity candela cd

2.6.2 Derived Units

Derived units are units that are formed as products of powers of the base units according
to the algebraic relations connecting the quantities concerned. The names and symbols of
some units thus formed in terms of base units may be replaced by special names and
symbols which can themselves be used to form expressions and symbols for other derived
units. The base units and derived units together form a coherent set of units. Coherent
system is a system whose units are usually related by rules of multiplication and division
with no numerical factor other than 1.

Each physical quantity has only one SI unit, but the reverse is not true.
The decimal multiples and submultiples of SI units are not coherent with SI

Table 2.2: Examples of SI Derived Units Expressed in Terms of Base Units

Base quantity Name Symbol

Area square meter m2

Volume cubic meter m3
Speed, velocity meter per second m/s
Acceleration meter per second squared m/s2
Wave number reciprocal meter m1
Density, mass density kilogram per cubic meter kg/m3
Specific volume cubic meter per kilogram m3/kg
Current density ampere per square meter A/m2
Magnetic field strength ampere per meter A/m
Concentration (of amount of substance) mole per cubic meter mol/m3
Luminance candela per square meter cd/m2
Refractive index (the number) one 1
26 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Table 2.3: SI Derived Units with Special Names and Symbols

Expressed Expressed
Derived quantity Name Symbol in terms of in terms of
other SI SI base
units units

Plane angle radian rad m.m1 = 1

Solid angle steradian sr m2.m2 = 1
Frequency Hertz Hz s 1
Force Newton N
Pressure, stress Pascal Pa N/m m 2
Energy, work,
Quantity of heat Joule J N.m m
Power, radiant flux Watt W J/s m
Electric charge, quantity of Coulomb C s.A
Electric potential difference,
Electromotive force Volt V W/A m
Capacitance Farad F C/V m 2.kg1.s4.A2
Electric resistance Ohm V/A m
Electric conductance Siemens S A/V m 2.kg1.s3.A2
Magnetic flux Weber Wb V.s m
Magnetic flux density Tesla T Wb/m2 kg.s 2.A1
Inductance Henry H Wb/A m
Celsius temperature degree Celsius(d) C K
Luminous flux lumen lm ) = cd
Luminance lux lx lm/m2 =
Activity (referred to a radio nuclide) Becquerel Bq s 1
Absorbed dose, specific
Energy (imparted), kerma gray Gy J/kg m 2.s 2
Dose equivalent,
Ambient dose equivalent,
Directional dose equivalent,
Personal dose equivalent,
Organ equivalent dose sievert Sv J/kg m 2.s 2
Catalytic activity katal kat s1.mol
Standards 27

Table 2.4: Examples of SI Derived Units whose Names and Symbols Include
SI Derived Units with Special Names and Symbols

Expressed in terms of

Derived quantity Name Symbol SI base units

Dynamic viscosity Pascal second Pa.s

Moment of force Newton meter N.m
Surface tension Newton per meter N/m kg.s2
Angular velocity radian per second rad/s m.m1.s1 = s1
Angular acceleration radian per second squared rad/s2 m.m1.s2 = s2
Heat flux density,
Irradiance Watt per square meter W/m2 kg.s3
Heat capacity,
Entropy Joule per Kelvin J/K
Specific heat capacity Joule per kilogram J/kg m 2.s 2
Specific entropy Kelvin J/(kg.K) m 2.s 2.K1
Specific energy Joule per kilogram J/kg m 2.s 2
Thermal conductivity Watt per meter Kelvin W/(m.K)
Energy density Joule per cubic meter J/m3
Electric field strength Volt per meter V/m 1
Electric charge
Density coulomb per cubic meter C/m3 m 3 .s.A
Electric flux density coulomb per square meter C/m2 m 2 .s.A
Permittivity Farad per meter F/m m 3.kg1.s4.A2
Permeability Henry per meter H/m 2
Molar energy Joule per mole J/mol
Molar entropy, molar
heat capacity Joule per mole Kelvin J/(mol.K)
(x and rays) Coulomb per kilogram C/kg kg1 .s.A
Absorbed dose rate gray per second Gy/s m 2.s 3
Radiant intensity Watt per stradian W/sr
Radiance Watt per square W/(
meter steradian = kg.s3

A single SI unit may correspond to many different quantities. From Table 2.4, we can
observe that Joule per Kelvin (J/K) is the SI unit for the quantity heat capacity as well as
entropy. The Ampere (A) is the SI unit for the base unit electric current as well as the
28 Instrumentation and Control Systems

derived unit magneto motive force. Therefore, it is important not to use unit alone to
specify the quantity. This rule applies to instruments also. It should indicate both unit and
the quantity being measured.
A derived unit can often be expressed in different ways by combining the names of
base units with special names for derived units. This, however, is an algebraic freedom to
be governed by common-sense physical considerations. Joule, for example, may formally
be written Newton meter, or even kilogram meter squared per second squared, but in a
given situation some forms may be more helpful than others.
In practice, with certain quantities preference is given to the use of certain special unit
names, or combinations of unit names, in order to facilitate the distinction between different
quantities having the same dimension. For example, the SI unit of frequency is designated
the Hertz, rather than the reciprocal second, and the SI unit of angular velocity is designated
the radian per second rather than the reciprocal second (in this case retaining the word
radian emphasizes that angular velocity is equal to 2 times the rotational frequency).
Similarly the SI unit of moment of force is designated the Newton-meter rather than the


Certain quantities are defined as the ratios of two quantities of the same kind, and thus
have a dimension, which may be expressed by the number one. The unit of such quantities
is necessarily a derived unit coherent with the other units of the SI and, since it is formed
as the ratio of two identical SI units, the unit also may be expressed by the number one.
Thus the SI unit of all quantities having the dimensional product one is the number one.
Examples of such quantities are refractive index, relative permeability, and friction factor.
Other quantities having the unit 1 include characteristic numbers like the Prandtl number
and numbers which represent a count, such as a number of molecules, degeneracy (number
of energy levels) and partition function in statistical thermodynamics. All of these quantities
are described as being dimensionless, or of dimension one, and have the coherent SI unit
1. Their values are simply expressed as numbers and, in general, the unit 1 is not explicitly
shown. In a few cases, however, a special name is given to this unit, mainly to avoid
confusion between some compound derived units. This is the case for the radian, steradian
and Neper.


The list of prefixes approved by CGPM in 1991 is given in Table 2.5. The range is from
1024 to 1024. Note that there are some prefixes used in information technology is not
included in the Table 2.5.
Standards 29

Table 2.5: SI Prefixes

Factor Name Symbol Factor Name Symbol

1024 yotta Y 101 deci d

21 2
10 zetta Z 10 centi c
1018 exa E 103 milli m
1015 peta P 106 micro
1012 tera T 109 nano n
109 giga G 1012 pico p
106 mega M 1015 femto f
103 kilo k 1018 atto a
102 hecto h 1021 zepto z
1 24
10 deka da 10 yocto y


SI units are recommended for science, technology and commerce. It avoids the effects of
unit conversion. Nevertheless, some non-SI units are widely in practice and part of everyday
life. They will continue to be in use in future also. Table 2.6 shows a partial list of such


Only units of the SI and those units recognized for use with the SI are used to express the
values of quantities. Equivalent values in other units are given in parentheses following
values in acceptable units only when deemed necessary for the intended audience.
Table 2.6: Non-SI Units Accepted for Use with the SI Units

Name Symbol Value in SI units

Minute min 1 min = 60 s

Hour h 1 h = 60 min = 3600 s
Day d 1 d = 24 h = 86 400 s
Degree 1 = (/180) rad
Minute 1 = (1/60) = (/10 800) rad
Second 1 = (1/60)= (/648 000) rad
Liter l, L 1 L = 1 dm3 = 103 m3
Metric ton t 1t = 103 kg
Neper Np 1 Np =1
Bel B 1 B = (1/2) ln 10 (Np) (i)
30 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Abbreviations such as sec, cc, or mps are avoided and only standard unit symbols, prefix
symbols, unit names, and prefix names are used.
Proper: s or second; cm3 or cubic centimeter; m/s or meter per second
Improper: sec; cc; mps

Unit symbols are unaltered in the plural.
Proper: l = 50 cm
Improper: l = 50 cms

Unit symbols are not followed by a period unless at the end of a sentence.
Proper: The length of the bar is 35 cm.
The bar is 35 cm long.
Improper: The bar is 35 cm. long.

Multiplication and Division

A space or half-high dot is used to signify the multiplication of units. A solidus (i.e., slash),
horizontal line, or negative exponent is used to signify the division of units. The solidus
must not be repeated on the same line unless parentheses are used.
Proper: The speed of sound is about 343 ms1 (meters per second)
The decay rate of 113Cs is about 21 ms1 (reciprocalmilliseconds)
m/s, ms2, mkg/(s3A), mkgs3A1
m/s, m s2, m kg/(s3 A), m kg s3 A1
Improper: The speed of sound is about 344 ms1 (reciprocal milliseconds)
The decay rate of 113Cs is about 21 ms1 (meters per second)
m s, m/s/s, mkg/s3/A

Variables and quantity symbols are in italic type. Unit symbols are in roman type. Numbers
should generally be written in roman type. These rules apply irrespective of the typeface
used in the surrounding text.
Proper: He exclaimed, The Donkey weighs 20 kg!
t = 3 s, where t is time and s is second
T = 2 K, where T is thermodynamic temperature, and K is kelvin
Improper: He exclaimed, The Donkey weighs 20 kg!
t = 3 s, where t is time and s is second
T = 2 K, where T is thermodynamic temperature, and K is kelvin
Standards 31

Superscripts and subscripts are in italic type if they represent variables, quantities, or
running numbers. They are in roman type if they are descriptive.
Subscript category typeface proper usage
Quantity italic cp, specific heat capacity at constant pressure
Descriptive roman mp, mass of a proton
1 n
Running number italic x = x
n i =1 i

The combinations of letters ppm, ppb, and ppt, and the terms part per million, part
per billion, and part per trillion, and the like, are not used to express the values of
Proper: 21.0 L/L; 2.0 106 V;
42.3 nm/m; 4.3 109 l;
7 ps/s; 7 1012 t,
where V, l, and t are the quantity symbols for volume, length, and time respectively.
Improper: ppm, ppb, and ppt, and the terms part per million, part per billion,
and part per trillion, and the like

Unit Modifications
Unit symbols (or names) are not modified by the addition of subscripts or other information.
The following forms, for example, are used instead.
Proper: Vmax = 100 V
a mass fraction of 10%
Improper: V = 100 Vmax
10% (m/m) or 10% (by weight)

The symbol % is used to represent simply the number 0.01.
Proper: l1 = l2 (1 + 0.25%), or D = 0.25%,
where D is defined by the relation D = (l1 l2)/l2.
Improper: The length l1 exceeds the length l2 by 0.25%

Information and Units

Information is not mixed with unit symbols or names.
Proper: The water content is 70 mL/kg
Improper: 70 mL H2O/ kg
70 mL of water/ kg
32 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Math Notation
It is clear to which unit symbol a numerical value belongs and which mathematical operation
applies to the value of a quantity.
Proper: 34 cm 44 cm
10 MHz to 100 MHz or (10 to 100) MHz
2C to 30C or (2 to 30) C
1234 g 2 g or (1234 2) g
75% 5 % or (75 5) %
240 (1 10%) V
Improper: 34 44 cm
10 MHz-100 MHz or 10 to 100 MHz
2C30C or 2 to 30C
1234 2 g
75 5%
240 V 10% (one cannot add 240 V and 10%)

Unit Symbols and Names

Unit symbols and unit names are not mixed and mathematical operations are not applied
to unit names.
Proper: kg/m3, kg m3, or kilogram per cubic meter
Improper: kilogram/m3, kg/cubic meter, kilogram/cubic meter, kg per m3, or kilogram
per meter3.

Numerals and Unit Symbols

Values of quantities are expressed in acceptable units using Arabic numerals and symbols
for units.
Proper: m = 15 kg
The current was 5 A
Improper: m = fifteen kilograms
m = fifteen kg
The current was 5 amperes

Unit Spacing
There is a space between the numerical value and unit symbol, even when the value is used
in an adjectival sense, except in the case of superscript units for plane angle.
Proper: A 25 kg sphere
An angle of 2 3 4
If the spelled-out name of a unit is used, the normal rules of English
apply: a roll of 35-millimeter film.
Standards 33

Improper: A 25-kg sphere

An angle of 2 3 4

Digit Spacing
The digits of numerical values having more than four digits on either side of the decimal
marker are separated into groups of three using a thin, fixed space counting from both the
left and right of the decimal marker. Commas are not used to separate digits into groups
of three.
Proper: 25 739.012 53
Improper: 25739.01253
25,739.012 53

Quantity Equations
Equations between quantities are used in preference to equations between numerical values,
and symbols representing numerical values are different from symbols representing the
corresponding quantities. When a numerical-value equation is used, it is properly written
and the corresponding quantity equation is given where possible.
Proper: (l/m) = 3.6 1 [v/(km/h)] (t/s)
Improper: l = 3.6 1 vt, accompanied by text saying,
where l is in meters, v is in kilometers per second, and t is in seconds

Standard Symbols
Standardized quantity symbols are used. Similarly, standardized mathematical signs and
symbols are used. More specifically, the base of log in equations is specified when
required by writing loga x (meaning log to the base aof x), lb x (meaning log2 x), ln x
(meaning loge x), or lg x (meaning log10 x).
Proper: tan x
R for resistance
Ar for relative atomic mass
Improper: tg x for tangent of x
words, acronyms, or ad hoc groups of letters

Weight Vs. Mass

When the word weight is used, the intended meaning is clear. (In science and technology,
weight is a force, for which the SI unit is the Newton; in commerce and everyday use,
weight is usually a synonym for mass, for which the SI unit is the kilogram.)
34 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Quotient Quantity
A quotient quantity is written explicitly.
Proper: mass divided by volume
Improper: mass per unit volume

Object and Quantity

An object and any quantity describing the object are distinguished. (Note the difference
between surface and area, body and mass, resistor and resistance, coil and
Proper: A body of mass 15 g
Improper: A mass of 15 g

Obsolete Terms
The obsolete terms normality, molarity, and molal and their symbols N, M, and m are not
Proper: Amount-of-substance concentration of B (more commonly called
concentration of B), and its symbol cB and SI unit mol/m3 (or a related
acceptable unit)
Molality of solute B, and its symbol bB or mB and SI unit mol/kg (or a
related unit of the SI)
Improper: Normality and the symbol N, molarity and the symbol M molal and the
symbol m.


All measurements are calibrated at the time of manufacture against a measurement standard.
There are four categories of standards.
International standards are defined by international agreement. These standards are
maintained at the international Bureau of Weights and Measurers in Paris and are periodically
evaluated and checked by absolute measurements in terms of fundamental units.
Primary standards are maintained at national standard laboratories in different countries.
The principal function of primary standards is the calibration and verification of secondary
standards. Primary standards are absolute standards of such high accuracy that they can
be used as the ultimate reference standard.
Secondary standards are basic reference standards used by measurement and calibration
laboratories in industries. Each laboratory periodically sends its secondary standards to
national standard laboratory for calibration.
Working standards are used to check and calibrate the instruments used in laboratory.
Standards 35


1. What is standard?
2. What is the need for standard?
3. What are the standard organizations present in the world?
4. What are SI units? Name them.
5. What are basic units? Give example.
6. What are derived units? Give example.
7. Define following basic units:
Meter, Kilogram, Second, Ampere, Kelvin, Candela, Mole, Radian, Steradian.
8. Explain about SI unit rules and style conventions.
9. State and brief the classifications of standard.



In this chapter, we will discuss various terms used to describe an instruments characteristics.
After you have read this chapter, you should be able to:
Define accuracy, % of error, precision and difference among them
Describe what calibration is and its types
Describe resolution and threshold and difference between them
Describe sensitivity, its types, unit and its relation with least count
Describe least count and its relation with accuracy
Describe the terms frequency response, loading effect, impedance matching and
other static and dynamic terms.
Characteristics of an Instrument 37

Some application systems need only a coarse device, which will give an approximate value,
which is acceptable, whereas some systems demand more accuracy and high precision. In
order to select/design the instrument to suit the particular application, a thorough knowledge
of frequently used characteristics is needed. This chapter is meant for familiarizing some
of the commonly used characteristics.


The terms which describe the static behavior of the instruments are called static terms and
those which describe the dynamic behavior of the instruments are called dynamic terms.
In this section, we shall take up static terms one by one and discuss.

3.2.1 Accuracy
Accuracy refers to the closeness of the measured value to the true value and often expressed
as percentage of full-scale value.
True value Reading
Accurary (%) = 100 ...(3.1)
Reference value
The intended meaning of accuracy is actually inaccuracy. If we say, the instrument
accuracy is 1%, it does not mean the amount of error will be 99%. It means that the
actual value of the measured value will be within 1% of the reference value. The terms
involved in the definition of accuracy deserves some discussion.
Readingwhatever our instrument shows is the reading (measured value). What is
true value? It is the actual value of the variable being measured. How do we get actual
value? Any variable for that matter, if it has to be quantified, it has to be measured by
some instrument. That some instrument will have its own accuracy. Is there any instrument
with zero percent accuracy? Certainly no. Then how do we say it is actual value? There
can be a good debate on this. But, we dont want to get into this issue. Let us make it as
simple as possible. Whatever is the standard available or standard referred (refer chapter 2)
is what we mean by the true value here.
Well, then what is reference value? The reference value may be either full-scale value
or the true value. It is up to the manufacturer to choose the reference. As a matter of fact,
the true value is always smaller or equal to full-scale value. When we divide a number (true
value reading) by a bigger number, we get a smaller number. As the smaller percentage
of accuracy is desired by the customers, the manufacturers prefer to use full-scale deflection
to claim that their product is better. Thus the full-scale deflection is commonly used.
You have an instrument (say thermometer), you want to find the accuracy of that
instrument. All you have is the instrument and the variable to be measured. Is it possible
to calculate the accuracy? No. Why? We need to know the true value of the variable, for
that either there must be another standard instrument to tell us the so called true value or
the input variable value is known in advance by some means.
38 Instrumentation and Control Systems

The above-mentioned expression for accuracy (3.1) is used for one set of reading.
Generally, many readings are taken and the maximum deviation from the true value is
computed to express accuracy of an instrument. To get the accuracy of an instrument,
many readings are taken and the following expression is used.

True value Reading max

Accuracy (%) = 100 ...(3.2)
Reference value
Please note that we are talking about the accuracy of the instrument and not the
accuracy of the measurement or reading.
Problem: Calculate the accuracy of the thermometer using a known temperature
source of 350 K. The readings taken from the thermometer by subjecting it to that known
temperature are 350.1 K, 352.0 K, 349.7 K, 349.0 K, 351.2 K, 348.5 K, 350.3 K, 350.0 K,
351.2 K, and 348.7 K.
True value = 350 K
Reference value = 350 K (The full-scale deflection is not given; hence, true value is
taken as reference value)

Sl. No. Temperature |True value reading| Accuracy (%)

1 350.1 0.1 0.0285

2 352.0 2.0 0.5714

3 349.7 0.3 0.0857

4 349.0 1.0 0.2857

5 351.2 1.2 0.3428

6 348.5 1.5 0.4285

7 350.3 0.3 0.0857

8 350.0 0.0 0.0000

9 351.2 1.2 0.3428

10 348.7 1.3 0.3714

Maximum deviation is 2.0

True value Reading max

Accuracy (%) = 100
Reference value
350.0 352.0 max
Accuracy (%) = 100
= 0.5714%
Characteristics of an Instrument 39

When Accuracy Matters?

When we purchase 1 kg of brinjal, we will not look for digital accuracy. I pray God that
the price of brinjal should not go high! Whereas when we purchase 1 g of gold, more
accuracy is sought and it is meaningful. Can you think of a situation weighing 1 kg of
brinjal in physical balance in a controlled environment? Will it be affordable?
Asking or demanding high accuracy is easy but difficult to achieve. High accuracy
demands more sophisticated and specialized instrument leads to high cost. In addition to
this, periodic calibration of such instrument is very costly. As a rule, never demand an
accuracy of measurement higher than the actual need, and never forget that each degree
of accuracy if demanded is likely to have disproportionate effect on complexity and cost
of the instrument.

3.2.2 Percentage of Error

It refers to the deviation of the measured value from the true value, expressed as percentage
of reference value, numerically given by:
True value Reading
Percentage of error = 100 ...(3.3)
Reference value
Difference between % of Error and % of Accuracy
% of error tells how much the read value differs from the true value and it is associated
with the readings. It tells the performance of the instrument for a particular reading.
% of accuracy tells how close is the read value from the true value and it is associated
with the instrument. It tells the capability of the instrument in general.
Thus, for both % of accuracy and % of error the numerical value is same and viewpoint
and meaning are different.

3.2.3 Range
Let us consider weight measurement. We might have seen the weighing bridge, which will
weigh up to a few tones. It is obvious that beyond the upper limit it cannot be used. But
if I want measure the weight of a mango, will it show correctly? I doubt! The best
performance of that instrument lies within a limit outside which its accuracy is questionable.
The difference between higher calibration value (Hc) and the lower calibration value
(Lc) is called range. Higher calibration value and lower calibration value are upper and
lower limits for which the instrument is designed.
Range = Lc to Hc ...(3.4)
If lower calibration value (Lc) is 100c and higher calibration value (Hc) is 150C, then
Range is 100C to 150C.

3.2.4 Span
Algebraic difference between higher calibration value Hc and the lower calibration value
Lc is called as Span.
40 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Span = Hc to Lc ...(3.5)
If range is 100 to 150C, then Span is 150 100 = 50C

3.2.5 Calibration
You are going to see this term almost in all pages. So, let us try to become very familiar
with this term. Let us consider measurement of length of a pen using a suitable scale. As
the readings are graduated in the scale, the reading is readily available. Assume that the
change in length due to environmental condition is negligible. Once the readings are
marked on the scale, then there is no need of calibrating the scale. It is matter of getting
the direct reading. But, consider the temperature measurement using thermometer. As
temperature increases, the volume of the liquid increases proportionately. This is the
principle behind the measurement. How do we link the change in volume and temperature?
First, the thermometer is made with small and standard size inner diameter. Now the
increase in volume will increase the level of the fluid.
Then, the thermometer is exposed to known lower temperature (say 0C) by measuring
the temperature of ice. Then it exposed to higher temperature (say 100C) by measuring
the temperature of boiling water. Now, we know lower and upper limits. We assume that
within this range, the expansion of thermometer liquid is linearly varying with temperature.
Thus, the scale is obtained by dividing the range by 100 equal parts, (in our example). So,
each division is equal to 1C. Similarly, other equipments also calibrated and the techniques
are discussed in brief in appropriate places in the rest of the text. Here, the input is
temperature and the output is the displacement of liquid level inside the thin tube. Essentially
what we have done is, established some relationship between the temperature change and
liquid level displacement. Once we do this, for a given temperature, the level of liquid will
move to a point in thin tube, which will tell the temperature.
Thus, the process of establishing the relationship between the input and the output
of the measurement system is called calibration. The known input value is called standard.

Types of Calibration
1. Static calibration
2. Dynamic calibration
Static Calibration
The process of establishing the relationship between the input and the output of the
measurement system by varying only one input and keeping all other inputs constant, is
called static calibration. Meaning except one input all other inputs to the instrument is
made static (constant) and then under this controlled condition the calibration is done.
Dynamic Calibration
The process of establishing the relationship between the input and the output of the
measurement system by varying the desired input while all other inputs are set free, is
called Dynamic calibration (allowed to vary dynamically).
Characteristics of an Instrument 41

3.2.6 Hysteresis
Consider pressure measurement using the pressure gauge as shown in the Fig. 3.1. We
slowly increase the pressure from zero to full scale and plot the input-output curve. This
curve is called as loading curve or forward path. Then reduce the pressure gradually from
full-scale reading to zero. This curve is called as unloading curve or reverse path. Both
the curves may not coincide due to internal friction of stressed parts. In this case, the
energy stored in the spring during loading is not released fully on unloading (immediately).
This energy difference is called Hysteresis. But, over a period of time (recovery period)
it releases. The Hysteresis can be specified in terms of input or output value as a
percentage of full-scale reading. One should note that as energy release takes place fully
within recovery period the unloading curve will be different, if the period of taking the
reading is different.
A measure of the energy difference between forward path and reverse path of a
system is called Hysteresis.

Maximum output
hystersis Input

Maximum input hystersis

Fig. 3.1. Illustration of Hysteresis

3.2.7 Threshold
The minimum value of input signal that is required to make a change from zero is called
threshold value. Suppose, there is an instrument with digital display, let us say the display
unit is capable of displaying the reading to two decimal place accuracy. Then the increase/
decrease in 0.001 units is not going to make any change in the reading. At least there must
be 0.01 units to change the display. This value is termed as threshold. Note that the
change is always from zero. In Fig. 3.1 shown below the length oa, ob are threshold
values in positive and negative direction respectively.

3.2.8 Dead Zone/Space

The largest change in physical variable (signal) to which the instrument does not respond
is termed as Dead zone. (i.e.,) The region up to which, the instrument does not respond
for input, is called as dead zone/space. This is shown in Fig. 3.2.
When an instrument is measuring a value from zero to negative value or a positive
value, there wont be any response from the system for the input values in the range of
42 Instrumentation and Control Systems

oa and ob as illustrated in Fig. 3.2. As the instrument is not responding to the input in
this zone, it is termed as Dead zone.

a b
o o
Dead zone

Fig. 3.2. Dead Zone and Thresholdan Illustration

3.2.9 Dead Time

Dead time is defined as the time required for an instrument to begin responding to a change
in the measured quantity. It tells us the time lag between the response of the instrument
and the actual time of change in variable.

3.2.10 Resolution
The minimum change in the input signal to cause an appreciable change or increment in
the output is called as resolution. For digital instruments, it is the difference between two
consecutive readings.
The Difference between the Resolution and Threshold
Threshold is minimum signal required to change from zero reading whereas resolution need
not be from zero it can be any where.

3.2.11 Precision
Precision is defined as the ability of instrument to reproduce its readings over and over
again for constant input signal. Simply, it tells the amount of deviation from the average
value. It is given by,
Measured value Average value max
Precision = 100 ...(3.6)
Average value

Average value

30 Measured value



0 5 10 Time 15 20

Fig. 3.3. Illustration Precision

Characteristics of an Instrument 43

Does more Precision Assure more Accuracy?

Need not be. Precision means repeating the same reading whereas accuracy means showing
the correct reading. Even if the instrument repeats the wrong value many times, it is said
to have good precision. But accuracy is less. On the other hand, if the instrument is having
more accuracy, it will (must) have good precision. The reason is, if it has to read the value
all the time correctly, then it has to repeat the reading, as the correct value is always same.

It describes the closeness of output readings when the same input is applied relatively over
short period of time with same measurement condition, same instrument, same observer,
same location, same conditions of use maintained through out.

It describes the closeness of output readings for the same input when there are changes in
the method of measurement, observer, measuring instrument, location, and condition of
use and time of measurement.
Repeatability: Measurement conditions constant
Reproducibility: Measurement conditions vary

Less Accuracy Less Accuracy More Accuracy

More Precision Less Precision More Precision
Fig. 3.4. Illustration Precision and Accuracy

The repeatability of the mean reading of an instrument when a constant input is presented
continuously under the constant test conditions is termed as Stability. The test intervals
are very high compared to the time for taking reading.
A pressure gauge is attached to a gas cylinder, which is at say 5 Pa. If it shows the
reading of same 5 Pa for long time, say 5, 6 days then the instrument is said to be stable.
This character of the instrument is called as stability.

The reproducibility of the mean reading of an instrument when a constant input is presented
continuously under the varying test conditions within specified limits. It is same as stability,
but the conditions are varying.
44 Instrumentation and Control Systems

So far, we have been discussing different terms used to describe the ability of the
instrument to repeat the reading. Then a question may arise, if there is a deviation from
reading to reading then how do we call? That is drift.

3.2.12 Drift
The amount of difference among the readings at different time of measurement for same
input value is called Drift.

3.2.13 Zero Drift

The amount of difference among the readings at different time of measurement for zero
input value is called zero drift.
Causes of Drift
The sensor may respond to other quantity apart from variable of interest.
Some undesirable change or effect associated with the sensor itself.

3.2.14 Sensitivity
Sensitivity is defined as the ratio of change in output signal to change in input signal.

Change in output signal

Sensitivity = ...(3.7)
Change in input signal




Fig. 3.5. Typical Sensitivity of a Transducer

Let us say, you have an earphone and a 100 watts sound system. Increase the amplitude
of signal from zero. You will start hearing the song only after certain limit. Meaning, your
ear is insensitive till then. You will be able to hear properly up to certain limit and then
again you will be at discomfort to hear the song. Within this range itself, the sensitivity
is not linear. Do it and see for your self.
The instruments too, behave in the same fashion. Very rarely the sensitivity is linear,
even within the linear range. The above-mentioned expression for sensitivity is under the
assumption that the sensitivity is constant throughout the range of operation i.e., the input-
output relationship is linear. In reality, the sensitivity changes from point to point for most
of the instruments. To get the sensitivity at a given point, find the differential change in
output signal for a small differential change in input signal. As the change input signal (dx)
tends to zero, we get the sensitivity at a point. Then the better definition will be:
Characteristics of an Instrument 45

d( y )
Sensitivity = ...(3.8)
dx 0
This happens to be the slope of the signal relation curve (input-output curve). As the
slope of the curve increases, the sensitivity also increases and vice versa.
Remember the calibration is a process of linking input and output whereas sensitivity
is a ratio of them. As the sensitivity increases, signal conditioning becomes easy (no much
amplification is required, we get a strong signal) and the readability of the instrument also
Take mike for example, a variable capacitor, which detects pressure wave (sound).
Should it posses high sensitivity or low sensitivity? Obviously, we would like to have as
high sensitivity as possible. But if the sensitivity is too high, then it starts responding to
pressure wave produced by air movement. Have you ever observed arrangements, setting
the mikes in the orchestra? When the people adjust the mike parameters, you hear a
whistling sound suddenly. This due to the above said reasons. So, we need to go for an
optimum value of sensitivity, which will sense only the desired signal.

Sensitivity of Digital Instruments

In case of digital instruments, as shown in Fig. 3.6, the slope is either 0 or 90. The
sensitivity is either 0 or 1 for various inputs. So, the sensitivity is not specified for digital
instruments. It is applicable only for analog instruments.
Output signal

Input signal

Fig. 3.6. Sensitivity of a Digital Instrument

Dimension of Sensitivity
As sensitivity is ratio of output signal and input signal, one may easily misunderstand that
there is no dimension for sensitivity. But, it has units and it is different for different
instruments. It is unit of output signal divided by unit of input signal. For example, the
dimension of sensitivity of thermometer is mm/C, as the input is temperature (C) and the
output is liquid level displacement (mm). The dimension for pressure gauge is mm/Pa, as
the input is pressure (Pa) and the output is pointer displacement (mm).

Static Sensitivity
If the sensitivity of the system is calculated by varying only desired input and keeping all
other inputs constant, then it is called static sensitivity.
46 Instrumentation and Control Systems

System Sensitivity or Overall Sensitivity

Multiplication of the sensitivities of all the units, which forms a system, is called as overall
sensitivity or system sensitivity.
In the Fig. 3.7 shown below, S1, S2 and S3 are the sensitivities of individual building
blocks of an instrument. The system sensitivity can be calculated as
S = S1 S2 S3 ...(3.9)

S1 S2 S3

Fig. 3.7. System Sensitivity

3.2.15 Related Terms with Sensitivity

The ratio of output and input is very common in the field of engineering yet it takes
different names at different places. The following description will help us to use right term
at the right place.
Gain is used when the ratio is used in electrical and electronic signals. For example, the
ratio of output voltage level to input voltage level of the amplifier can be called as gain.
Magnification refers to an increase in optical/mechanical signals. For example, a small
image is passed through a lens and gets a bigger image. The ratio of output image size to
input image size is called as Magnification factor.
Transfer Function/Transfer Operator
When the input and output signals vary with time commonly used in control system
Now, let us move on to the next term.

3.2.16 Linearity
Linearity is a measure of the steadiness of sensitivity throughout the active range. If the
slope of the input-output curve (Refer Fig. 3.8) is constant, then it has more linearity,
otherwise less. It is given by
Measured value True value max
Linearity = 100 ...(3.10)
Full Scale Reading
In other words, it is maximum deviation expressed as percentage of full-scale reading.
A typical set of reading is taken and the maximum deviation is used as illustrated in the
Fig. 3.8. Actually, it is a measure of non-linearity. As we notice, the expression is similar
to expression for accuracy. The difference is in usage. For linear instruments, the
manufacturers use linearity and for non-linear instruments, they use accuracy. Linear
instrument is one whose input-output relation is a straight line (order of the straight line
Characteristics of an Instrument 47

equation fitted to readings of the instrument is one). All other higher order instruments are
called as non-linear instruments.

Output signal
Maximum deviation

Input signal

Fig. 3.8. Linearity Input-output Curve

3.2.17 Readability
The easiness with which one can read the values from the instrument scale is termed as
readability. It depends on the size of the pointer, spacing of the reading, method of
marking, colours used, if any, range, etc.

3.2.18 Least Count

The term least count refers to the smallest difference that can be detected on the instrument
Difference between Resolution and Least Count
Resolution is used for electrical and electronic instruments whereas least count is used for
metrological gauges. For example, in image sensing we talk of resolution of a camera
whereas in length measurement using vernier caliper/micrometers etc., we use least count
of the instrument.
Relation between Accuracy and Least Count
While designing the output units, specifically display units like scale-pointer, it is a sensible
question to ask how much least count should I achieve for a given (already designed)
instrument? This question arises because, for a given instrument, if we increase the length
of the scale, we can increase the number of finer marking on the scale and have smaller
least count. Will it give more accurate measurement value, if we have smaller least count
than the accuracy of the instrument? Perhaps the answer is No! Let us say, an instrument
has an accuracy of 0.5mm. Will 0.25mm of least count make the instrument more accurate?
The accuracy of 0.5mm means the reading (say 5mm) produced by the instrument will
lie between 4.5mm and 5.5mm. There is already a possible error of 0.5mm in the shown
reading. If we take the reading with 0.25mm least count such as 5.25mm, then with
accuracy of 0.5mm the actual value of the length may lie between 4.75mm and 5.75mm.
Decreasing the least count only shifted the range in which the actual value may lie and not
increased the accuracy. The amount of uncertainty remains the same. One may claim that
48 Instrumentation and Control Systems

the range is now in more appropriate position on scale than with higher least count. It is
true. However, the industry practice is that to keep the least count and accuracy at same
5.00 (reading with +0.50 mm accuracy
0.50 mm least count)

4.50 5.50
uncertainty range

4.50 5.50

4.75 5.75

5.25 (reading with +0.5 mm accuracy

0.25 mm least count)

Fig. 3.9. Illustration of Least Count and Accuracy

Relation between Sensitivity and Least Count

As we are interested in measuring variables accurately, we would like to have the smallest
possible value for least count. Meaning we would like to have more number of divisions
(markings) on the scale (dial) closely. But, the ergonomic studies and standard practice
recommends minimum of 1.5 mm between two consecutive markings on the scale for
better readability. So, the sensitivity of the instrument should be such that for the smallest
increment in the input (least count) causes at least 1.5 mm deflection in the pointer (of
the dial).
Output signal

3 mm (for another instrument

with higher sensitivity)

1.5 mm minimum

Input signal

Fig. 3.10. Relation between Sensitivity and Least Count

3.2.19 Backlash
It is the maximum distance through which one part of the instrument may be moved
without disturbing the other part. Take a screw and nut, hold the nut and engage the bolt.
After certain turns, you turn in the opposite direction. The disengagement takes place only
after a small amount of the turn. This small angle for which there is no disengagement is
called Backlash. It is applicable only for mechanical instruments.
Characteristics of an Instrument 49

3.2.20 Zero Stability

It is the ability of the measuring instrument to come back to its zero reading once measure-
ment is over.


The terms used to characterize the instruments used for the measurement of variables,
which are varying with time are called dynamic terms. The following are some of the
dynamic terms commonly used in instrumentation.

3.3.1 Responsiveness
The speed of response of a measuring or the quickness with which an instrument responds
to change in the input signal is called as Responsiveness.
Suppose you insert a thermometer in hot water to measure the temperature.
Responsiveness is the time it has taken to show the actual temperature. It is due to inertia
effect. The mercury in the thermometer should get heated up, expand and the level of the
mercury in the capillary tube should increase from room temperature to show the temperature
of the water. The time taken for this is a measure of responsiveness. But once it reaches
this value and any variation (usually small) in temperature of water should be shown as
quickly as possible. If there is a time delay in showing reading, during continuous
measurement then it is called measuring lag.

3.3.2 Measuring Lag

It is the delay in the response of the instrument to a change in the input signal.

3.3.3 Fidelity
It is the ability of the measurement system to faithfully reproduce the output in the same
form as the input.
i.e., If the input is a sine wave, the system is said to have 100% fidelity if the output
also is a sine wave. The faithful reproduction of the input signal form is termed as Fidelity.

3.3.4 Dynamic Error

The difference between the indicated value and true value of the time varying parameter
is called as dynamic error.

3.3.5 Overshoot
The maximum amount by which the moving parts move beyond the steady state is called
as overshoot. Let us consider pressure measurement. When the gauge is connected to the
pressure source, the pointer moves beyond the actual pressure and after a small oscillation,
it comes to the steady state. The maximum magnitude of this movement from steady state
is called as overshoot. It is illustrated in Fig. 3.11.
50 Instrumentation and Control Systems


Output signal
Steady state

Fig. 3.11. Overshoot

3.3.6 Frequency Response

Consider a speaker for example. Its prime task is to convert the given electrical signal to
corresponding pressure waves (sound). An ideal speaker should respond equally well to
sound of all the frequencies. How well a system will respond to different frequencies is
given by the term frequency response.
If the frequency response of a speaker, used in a telephone is bad, then you will not
be able to hear some persons voice, because the frequency of the voice changes from
person to person.
It is not possible for any instrument to respond equally to all frequencies, but it can
do fairly well for a set of frequencies (band). It may be expressed by the graph between
band width (frequency range) and the amplitude of the response (output). As the frequency
range is very high, the frequency response is often drawn in logarithmic graph. A typical
frequency response curve is shown in Fig. 3.12.

Logarithmic scale

Steady state



Fig. 3.12. Frequency Response

3.3.7 Loading
During the act of measurement, the measuring instrument takes energy from the signal
source (measured medium). Due to this, signal source is disturbed (altered) due to the act
of measurement. This effect is called as loading.
Characteristics of an Instrument 51

You might have seen your mother checking the salt/sugar content during food
preparation. She used to sip or eat small amount of food to check and then appropriately
do the needful. As she eats away some quantity for the purpose of checking, instruments
too, take some amount energy for the purpose of measurement, and this effect is called
Loading. A few examples are given below:
Example 1: When a thermometer is introduced, it alters the thermal capacity of the
system and temperature drops a little; this amount of drop in temperature
is due to loading effect.
Example 2: A Venturi meter or flow nozzle will cause disturbance to the fluid flow
whose rate is being measured.

Impedance in a broader sense means the resistance offered by a system. Consider a circuit
with resistors, capacitors, inductors, and ICs. The corresponding resistance, capacitance,
inductance etc., are basically have some resistance. Impedance means the collective
resistance of all such components in a circuit. Impedance may take any form; not only the
electrical one. It can be mechanical, thermal or fluidic in nature.
Example 1: Temperature measurement system.
When thermocouple is inserted into the boiler of high temperature for sensing purpose, it
takes some amount of heat for sensing purpose. Obviously the temperature shown by this
instrument is not the true value. This loading effect is due to low impedance of the sensor
(Thermocouple). Meaning the resistance offered for the heat transfer from the boiler to the
sensor is low and hence more heat is transferred to the sensor. Thus the temperature inside
the boiler is affected. This effect is called loading. In this case, the impedance of the device
should be very high to have closer values of measurement to true value (to reduce the
loading effect).
Example 2: Flow measurement system.
Consider a situation where water is flowing through a pipe and we are trying to measure
discharge (flow rate) of the water. We may use instruments like venturi meter, orifice meter
etc., for this purpose. In case of orifice meter, in order to sense the discharge the cross-
section of the flow is reduced. The device offers resistance to the flow and changes the
actual flow pattern. So, the discharge measured is not going to be the actual value. In this
case the impedance of the device should be very low to have a closer values of measurement
to true value (to reduce the loading effect).
We notice that the impedance of sensor has to be high in case of temperature
measurement whereas impedance of the sensor has to be low in case of flow measurement.
What is the general rule governing this phenomenon?
Impedance has to be high when the element is connected in parallel configuration
and has to be low when the element is connected in series configuration to reduce the
loading effect.
52 Instrumentation and Control Systems

To make the terms parallel and series more clear, let us quote two more examples.
Voltmeter is always connected parallel to the circuit and its impedance should be high.
Ammeter is always connected in series and its impedance should be low for reducing
loading effect.

3.4.1 Input Impedance

Impedance of any element that takes input from external agent is called Input impedance.
The examples like thermocouple, orifice meter, Ammeter, voltmeter what we have been
talking about is input impedance, since it takes at least signal from external agent for
measurement purpose.

3.4.2 Impedance Matching

Impedance matching is the process of reducing the loading effect by properly matching the
impedance of input device to the output impedance. How do we get different channels in
radio? Simply by matching the impedance. The radio station will broadcast the program at
particular frequency. There are many such radio stations doing so. But we are interested
in only one at a time. We have only one antenna to receive the signal and all the signals
are available in the atmosphere. As each signal has different, unique impedance, the reception
will be high for the antenna of radio only when the impedance matches. All other signal
strengths will be very low and those things will be filtered off. Thus by changing the
resistance using the knob provided, we can change the impedance to match with a particular
signal and receive the same.


1. Define Static terms and Dynamic terms. Give example for each.
2. Explain accuracy with example.
3. Define percentage of error.
4. Define range.
5. Difference between Range and Span.
6. What is calibration? State its types and explain them.
7. Define Hysteresis.
8. Define Threshold.
9. What is dead zone (or) dead space?
10. Define dead time.
11. Difference between Threshold and Resolution.
12. Explain with example, difference between Precision and Accuracy?
13. Define: Repeatability, Reproducibility, Stability and Consistency.
14. What are drift and zero drift?
15. Explain sensitivity of an instrument.
Characteristics of an Instrument 53

16. Define: Gain, Amplification, Transfer function.

17. Explain linearity.
18. Define: Readability, least count.
19. Explain relation between Sensitivity and least count.
20. Explain backlash and zero stability.
21. Explain following dynamic terms:
(a) Responsiveness (b) Measuring lags (c) Fidelity
(d) Dynamic error (e) Over shoot (f) Frequency response.
22. Explain loading effect with five examples.
23. Explain in detail about impedance with different examples.
24. Define Input Impedance.
25. What do you mean by Impedance Matching?


In this chapter, we will illustrate the nature of the measured data and introduce the
mathematical tools to handle them. After you have read this chapter, you should be able to:
Debate on true value and illustrate the presence of uncertainty
Calculate mean and standard deviation from given data
Draw histogram and distribution chart from given data
Fit a distribution for given measured data points
Check how good is the distribution fitted
Learn measurement arithmetic
Learn to compute propagation of errors.
Uncertainty Management 55

As stated earlier, measurement is the process of assigning a number to a variable or a
parameter. If I give you a mild steel rod and ask, what is the diameter of the rod? you
may take a vernier caliper, measure, and say 50.63 mm. So, we happily assign this
number to the parameter called diameter of the rod. If we ask ourselves, is this the true
diameter of the rod? then we might say yes, because we have used best instrument in
shop floor and with extreme care.
Here we know two digits of information after decimal point about the diameter of the
rod. If we use precision micrometer, we will get 3 digits of information, say for example
50.637 mm. The diameter value did not increase suddenly. We have just used better
instrument to find out the 3rd digit information after decimal point. The diameter remains
the same.
Now, if we ask the same question again is this the true diameter of the rod? we will
say no, for the simple reason that high precision micrometers, electron microscopes are
capable of measuring up to 4 and 5 digits of information respectively. From the above said
exercise, it is clear that the true value of the rod is some thing like 50.36734. goes up
to infinity.
It reminds AMMAs (Matha Amritanandamayi Devi) saying no one can explore nature
in its fullest form through his limited senses and instruments. Now we understand that the
true value of any variable or parameter is never known. Then what we are trying to do?
Are we trying to find the path of an impossible mission? Our very fundamental is at stake?
We are supposed to assign true value to the variable, which we will never be able to do.
We lose all our hopes. There comes a carpenter who needs to find the length of a table.
He is happy with one digit information after decimal point. We jump out of the seat to
measure the length for him out of enthusiasm because we have instrument, which can
measure to that level of accuracy; we see a ray of hope. A machinist wants to measure
diameter of the bore with 2 decimal place accuracy. Yes! We have some instrument which
will satisfy this requirement. In general, most of the so called engineering applications
demand only a few digits of information (after decimal point) for its functioning, though
it is desirable to have more digits. Thus we are contented with existing value of measurement
called measured value. Having understood what is meant by true value and practical
realization of the same we will now move on to uncertainty.


Let us illustrate the term uncertainty with an example. In cricket, with the help of past
bowling records, we will be able to get an idea about the accuracy of a bowler. We will
be able to say a range, (as shown in Fig. 4.1) with in which the ball will go for a bowler.
For good bowlers, this uncertainty will be small, and for poor bowlers it will be bigger. The
uncertainty analysis is all about finding this u. The instruments are expected to show true
value. From the above discussion, it is clear that none of the instruments are going to do
that. At least, will instruments give what it is capable of consistently? The answer again
is again NO! for most of the cases. Can we engineers do something about it? It is a long
56 Instrumentation and Control Systems

way vision towards which we progress to make better and better instruments; though we
will not be able to make one perfect instrument. A practical question is, what best thing
that we can do right now? We understand always there is going to be some uncertainty
attached to our results of measurement. Apart from the continuing effort to reduce the
uncertainty, it is important to quantify uncertainty. There are some statistical techniques
come on the way to help us do this. We start learning the uncertainty in measurement and
propagation of uncertainty, then we move on to statistical techniques which will help us
to get a better measure of measurement. Finally, we intend to learn the sources of error
and some methods for reducing the same.
,U ,U


Fig. 4.1. Illustration for Uncertainty


Let us say, we are interested in measuring the stiffness of a spring with an instrument
whose accuracy is 5%. If the reading shown is 1000 N/m, then the actual value of the
stiffness will be between 950 and 1050 N/m. when we are interested in a single parameter
like this, the limiting error can be easily calculated like this. However, when the parameter
of interest is to be computed from more than one parameters, then it has to be handled
with care as follows:

Case 1: Parameters get Added up/Subtracted

Let us say, you have two springs, one with stiffness 1000 5% N/m and one with 1000
10% N/m. When the springs are connected in series, what will be the total (combined)
accuracy? The worst case here would be if stiffness of both springs is at their lower limits
or at their higher limits.
Table 4.1
Quantity Stiffness (K1) Stiffness (K2)
Ideal value 1000 N/m 1000 N/m
Max. error 1000 N/m 0.05 = 50 N/m 1000 N/m 0.10 = 100 N/m
Min. value 1000 50 = 950 N/m 1000 100 = 900 N/m
Max. value 1000 + 50 = 1050 N/m 1000 + 100 = 1100 N/m
Uncertainty Management 57

The minimum value of stiffness = minimum of k1 + minimum of k2

= 950 N/m + 900 N/m = 1850 N/m
The maximum value of stiffness = maximum of k1 + maximum of k2
= 1050 N/m + 1100 N/m = 2150 N/m
In both cases, the error is 150 N/m. As error is expressed as a percentage of indicated

error 150
% error = 100% = 100 = 7.5%
indicated value 2000
The important rule we learn here is: errors in addition and subtraction are averaged
according to weight.

Case 2: Parameters get Multiplied/Divided

Let us consider a power calculation from two parameters namely, speed and torque. The
speed is 500 rpm and torque is 200 N-m, both parameters are guaranteed to be within 3%
(inaccuracy). What will be the combined inaccuracy in power? Let us begin calculating
error in each parameter.
3% of 500 rpm = 0.03 500 rpm = 15.00 rpm
3% of 200 N-m = 0.03 200 N-m = 6 N-m.
error 637.48
The indicated power = 100% = 100 = 6%
indicated value 10466.6
Maximum speed = 515 rpm
Maximum torque = 206 N-m
Maximum power limit = 2 (speed + error) (torque + error)/60
= 2 515 206/60 = 11104.08 W
Error = 11104.08 W 10466.6 W = 637.48 W
error 637.48
% error = 100% = 100 = 6%
indicated value 10466.6
The rule that we learn here is the uncertainty in multiplications and divisions are added
algebraically. In this illustration two 3% errors combined to give a 6% error in the power
computed. The same rule is applicable to division with a small change in the procedure.
The worst case value in a quotient occurs when one factor is at its upper limit and the
other is at lower limit.


Let us discuss some of the errors that may lead to uncertainty in measurement.
1. Blunderness
2. Fixed errors/systematic error/bias error
3. Random errors
58 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Systematic errors will cause the repeated readings with same amount of error for
unknown reason. Consistently it appears in a measurement in the same direction.
It may be due to:
1. Calibration error
2. Instrument malfunctioning
3. Loading effect
4. Environmental changers
5. Misuse of instrument beyond its specified range
Systematic errors can be detected by repeating experiments with different instruments/
techniques. The disagreement of two measurements shows the presence of a systematic
Random errors tend to vary on both directions with different error values that are
unpredictable. It may be due to:
1. Fluctuations/vibrations
2. Interference/noise
3. Friction
4. Drift
5. Observational error
6. Environmental changes
The detailed discussion on sources of errors and the methods to reduce errors will be
done little later. Let us do another small exercise to get a feel of uncertainty. Let us take
a seemingly circular mild steel rod and measure its diameter with a micrometer which can
measure its diameter with a micrometer which can measure up to 3 decimal places. Note
down the reading, repeat the same measurement for 100 times. You may find 100 different
readings (?!). But our task is to assign one number as diameter for the rod. The measured
value (reading) is uncertain. We are not in a position to say what the diameter of the rod
is. The reading keeps varying. The amount of variation from the true value is called as
uncertainty. It can also be defined as the probable value of the error. The process of
identifying and quantifying this variation is called as uncertainty analysis. So, any
measurement result can be expressed with the help of sample mean value and uncertainty
in that value.
i.e., x = x + ux
x the estimate of the true value sought in measurement

x the mean
ux the uncertainty in x
If x1, x2, x3xn, are the measured value of variable under some operating conditions,
then mean of x is given by
Uncertainty Management 59

x1 + x 2 + ....... + x n i =1
x = =
n n
xi value of nth measurement
n total number of measurements
Table 4.2: Diameter of rod in mm as

50.687 50.699 50.631 50.603 50.691 50.676 50.673 50.621 50.685 50.631

50.685 50.602 50.693 50.694 50.681 50.648 50.613 50.625 50.664 50.661

50.674 50.650 50.642 50.619 50.612 50.636 50.621 50.652 50.646 50.659

50.636 50.668 50.656 50.603 50.647 50.650 50.646 50.634 50.694 50.606

50.660 50.625 50.656 50.621 50.621 50.675 50.627 50.617 50.613 50.657

50.687 50.679 50.677 50.667 50.687 50.617 50.686 50.670 50.695 50.692

50.663 50.694 50.639 50.627 50.645 50.687 50.664 50.624 50.626 50.655

50.609 50.625 50.677 50.604 50.656 50.681 50.683 50.627 50.605 50.664

50.642 50.626 50.695 50.646 50.678 50.697 50.694 50.609 50.659 50.697

50.603 50.637 50.613 50.697 50.627 50.679 50.650 50.600 50.670 50.658

Table 4.3

50.600 50.612 50.621 50.627 50.645 50.655 50.663 50.675 50.685 50.694

50.602 50.613 50.624 50.631 50.646 50.656 50.664 50.676 50.685 50.694

50.603 50.613 50.625 50.631 50.646 50.656 50.664 50.677 50.686 50.694

50.603 50.613 50.625 50.634 50.646 50.656 50.664 50.677 50.687 50.694

50.603 50.617 50.625 50.636 50.647 50.657 50.667 50.678 50.687 50.695

50.604 50.617 50.626 50.636 50.648 50.658 50.668 50.679 50.687 50.695

50.605 50.619 50.626 50.637 50.650 50.659 50.670 50.679 50.687 50.697

50.606 50.621 50.627 50.639 50.650 50.659 50.670 50.681 50.691 50.697

50.609 50.621 50.627 50.642 50.650 50.660 50.673 50.681 50.692 50.697

50.609 50.621 50.627 50.642 50.652 50.661 50.674 50.683 50.693 50.699
60 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Table 4.4

Bin 50.6 50.61 50.62 50.63 50.64 50.65 50.66 50.67 50.68 50.69 50.7

No. 1 9 7 14 7 11 10 9 9 10 13

Mean 50.65172

Standard deviation 0.026582

Refer Table 4.1 for 100 data points (measured values of the same rod). We are not able
to make out anything because the data points are scattered. For convenience we sort the
data (Refer Table 4.2). We observe from Table 4.2 that data points fall closer and more in
number at some region and fall less in number in some region. To get a feel of it, we find
the frequency of occurrence in small intervals as shown in Table 4.3.
If we plot the frequency vs. interval, we get frequency distribution of the data. The
graph tells two information. One it tells the tendency of the measurement, second how the
data points are distributed. If we reduce the interval to zero, and increase the number of
data points we get a bell shaped curve called normal curve. A famous mathematician
wrote equation for the curve, so it is called as Gaussian distribution.







Fig. 4.2. Illustration of Histogram

Why we are discussing about distributions? When data points follow normal
distribution, (most of measurement data will follow) and when data points are more with
interval tends to zero, the sample mean will approach true value. Also a measure of scatter
of data points called standard deviation gives the ux the uncertainty in measurement or
precision of instrument. If measured values are closely fallen, then the normal curve will
be lean and tells the precision of the measurement (and thus the measurement) is high. If
measured values have larger variations among themselves, the normal curve will become
flatter and flatter. It means the measurement is less precise.
Uncertainty Management 61


1. Find the mean of the readings.
2. Find the deviation of each data from the mean bx i x g
3. Square each of deviation [to ignore the sign] bx i x g
4. Find the sum of the squared deviations b xi x g
i =1

5. Divide the sum by n 1

6. Taking square root of the result will give the standard deviation
b x i xg
i =1
Standard deviation
n total number of measured values
xi ith measurement value
To sum up, sample mean will give the true value and standard deviation will give a
measure of precision or uncertainty. Standard deviation gives a range with in which the
data points will fall more in number. But how much of data points will fall with in

x + range i.e., from x to x + . It is observed that for normal distribution, 68% of

data points will fall with in this range. Similarly for x + 2 range, it is 95% and x 3
range; it is 99.7% for most practical uses 99.7 is good enough. So commercially 3 is used

I I(68 %)

2 I (95 %)

3 I (99.7 %)

Fig. 4.3. Gaussian Distribution

In previous discussion, we have taken for granted that the measured values will follow
normal distribution. One may doubt how random errors can follow normal distribution all
the time? Not all the time measured values follow normal distributions perfectly. But most
of the time it does match approximately. Then next question that comes to the mind is,
62 Instrumentation and Control Systems

how well the measured values match this assumed normal distribution? We can use a
mathematical tool called Chi-square test of goodness of fit to answer this question. Basically
we find a measure called chi-squared (x2) of difference between observed values and
expected values from assumed distribution. The procedure for testing distribution (hypothesis
testing) is as follows:
From problem context, identify the parameter of interests
Null hypothesis: H0 : the form of the distribution is normal
Find test statistic x02 =
bO i Ei g
i =1 Ei
Oi observed frequency
Ei expected frequency (from assumed distribution)
K number of intervals (in histogram)
Choose a significance level ().
Find Chi-squared distribution statistic from table, using (F and )
Accept the hypothesis if x2 is 0.01 to 0.09. Reject otherwise.

4.5.1 Conditions for Using Chi-squared Test

1. Total frequency should be large (N 50).
2. Sample observations must be independent.
3. The sum of observed frequencies is equal to sum of expected frequencies.
4. Number frequency in an interval should be small (should not be less than 5).
5. The number of intervals k should neither be too small nor be too large.
At this juncture, one may ask how many readings I have to take to assume a
significance level?
Use the relation,
u =
Standard deviation (Precision of measurement)
z Confidence interval (Refer table)
n Number of experiments
u Uncertainty in measurement
Uncertainty Management 63

Table 4.5: Confidence Interval and Corresponding Level

Confidence interval Confidence level (%)

1 68.3

1.65 90.0

1.96 95.0

2 95.4

2.57 99.0

3 99.7

3.3 99.9

An ms rod is measured large number of times and found that precision was
0.05 mm. How many readings are needed to get mean with 95% confidence level with
uncertainty of 0.2 mm?
We know
u =
(1.96) ( 0.5)
0.2 =
n = 24.01
Therefore, 5 reading from measurement will ensure 95% that the populations mean
value be with in 0.2 mm of the sample mean value.

4.5.2 Chauvenets Criterion

Consider, you have a data set of 100 data points (say length of a bar). You find that the
standard deviation is more than what we expected. You are sure of all the data points to
be right except a few. How to identify such readings and eliminate so that the rest of the
data points form good measure of required parameter?
Chauvenets criterion may be used to serve this purpose. The procedure is as follows.
Calculate mean b xg and standard deviation () using all data points.
Calculate deviation (di) = x i x .
xi ith data point
x Mean value
Calculate and tabulate values and original readings.

64 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Compare the ratios with values using table.

If calculated values are bigger than the table values, then reject corresponding

data point (reading).
Calculate mean b xg and standard deviation again with rest of the data.
Errors are inevitable, they are everywhere in the measurement. We have to live with it,
fight with it. We investigate the sources of error; so that we can reduce or eliminate to the
possible extend at the source itself instead of making necessary correction or doing analysis
on the erroneous readings.
Sources of errors are anything, which leads to error in the measurement. It may be
described as one which carrier information other than the parameter of interest. It is
necessarily of same form/nature of the signal. For displacement signal the error also will be
of the nature of displacement like play, deformation, backlash etc., voltage cannot bean
error source for displacement measurement unless it finally converts itself into displacement.
For voltage signal, the error will be in the form of voltage like, Radio waves(RF) in
the air, high power lines, variation in power supply etc., it can be broadly classified as two:
primary source of error and secondary sources of error.
Primary source of error will directly cause the error for example play, deformation,
backlash cause error in displacement measurement. So, they are primary sources of error.
Secondary source of error causes error indirectly. For example, change in operating
temperature cannot directly cause an error in strain measure using strain gauge. But it
changes the resistance and introduces an error into measurement. So, it is secondary source
of error.
Engineers should learn the sources of error so that,
1. While designing the instrument, care can be taken to reduce/eliminate the sources
of error by alternate design or through some remedial action.
2. While using the instrument, necessary correction can be incorporated.
3. While selecting an instrument, one can ensure the error level of the selected
instrument will produce results to suit the need/purpose.


If we look at a typical measurement set, it involves an instrument to measure, environment
which effects both measured and instrument, parameter of interest and experimenter. The
error may come from all possible elements of this setup and can be grouped under the
corresponding heading as follows.
Uncertainty Management 65

1. Errors due the instrument

2. Errors due to environment
3. Errors due to loading effect
4. Errors due to Experimenter.

4.7.1 Errors due to Instruments

It may be due to poor design/assembly of instrument, errors in graduating scales, non-
homogeneity of the material used, non-linear characteristic of material.




Fig. 4.4. Backlash

Example: Backlash in screw gauge, dial gauge etc.,
As shown in Fig. 4.4 backlash, the empty space in screw gauge causes an error. When
an input signal displacement less that the backlash is given, there is no output signal form
instrument. When the input is more than the backlash, the reading shown will be equal to
actual reading minus backlash. Hence it is a potential error source.
Example: Non-linearity effect in temperature measurement.
emf (v)


0 Change in temperature ( c)

Fig. 4.5. Non-linearity Error in Temperature Measurement

66 Instrumentation and Control Systems

As shown in Fig. 4.5, the linear region is never perfectly linear and beyond a point
it is highly non-linear. Incorporating corrections are difficult to such non-linearity; hence
it is also a potential error source.

4.7.2 Errors due to Environment

To investigate the error sources in the environment, let us first say, what forms measurement
environment? Natural atmospheric conditions like temperature, pressure, humidity, wind
velocity, acceleration due to gravity and man made high power A/C lines, RF waves (Radio
frequency) magnetic field. Any change in the above factors can cause error in the
measurement depends on the measurement signals involved.
Example: Temperature is a potential secondary source of error.
As temperature increases, the scale expands and causes error in measuring length.
Increase in temperature, changes the resistance value and introduces error in measurements
using strain gauges like force measurement, torque measurement, strain measurement.
The gauge pressure is the difference between the atmospheric pressure and the pressure
of the medium (to be measured). Any variation in the atmospheric pressure will introduce
an error in the measurement.
Humidity increases inertia and reduces sensitivity of some instruments. It can be a
potential error source in electronic instruments. Humidity forms a layer, thus connecting
two adjacent signal lines in PCB (printed circuit board) forming a capacitance effect,
introduces error.
Acceleration due to gravity changes from place to place unless enough care and
necessary calibration is done; it causes error in certain measurements. You will make profit
if you take one kg of Gold weighed using standard weight in earth and go to moon and
sell it even at the same price, but using the standard weight in moon. The reason is the
acceleration due to gravity is less in moon.
High power A/C power lines causes error in say, measurement of temperature using
thermocouple, RTD etc., which gives voltage signal. The voltage signal and A/C power lines
gets super imposed and causes this error. The same problem with RF signals in sensing
situations. When signal is transmitted through carrier wave, it gets super imposed with
other RF waves (TV, Radio, Mobile waves) and may cause an error.
There are indicating devices, whose display in the dial is controlled by magnetic
action. Any magnetic field near this device may cause the needle to deflect and cause error
in measurement.

4.7.3 Errors due to Loading Effect

All contact type instruments will effect the measure and during measurement and cause
error in the measurement. We can give numerous examples to this error source, few are
listed below.
Example 1: While measuring thickness of spongy material using micrometer, the
material is slightly compressed by the contact area of micrometer. This
will introduce are error.
Uncertainty Management 67

Example 2: While measuring of temperature using glass bulb thermometer, it takes

some amount of heat for its expansion and to show reading. This introduces
a loading ever in the measurement.
Example 3: In flow measurement, (obstruction type, turbine type, rotometer etc,) the
actual flow pattern is disturbed due to instrument. This will introduce
loading error.
Example 4: While measuring voltage using multimeter (or) voltmeter. Some amount
of current is drawn and the voltage source is loaded. Then the reading
shown will be lower than the actual voltage due to loading error.
Example 5: In speed measurement of shaft using mechanical tachometer, the shaft is
pressed with tachometer to transmit the same speed of rotation to
tachometer shaft. Because of this the actual speed of the shaft reduces
as power remains the same and system is loaded.

4.7.4 Errors due to Experimenter

The experimenters contribution to the error may be due to:
1. Erroneous observation
2. Misuse instruments
Erroneous observations are quite possible in analog displays like dial, graphical displays
like CRO, LCD displays. In dial the error is due to parallax and in CRO, LCD display and
cardiographs the error will be due to misinterpretations. Misuse of instrument may be due
to out of range use, which will permanently cause damage to the instrument. If we use
25 kg spring balance to measure 50 kg load, the spring may deform permanently to some
extend and causes error. Though it becomes instrument error it is caused by human being,
so can be grouped under this category.


4.8.1 Friction in Bearings

In bearings the error source is the moment due to friction which is given by.
Mf = W r
W weight acting on the bearing
co-efficient of friction
r Radius of the journal.
To reduce the error source, any of the one parameter (or) any combination can be
reduced. To reduce the effect of weight the bearing setup may immersed in oil both to
reduce weight (or) use of magnetic bearing where there is no weight act. To reduce co
efficient of friction, proper lubricant may be used. By reducing the journal diameter also,
we can reduce frictional torque.
68 Instrumentation and Control Systems

4.8.2 Backlash
Wherever threads and gears are used backlash will come into play. The air gap is the one,
which causes the error. We connect a spring to one of the gears and make tooth engage
the other gear always.

Gear 2

Gear 1


Fig. 4.6. Reduction of Backlash Error

When gear2 moves from Right to left the gear1 and gear2 surfaces one already in
contact, no all gap, so without loosing any motion gear follows gear2.
When gear2 moves from Right to left, the spring pulls the gear1 and ensures that the
gear1 follows the gear2. Here also no motion is last. Thus effect of backlash can be

4.8.3 Non-linearity/Non-homogenous Material Property

Selecting the right material with more linearity and using it within its linear range will
reduce the error.

4.8.4 Temperature
The principle of opposite effect is normally used to compensate for errors due to temperature.
For example, the use of dummy gage in strain measurement to compensate for temperature
effect (refer strain measurement for details).
If a positive temperature co-efficient element is causing the problem, we intentionally
use a negative temperature co-efficient material at same temperature for to compensation.

4.8.5 Humidity
This problem occurs mainly in coastal areas. So, manufacturer of electronic instruments do
two things to reduce the error due to humidity.
1. Clean the PCB with Alcohol to removal flux, which will attract humidity and cause
2. Provide a protective coating so that humidity does not come in contact directly.

4.8.6 A/C Power Lines/RF Interference

As said earlier, voltage signals gets super imposed with these noises. We use appropriate
filters to remove such noise looking at their frequency. If noise is of high frequency, then
use low pass filter to get pure low frequency signals. If noise is low frequency then use
high pass filters. Otherwise use band pass filters.
Uncertainty Management 69

4.8.7 Loading Effect

Using non-contact type measurements can eliminate loading effect. For example, instead
of thermometer/thermocouple/RTD), we can use pyrometer to measure temperature. We
can use optical tachometer to measure speed.
Another way of reducing loading effect is to use auxiliary power source. Basically
energy is extracted by instrument from measurand for its functioning. Some cases, it can
be reduced by using auxiliary power supply.
Increasing input impedance also will reduce loading effect. As we have seen impedance
means resistance. Increase resistance to energy/power transfer from measurand will reduce
Loading effect in strain gauge cane reduced by using tougher material for strain gauge
so that it resists force acting on it (or) strain-taking place. But it will reduce the sensitivity.
Similar the case with bourdon tube. By using stiffer material, input impedance can be
increased but sensitivity will fall down i.e., the deflection per unit pressure will fall down.
To strike a balance commercially input impedance is kept roughly 10 times output impedance.
Null Balance technique also used to reduce the loading effect.


So far we have been discussing about uncertainty and its management in the reading and
in the instrument. Often we make mistake in manipulating the readings, especially when
the readings are taken from different instruments with different accuracy. In this section,
we learn to handle such issues.
In normal arithmetic, if we want to add two numbers, say 4.3548 and 3.9 then we
would append zeros with number having less decimal places and make number of decimal
places equal and then add to get 8.2548. Here, the appending zeros have no physical
significance. However, if these numbers are results of measurements, then they have different
physical meaning, one is more accurate (4.3548) and the other number is less accurate
(3.9). The less accurate reading (3.9) tells that instrument is capable of measuring only up
to one decimal place. It does not have any information about the other decimal places. So,
it cannot be assumed to be zero.
Since, we are not sure about the values after first decimal place, in less accurate
reading (3.9XXX), the result will be accurate only to one decimal place. Hence, even
though the normal addition result (8.2548) is mathematically correct, it is not accepted in
4 3 5 4 8
3 9 x x x

8 2 x x x

Fig. 4.7. Illustration of Addition

70 Instrumentation and Control Systems

As a matter of fact, for the instruments capable of measuring up to 2 decimal places,

the zero reading is to be written as 0.00 and not just as 0, to make sure that the two digits
after decimal point is zero. This brings the need for rounding off the results to the required
decimal place.


To round off a number correct to n decimal places, look at (n + 1)th digit.
1. If it is greater than 5, then add 1 to the value at nth digit, else leave it as it is.
2. It is exactly equal to 5, then look at nth digit value, if it odd number, then add
1 else leave the number as it is.

Table 4.6: Examples of Rounding Numbers

Number Correct to two Remarks

decimal place

534.23678 534.24 As 3rd digit value (6) is greater than 5

534.23379 534.23 as 3rd digit value is less than 5

534.23578 534.24 as 3rd digit value is equal 5 and 2nd digit value is an odd

534.24579 534.24 As 3rd digit value is equal to 5 and 2nd digit value is even

534.505 534.51 As 0 is treated as even for this purpose.


We call a digit as significant digit when it has some physical meaning (or) physical signi-
ficance. In measurement reading, the numbers 1 to 9 is always significant. 0 may be (or)
may not be significant depends on the context.

Table 4.7: Examples of Significant Digits

Number Significance of zero Remarks

530046 Significant The number cannot be expressed without these zeros

to convey the same meaning.

0.00023 Not significant The zeros are meant for shifting the decimal places
360000 and not carrying any physical meaning. The same
meaning can be expressed as 2.3 104 and 3.6
105 respectively without zeros

89.0 102 Significant

93.300 103
Uncertainty Management 71


(i) Addition
Find the least accurate number out of numbers to be added. Let the number of decimal
places be n. Round off all numbers correct to (n+1) decimal places then add all numbers.
Round off the result correct to n significant decimal places. In the illustration, least
accurate number is 1.2 and it has one decimal place. So, we round off all numbers correct
to 2 decimal places then add. The result is rounded off to one decimal place.

5.293 5.29
1.2 0.12
0.123 10.95
4.34 11.0

Fig. 4.8. Illustration of Addition

Note that in the illustration shown the result is 11-exactly. But we have to write 11.0*
to show that the result is rounded off correct to n decimal place.

(ii) Subtraction
For subtraction operation we need only two numbers. So, Round off high accuracy number
to low accuracy. Perform subtraction operation.


Fig. 4.9. Illustration of Subtraction

(iii) Multiplication and Division

Same rules as addition.
Illustration 1: Determine the significant Figures in the answer to 36.6 times 0.3.
36.6 0.31 = 11.346. Since the second factor has only two significant Figures, the
answer must have only two significant Figures. So, the answer is as follows:
36.6 0.31 = 11.34
Notice, in the example that the extra digits were not used to rounf off the answer.
Since they had no significance, they had to be dropped without consideration.
Illustration 2:
0.015 91
. 3.562 0.015 91
. 3.56
= = 0.11 = 0.1
4.251 4.25
Fig. 4.10. Illustration
72 Instrumentation and Control Systems


Data can be represented by plot using the following formats.
1. Rectangular coordinate format
2. Semi log coordinate format
3. Full log coordinate format

4.13.1 Rectangular Coordinate Format

Both the axes are having linear scale with uniform divisions. This format is used to
represent most of static variables. Performance test data. Load test data of a motor are
typical examples that can be presented using rectangular coordinate format.

4.13.2 Semi Log Coordinate Format

In this format one axis has logarithmic scale and the other axis has the linear scale.
Frequency response curve of an electronic component, Fatigue life cycle cure (S-N curve)
are typical example plots in this format. The S-N curve is drawn between stress value and
number of cycles. The range of stress value is small and it can be represented in linear scale
(Y axis). The range of number of cycles is big and logarithmic scale presents it better
(X axis).

4.13.3 Full Log Coordinate Format

It is also called log-log format. In this format both the axes have logarithmic scale.


1. What is uncertainty in measurement?
2. What are the types of errors in measurement?
3. Steps to be followed while calculating standard deviation?
4. Conditions for using Chi Squared test.
5. State Chauvenets criterion.
6. How can data be presented using plots?
7. State the rules for rounding decimal numbers with examples.


This chapter will consider the computer fundamentals one should be familiar to carry out
measurement and control operation using computer. After you have read this chapter, you
should be able to:
Understand the ports available in computer and to use them
Do for yourself how to give signal out of the computer
74 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Connect a voltage signal and measure it using computer

Understand the function and selection of a DAQ card.

The exponential growth of hardware and software in computer technology drew the attention
of instrumentation Engineers (too!). Amazing speed, easy and effective data manipulation,
and continued, consistent performance for long time are the strengths of computer, to say
a few. Nevertheless, it can understand the input, process the same, and present the output
only in the form of digital data. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) most of the real world
signals are analog signals. So, people were in lookout for a translator, which converts this
real world data into computer understandable form and vice versa. In the mid of 19th
century, Electronic Engineers came up with a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC), and
Analog to Digital Converters (ADC), which filled the communication gap. Once the real
world signals are taken into the system in the digital form, we can do almost anything
(functions of filter, differentiator, integrator, amplifier and like) at no extra cost. This
requires minimum signal conditioning outside the computer and most of the other signal
processing is done through program inside the computer. This concept called Virtual
Instrumentation gains market in both research and industrial applications. In early days,
all measurement related signal processing were done electronically and it was called as
Instrumentation. Later, when the same functions were performed using computer, it was
called as Virtual Instrumentation, meaning unreal Instrumentation.
In this chapter, we make an attempt to introduce a few hardware details needed for
measurement and control application with appropriate software codes (in Turbo C). Since
a detailed discussion on these topics is out of the scope of this book, the subject matter
is briefly presented in a broken, unconventional manner just to meet the application
requirements at hand.


Let us try to understand what is inside the CPU box. The problem is where do we begin?
Just open the CPU box and have a look. You must be seeing something like Fig. 5.1. There
are some chips cables some ports connected and some are not Let me introduce
those components on the motherboard briefly. Motherboard is the big printed circuit board
(PCB) on which these components are mounted. The major components are:
(1) Microprocessor: It performs arithmetic and logic functions. Also it transfers data,
addresses and control signals through buses.
(2) Memory chips: It is used to store the data, programs, intermediate and final
(3) BIOS chip: It is hard wired chip that is plugged into the motherboard at the time
of manufacturing. It performs basic input/output operations.
Computer Fundamentals for Measurements and Control 75

(4) Expansion slots: These are the provisions provided for expanding the capabilities
of the computer. This is very important component as far as our application is
concerned. We will be using one of these ports to connect our external device
(measurement system) to the computer. The measurement system will be connected
to a DAQ card (or ADC card or I/O card) and DAQ card will be connected to one
of the expansion slots. The number of expansion slots may vary from 4 to 6. This
can be ISA slots or PCI slots or combination thereof based on the motherboard con
Figuration. To comment on the market trend, ISA slots are outdated and
PCI slots are more common USB ports are getting popular at the time of this
Key board

Power supply

Memory slots

Memory slots

Primary IDE Floppy

Secondary IDE

Accelerated graphics

PCI Connector

PCI Connector

PCI Connector

ISA Connector

ISA Connector Speaker

Fig. 5.1. A Typical Computer Motherboard

ADC card Analog-to-Digital Converter card

I/O card Input/Output card
DAQ card Data AcQuisition card
ISA slot Industry Standard Architecture slot
PCI slot Peripheral Component Interconnect slot
USB port Universal Serial Bus port
76 Instrumentation and Control Systems

(5) Ports: These are the places where the external devices are connected. These are
present on the cards that are plugged into the expansion slots (e.g., printer port)
or on the motherboard itself. There are several ports like serial port, parallel port,
USB port etc.
The serial port transfers data one bit at a time serially. So, it needs one wire to transfer
8 bits. But it needs longer time than parallel port. Serial ports are available with 9-pin or
25-pin male connector. These are often known as RS232C ports or communication port and
typically connected devices are mouse and modem.
Parallel ports can transfer 8 bit at a time. It is available in the form of 25-pin female
connector. Printer, scanner are connected in this port.
Now, we need to learn mainly two things.
1. How to give signal out of computer
2. How to take signal inside the computer
The signal may be digital or analog. Digital is relatively simple to deal with computer,
as it doesnt require any converters. First, let us take some digital real world systems and
then we will move on to analog signal based systems.


When I was learning these stuffs, I knew a bit of C programming, say up to control
statements and loops. (The pointers, structures etc, were above my head). If you belong to
this category or a better one you can easily do the projects presented here and check for
yourself in a few minutes. Even otherwise, just type the program in Turbo C and execute
it, you may be able to check. To add enthusiasm, first let us do some project at throwaway
cost, which will definitely work.

5.3.1 Project Description

To design a system using computer (PC) for blinking LED with ON-time of 3 seconds and
OFF-time of 1 second. (There are better systems available at lower costs for this purpose,
but our aim here is to learn how to give signal from computer to an external system and
not just using a computer to make an LED blink).

5.3.2 Hardware Requirement

Just one Computer with printer port (Where printer is normally connected) and an LED
(Light Emitting Diode, Any electronic component shop will have this item).
Software requirement: Turbo C.

5.3.3 Hardware Fundamentals

I assume that you have seen a computer, worked a bit in C Programming. So, let me
straight away go to parallel port (printer port), which a beginner may not be familiar with.
The function and operation of the parallel port begins with the connector for us as an
Computer Fundamentals for Measurements and Control 77

end-user. The connector puts the parallel port to work. At the back of the PC is a female
25-pin D-shell connector, called 1284-A connector.

D7 D6 D5 D4 D3 D2 D1 D0

13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14

S7 S6 S5 S4 S3

C3 C2 C1 C0

Fig. 5.2. IEEE-1284 a Connector, a Female 25-pin D-Shell Jack

8 output pins accessed via the DATA Port.
5 input pins (one inverted) accessed via the STATUS Port.
4 output pins (three inverted) accessed via the CONTROL Port.
The remaining 8 pins are grounded.
The individual contacts appear as socket holes, spaced at one-tenth inch, center-to-
center. Of the 25 contacts on the parallel port connector, 17 are assigned individual signals
for data transfer and control. The remaining eight serve as ground returns. The Table lists
the functions assigned to each of these signals as implemented in the original IBM PC
Parallel port.

5.3.4 Data Lines

The eight data lines of the parallel interface convey data in all operating modes. In
compatibility mode, they carry data from the host to the peripheral on connector pins 2
through 9. To send data to the peripheral, the host puts a pattern of digital voltages on the
data lines. The base address of the parallel ports can be 03BC (Hex), 0378 (Hex) and 0278
(Hex). A routine in the PCs BIOS code searches for parallel port at each of the defined base
address in order. The system assigns the base address while booting up.
How to find the address of printer port (Parallel port)?
Each printer port consists of three port addresses; data, status and control port. These
addresses are in sequential order. That is, if the data port is at address 0x0378, the
corresponding status port is at 0x0379 and the control port is at 0x037a.
The following is typical.
Printer Data Port Status Control
LPT1 0x03bc 0x03bd 0x03be
LPT2 0x0378 0x0379 0x037a
LPT3 0x0278 0x0279 0x027a
78 Instrumentation and Control Systems

My experience has been that machines are assigned a base address for LPT1 of
0x0378. To definitively identify the assignments for a particular machine, use the DOS
debug program to display memory locations 0040:0008.
For example:
-d 0040:0008 L8 (Press enter key)
You will see something like this as response from the system.
0040:0008 78 03 78 02 00 00 00 00
Note in the example that LPT1 is at 0x0378, LPT2 at 0x0278 and LPT3 and LPT4 are
not assigned. Thus, for this hypothetical machine;
Printer Data Port Status Control
LPT1 0x0378 0x0379 0x037a
LPT2 0x0278 0x0279 0x027a
An alternate technique is to run Microsoft Diagnostics (MSD.EXE) and review the LPT
assignments. (Find this file through search and run it).

Table 5.1. The Original IBM PC Parallel Port Pin-out

Pin Number Function

1 Strobe

2 Data bit 0

3 Data bit 1

4 Data bit 2

5 Data bit 3

6 Data bit 4

7 Data bit 5

8 Data bit 6

9 Data bit 7

10 Acknowledge

11 Busy

12 Paper end

13 Select
Computer Fundamentals for Measurements and Control 79

14 Auto feed

15 Error

16 Initialize printer

17 Select input

18 Strobe ground

19 Data 1 and 2 ground

20 Data 3 and 4 ground

21 Data 5 and 6 ground

22 Data 7 and 8 ground

23 Busy and fault ground

24 Paper out, Select, Acknowledge ground

25 Auto feed, Select input, Initialize ground

5.3.5 Software Fundamentals

To give signals out of the computer, a function called outportb( ) is used. This will write
a byte (b stands for byte) in the specified port. The syntax of this function is given below:
outportb(argument1, argument2);
Here, argument1 is the address of the subsystem/device/card of the computer to which the
signal is to be sent. Argument2 is the value of the signal. For IBM PC, the address of
parallel port (printer port) is 0x378 in our program. Both argument1, argument2 are
integer type.
How to give value of signal?
Consider only data pins (pin number 2 to 9). Each pin can send signals individually,
either 0 volt DC or 5 volt DC with respect to ground (pin number 19 to 25, refer table for
ground details). The 0 volt signal will be referred to as 0 state/ off-state and 5 volt
signal will be referred to as 1 state or On-state. Depends on the application, the
corresponding states (0 or 1, binary number) are written in the same order and then it
will be converted into a hexadecimal number. Converting it into hexadecimal number is
only a matter of convention and not mandatory. For example, suppose we want to send ON
signal (1 state) to pin number 3 and 7, then the binary number will look like 0010 0010
(Note the pin location 2 and 7 are set to 1 from right-to-left fashion). Converting this into
hexadecimal number, it will be 2216 or in C language 0x22. The command will look like
outportb (0x378,0x22);
Then, probably the next function we should be familiar with is delay( ) . The syntax is
given on next page:
80 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Here, the argument3 tells the computer, how long the program execution should be
delayed (stopped) in milliseconds. So, the following statement will stop the execution for
1 second.

5.3.6 Implementation
For the task at hand, we need to send ON signal through parallel port for 3 seconds (3000
ms) and OFF signal for 1 second (1000 ms). This process should continue for the LED to
blink continuously. The moment we give a signal to the parallel port, 5 volt (4.9 volt to be
more realistic) will be available in the female connector discussed and it will remain till
it is directed to change. Just key in the following code (program) in Turbo C and run (to
run press ctrl+F9) and connect a LED to the parallel port. While connecting, take care of
the polarity, Positive lead of LED to pin number 2 and negative lead to pin number 19. Do
you see the LED blinking? If yes, fold your right hand fingers, tighten up hand muscles and
give a jerk (cheer up!).

/* Illustrates simple use of printer port. The LED flashes until any key is pressed.
#include <stdio.h> /* Include header file for I/O */
#include <dos.h> /* Required for delay function */
void main(void) /* First function to be executed */
{ /* Beginning of program */
while(kbhit != 1) /* Until any key is pressed */
{ /* Beginning of while loop*/
outportb(0x378,0x01); /* Turn LED on */
delay(3000); /* Delay for 3 seconds */
outportb(0x378,0x00); /* Turn LED off */
delay(1000); /* Delay for 1 second */
} /* End of while loop */
/* End the program */

Assignment 1: Connect 6 LEDs and make it blink alternatively in order.

Assignment 2: Connect one LED to pin number 2. Generate random numbers between
0 and 9 through program. Make LED glow for 1 second, if the number
is greater than 6, otherwise off.
Computer Fundamentals for Measurements and Control 81


5.4.1 Project Description

Connect a 9-volt bulb to PC and vary its brightness. You can use 12-volt batteries as
external source of power.

5.4.2 Hardware Requirement

Sl. No. Component Qty

1 741 IC (with IC base) 1 each

2 9-volt battery 2

3 Resistors (100k, 50k, 25 k, 12.5 k, 10k) One each

4 Connecting wires, General purpose PCB etc

5 9-volt bulb 1

5.4.3 Hardware Fundamentals

Strictly speaking, we cannot give analog signals out of IBM PC that we are familiar with.
All we can do is, we give digital output signal, which carries the information, and then
convert it in to an analog signal using a converter (DAC). There are two types of digital-
to-analog converters available, namely, Binary-weighted resistor DAC and resistor ladder
DAC. We will revisit binary-weighted resistor DAC alone here.

5.4.4 Binary-weighted Resistor DAC

The Fig. 5.3 shows a simple 4-bit binary weighted resistor DAC. The inputs are given from
parallel port (printer port). The LSB of the circuit is connected to the pin number 2 of the
port and this path is offered the maximum resistance (100k) giving least importance. The
next bit is connected to pin number 3 of port and it is offered half of the previous
resistance (50 k). In a similar manner other two connections are also made. The output
voltage (Analog) will be
Vout = 0.5(s3.23 + s2.22 + s1.21 + s0.20)V
10 k


LSB 100 k

From printer port

50 k 741
+ Vout
25 k
12.5 k
Fig. 5.3. Binary-weighted Resistor DAC
82 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Where, V is excitation voltage given to 741 IC.

Consider, only LSB is set, i.e., 0001 signal from parallel port. The corresponding
voltage will be, from the above equation Vout = 0.5V. We can determine for any 4-bit signal
[s3 s2 s1 s0].
10 k

100 k

Printer port 50 k 741
25 k

12.5 k + +

Fig. 5.4. DAC Connected to a Bulb

Now, we know how to give digital signals and how to convert them into analog signal.
Let us connect the printer port to DAC and DAC to 9-volt bulb as shown in Fig. 5.5. Then,
key in the following program and see bulb brightness. (It should vary from zero to maximum
and then to zero).
+15 V -15 V

+ +
How to give +15 volt and 15 volt to 741 IC?
For continuous use, we should go for regulated
power supply. For, study purpose, for short 15 Volt battery 15 Volt battery
duration, we shall connect two 15 volt batteries
as shown in figure and use it.

Fig. 5.5. Connecting Power Supply


Taking the signals into the computer is normally done using a add-on card called I/O card
or ADC card or DAQ card (Data AcQuisition card). There are many DAQ cards available
in the market with various specifications. For Mechanical Engineers, it is absolutely essential
to understand the specification so as to choose correct DAQ card to suit the application.
The most important parameters are discussed below to enable this. It will be good to know
at least the functional aspect of main components in DAQ card. The functional aspects are
covered a little later.
Computer Fundamentals for Measurements and Control 83

5.5.1 DAQ Card Parameters

Analog Inputs
The analog input specifications give you information on both the capabilities and the
accuracy of the DAQ product. Basic specifications, which are available on most DAQ
products, tell you the number of channels, the sampling rate, the resolution, and the input
Number of Channels
The number of analog channel inputs is specified for both single-ended and differential
inputs for devices with both input types. Single-ended inputs are all referenced to a
common ground reference. These inputs are typically used when the input signals are high
level (greater than 1 V), the leads from the signal source to the analog input hardware are
short (less than 5m.), and all input signals share a common ground reference. If the signals
do not meet these criteria, you should use differential inputs. With differential inputs, each
input has its own ground reference; noise errors are reduced because the common-mode
noise picked up by the leads is cancelled out.
Sampling Rate
This parameter determines how often conversions can take place. A faster sampling rate
acquires more data in a given time and can therefore often form a better representation of
the original signal.
A common technique for measuring several signals with a single ADC is multiplexing.
The number of bits that the ADC uses to represent the analog signal is the resolution. The
higher the resolution, the larger the number of divisions the range is broken into, and
therefore, the smaller the detectable voltage change. Figure 5.6 shows a sine wave and its
corresponding digital image as obtained by an ideal 3-bit ADC.

0 000
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140

Fig. 5.6. Digitized Sine Wave with a Resolution of 3 Bits

84 Instrumentation and Control Systems

A 3-bit converter (which is actually seldom used but a convenient example) divides
the analog range into 8 divisions. Each division is represented by a binary code between
000 and 111. Clearly, the digital representation is not a good representation of the original
analog signal because information has been lost in the conversion. By increasing the
resolution to 16 bits, however, the number of codes from the ADC increases from 8 to
65,536, and you can therefore obtain an extremely accurate digital representation of the
analog signal if the rest of the analog input circuitry is properly designed.
Range refers to the minimum and maximum voltage levels that the ADC can quantize.
Code Width
The range, resolution, and gain available on a DAQ device determine the smallest detectable
change in voltage. This change in voltage represents 1 least significant bit (LSB) of the
digital value and is often called the code width.
Code width = Voltage range/(gain * 2n)
Where, n-order of bits in the resolution
Analog Outputs
Analog output circuitry is often required to provide stimuli for a DAQ system. Several
specifications for the digital-to-analog converter (DAC) determine the quality of the output
signal produced settling time, slew rate, and output resolution.
Settling Time
Settling time is the time required for the output to settle to the specified accuracy. The
settling time is usually specified for a full-scale change in voltage.
Slew Rate
The slew rate is the maximum rate of change that the DAC can produce on the output
signal. Settling time and slew rate work together in determining how quickly the DAC
changes the output signal level. Therefore, a DAC with a small settling time and a high
slew rate can generate high-frequency signals because little time is needed to accurately
change the output to a new voltage level. An example of an application that requires high
performance in these parameters is the generation of audio signals. The DAC requires a
high slew rate and small settling time to generate the high frequencies necessary to cover
the audio range. In contrast, an example of an application that does not require fast D/A
conversion is a voltage source that controls a heater. Because the heater cannot respond
quickly to a voltage change, fast D/A conversion is unnecessary.
Output Resolution
Output resolution is similar to input resolution; it is the number of bits in the digital code
that generates the analog output. A larger number of bits reduce the magnitude of each
output voltage increment, thereby making it possible to generate smoothly changing signals.
Applications requiring a wide dynamic range with small incremental voltage changes in
Computer Fundamentals for Measurements and Control 85

the analog output signal may need high-resolution voltage outputs. A typical PCI based PC
add-on card is given below: See whether you are able to understand something.
A/D converter: 12 bit ADC with 25 microseconds conversion time. Jumper selectable
16-channel single ended or 8-channel differential ended analog input.
Jumper selectable unipolar (010v) / bipolar (5v, 10v) analog input.
Acquisition rate is 25 kHz. Linearity error 1.5 LSB.
D/A converter: One 12 bit programmable DAC jumper selectable unipolar (0-10v)/
bipolar (10v) output ranges. Settling time 3 ms. Linearity error
1.5 LSB.
Timer: 3 programmable 16 bit counter/timer using 8254(IC).
Digital I/O: 24 lines digital I/O using 8255 PPI (Programmable peripheral Interface).
I/O lines terminated in 26-pin header.
The card draws 600 mA @5v; 12v, 100mA.
Connector: It has 62*2 pin gold plated edge connector.

5.5.2 Functional Description of Multi Channel DAQ Card

The schematic diagram of a multi channel DAQ card is shown in Fig. 5.7. As name
suggests, it can handle data from more than one channel. As there will be only one ADC,
it can convert (Analog to digital) data from only one channel at a time. Multiplexer is a
device (IC), which will do the channel selection process based on the command given from
computer. So, at any given point of time there will be only one channel connected to ADC.
The basic functions during analog data acquisition are shown in Fig. 5.7.
Sample and Hold
Analog signal is continuously varying signal. The signal is to be relatively constant to ADC
for the effective conversion. ADC takes certain amount of time called signal. During this
time, whatever is the signal on the channel is to be captured and stored temporarily in
order not to loose the information content in the data. Buffer is used to do this storing.
The signal from buffer is divided in to pieces with a constant width of Sampling
period and waiting in the queue for conversion. This process is called Sampling. ADC
takes one piece of signal from sample and hold unit and measures its magnitude, when
start conversion signal (SOC) from CPU is given. This process is called Quantization.
Once conversion is over, it gives End Of Conversion signal (EOC) to CPU. The Fig. 5.8
(cartoon with cutting the signal and measuring with tape) illustrates this process.
The Multiplexer keep sweeping between the channels and gets stored in the buffer.
This process goes on continuously at very high speed.
86 Instrumentation and Control Systems


Give HOLD command

Give SOC command to SOC pin

Make SOC pin low

Is End Of No
pin low?


Give next sample command

Read the value from ADC

Convert the obtained value

to a meaning full value by


Fig. 5.7. Flow Chart of an ADC

Input data Conditioned Data Quantized data

Sensor Sample & Hold ADC


Fig. 5.8. Snap Shot of ADC Stages

Computer Fundamentals for Measurements and Control 87


Signals from sensors

Buffer ADC
& Hold

Control Signal

Fig. 5.9. Multi-channel DAQ

1. It is worth noting that the sampling frequency is a compromise. For faithful

reproduction of signal, the sampling rate should be high. On the other hand, more
sampling rate leads to more data that occupies more memory and data transfer rate
and it increases the ADC overheads.
2. For multi channel cards the sampling rate will be sampling rate of ADC divided by
number of channels.

The Fig. 5.7 shows the flow sequence, which will help us to write program easily.
The C program for taking data in is given below:

// ADC Program in C
// Define the Base address of the 8 bit and 16 bit here
// (From PCI_02.EXE opening screen)
#define BASE1 0xDC00
#define BASE2 0xE000
// Offset values of ports (Ref: Manual pp. 16)
#define ALS_ADC BASE2 + 0x02
#define STAT_READ BASE1 + 0x04
#define ALS_ADCMODE BASE1 + 0x00
#define ALS_ADCCMD BASE2 + 0x00
int main( )
int channel=0;
88 Instrumentation and Control Systems

int count=0;
int output=0;
float min_volt=10.0; // Set 10.0 for Bipolar +/ 10V
// 5.0 for Bipolar +/ 5V
// 0.0 for Unipolar
float range = 20.0; // Range = 20 for Bipolar +/10
// 10 otherwise
clrscr( );
printf(Enter the channel number to monitor (0 15): );
clrscr( );
for (;;)
// Set the Channel Number to the ADC
outportb(ALS_ADCMODE,(0x00 | channel));
// Sample and Hold
outportb(ALS_ADCMODE,(0x10 | channel));
// Sample Delay
count = 5000;
while (count);
// Start conversion
outport (ALS_ADCCMD,0x0000);
// Conversion delay
count = 1000;
while (count);
// Wait for end of conversion
// Read the Status port and until D0 is high, wait.
while ((inport(STAT_READ) & 0x01) == 0x00);
output &= 0x0fff;
clreol( );
printf(%3.3f\n,min_volt + ((float)output/4096.0)*range);
return 0;
Computer Fundamentals for Measurements and Control 89

Guidelines for using ADCs

Use the full input range of the ADC
Use a good source of reference signal
Look out for fast input signal changes
Keep analog and digital grounds separate
Minimize interference and loading problem


For accurate measurements, you should use the right settings when acquiring data with an
oscilloscope. Knowing the characteristics of the signal in consideration helps you to choose
the correct settings. Such characteristics include the following:

5.6.1 Find Out the Peak-to-peak Value

This parameter, in units of volts, reflects the maximum change in signal voltage. If V is the
signal voltage at any given time, then Vpk-to-pk = Vmax Vmin. The peak-to-peak value affects
the vertical sensitivity or gain of the input amplifier. If you do not know the peak-to-peak
value, start with the smallest gain (maximum input range), and increase it until the waveform
is digitized using the maximum dynamic range without clipping the signal. Figure 5.10
shows that a gain of 5 is the best setting to digitize a 300 mV, 1 MHz sine wave without
clipping the signal.
+127 LSB
+7 LSB
128 LSB
(a) Gain = 1, Input Range +5 V, Number of LSBs = 15

+127 LSB

+38.4 LSB
38.4 LSB

128 LSB
(b) Gain = 5, Input Range +1 V, Number of LSBs = 77

+153 LSB

+127 LSB

0 LSB Acquired Signal

128 LSB

154 LSB
(c) Gain = 20, Input Range +250 mV, Number of LSBs = 307.2

Fig. 5.10. Dynamic Range of an 8-Bit ADC with Three Different Gain Settings
90 Instrumentation and Control Systems

5.6.2 Source Impedance

Most digitizers and digital storage oscilloscopes (DSOs) have a 1 Mega Ohm input resistance
in the pass band. If the source impedance is large, the signal will be attenuated at the
amplifier input and the measurement will be inaccurate. If the source impedance is unknown
but suspected to be high, change the attenuation ratio on your probe and acquire the data.
In addition to the input resistance, all digitizers, DSOs, and probes present some input
capacitance in parallel with the resistance. This capacitance can interfere with your
measurement in much the same way as the resistance does.

5.6.3 Input Frequency

If your sample rate is less than twice the highest frequency component at the input, the
frequency components above half your sample rate will alias in the pass band at lower
frequencies, indistinguishable from other frequencies in the pass band. If the signals
highest frequency is unknown, you should start with the digitizers maximum sample rate
to prevent aliasing and reduce the digitizers sample rate until the display shows either
enough cycles of the waveform or the information you need.

5.6.4 Signal Shape



1 2 3 4
Trigger Level

Hold-off Hold-off

1 and 3 = Trigger Accepted

2 and 4 = Trigger lgnored

Fig. 5.11. Difficult Pulse Train Signal

Some signals are easy to capture by ordinary triggering methods. A few iterations on
the trigger level finally render a steady display. This method works for sinusoidal, triangular,
square, and saw tooth waves. Some of the more elusive waveforms, such as irregular pulse
trains, runt pulses, and transients, may be more difficult to capture. Fig. 5.11 shows an
example of a difficult pulse-train trigger. Ideally, the trigger event should occur at condition
one, but sometimes the instrument may trigger on condition two because the signal crosses
the trigger level. You can solve this problem without using complicated signal processing
techniques by using trigger hold-off, which lets you specify a time from the trigger event
to ignore additional triggers that fall within that time. With an appropriate hold-off value,
discarding conditions two and four can properly capture the waveform in Fig. 5.10.
Computer Fundamentals for Measurements and Control 91

5.6.5 Input Coupling

For most oscilloscopes, you can configure the input channels to be DC coupled or AC
coupled. DC coupling allows DC and low-frequency components of a signal to pass through
without attenuation. In contrast, AC coupling removes DC offsets and attenuates low
frequency components of a signal. This feature can be exploited to zoom in on AC signals
with large DC offsets, such as switching noise on a 12 V power supply.


1. What is measurement system?
2. Explain mathematical modeling of piezoelectric accelerometer.
3. What is zero order system? Give examples.
4. Explain first order system with examples.
5. Explain about step response of first order instruments.
6. Explain about second order system.
7. Explain about step response of second order instruments.
8. Define Damping ratio.
9. State the particular integral and complementary function of Sine Input Response.
10. What is Setting time?

Chapter 6 SIGNAL

In this chapter, we will discuss some of the signal conditioning techniques needed for
measurement applications. After completing this chapter, you will be able to:
Describe the need for signal conditioning
Describe pneumatic and electronic amplifiers
Understand the function of operational amplifiers and its applications
Describe the need and types of filters, and design aRC filter for given specification
Describe the function of voltage divider, charge amplifier, Wheatstone bridge, scaling
Signal Conditioning 93

Mother Nature and modern world presents a variety of measurands for measurements.
Engineers life becomes interesting when one faces the challenges posed in looking for
sensors, which will respond to those measurands. After centuries of research, we have
found many materials, which will respond to many measurands. So, what is the problem?
Where is the problem? Let us experiment and find out. Having studied the basics behind
the thermocouple, we put one end of the thermocouple in a furnace while the other end
is exposed to atmospheric temperature. As per the theory of operation, we expect it to
develop e.m.f proportional to the temperature difference. We connect a display unit in the
range of 0 20v. As the temperature increases, by intuition or perception, we expect the
voltmeter to show the reading as 1v, 2v, 4v .14v etc. But, the needle move a little for
the sake of moving and stays close enough to zero. Yes, this is a problem. Let us investigate
the cause of the problem. Does the needle move? Yes, but it moves very small in magnitude.
So, we connect a voltmeter with a smaller range (0 1v). Now we see a considerable
amount of needle movement as the temperature increases. What do we understand from
it? Thermo e.m.f. is produced but the magnitude is not as expected. So we need to increase
the voltage level (amplification).
We bring a little more sophistication in our experiment. Instead of voltmeter, let us
connect CRO (cathode ray oscilloscope) to measure a static variable, which is capable of
showing the waveform representing the magnitude information with respect to time. We
expect the display to be a smooth line of e.m.f of some magnitude. To our surprise, the
display is with lot of high frequency signals. The high frequency noise is due to nearby
power lines, RF interference etc., and this is another problem. What we wanted is the
waveform of thermo-e.m.f alone others should be filtered off.
These are the days, if we dont use computers; people call us storage people. So,
connect the e.m.f generated by thermocouple to a computer for computer based measurement.
Given the speaking ability to computer, it will say, sorry gentleman. Thermocouple speaks
in some foreign language, not able to understand (measure)! Then we understand that
computers can understand only digital signals whereas e.m.f given as input is an analog
signal and hence there is a need for a translator who will do this job. (Converters).
We see from the above discussions that the raw (unprocessed) signals from sensors are
not compatible with other elements of measurement schemes and it needs necessary
conditioning. This chapter is dedicated for some such conditioning elements. We restrict
our discussion to the following signal conditioning elements considering the scope of the
Amplifiers and attenuators.
94 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Voltage dividers.
Liberalization circuits.

An amplifier is a device used to increase or magnify the power level of the weak signal with
faithful reproduction using an external source. By faithful reproduction we mean, the shape
of the signal is preserved. There exists a linear relationship between the input signal and
the output signal. This is necessary because, most of the time the information is stored in
the shape of the wave. So, increasing the level needs to be done without disturbing the
waveform shape.
A question arises at this point. The step-up transformer increases the voltage level and
faithfully reproduces the signal. So, can we call it as an amplifier? As per our definition,
the answer is No. It amplifies voltage at the cost of current. As the voltage increases, the
current decreases. The power level remains almost constant. It does not use any external
source for amplification. So, at least, we will not call it as an amplifier. We may call it as
a scaling device.
Why do we need amplifiers?
Let us recall our experiment with thermocouple. We understand that the e.m.f developed
is in the range of milli-volts. Hence, we connected a voltmeter in that range and measured.
The problem is, the moment a meter is connected to the thermocouple (sensor), the meter
starts drawing current and the voltage drops. Already the voltage is small and the drop in
that makes the condition miserable. Here, we need a circuit, which will give enough
current (which gives power to drive other element/device) and increases the voltage level
(if needed) and the amplifier does that function.

6.2.1 Pneumatic Amplifier

When input signal Psignal is given to the bellows, the bellows expand and pushes the lever
through knob1. The lever proportionally opens/closes the needle valve that controls high-
pressure line through knob2. The output pressure Pout closely follows the pilot pressure
Psignal (faithful reproduction) with a higher magnitude (amplification) with the help of high-
pressure source (external energy). The relation between Psignal and Pout is given by
Pout = k Psignal ...(6.1)
Gain of an amplifier is a number, which tells output is how many times input. Gain
is given by
Gain = output/input
Here gain (k) = Pout /Psignal
Signal Conditioning 95

Pin High pressure source



Bellows Needle valve


Fig. 6.1. Pneumatic Amplifier

6.2.2 Electrical/Electronic Amplifiers

The electronic amplifiers are basically either transistor based or operational amplifier based.
We find that the electrical conductivity of the material varies from material to material. We
classify the material as conductors and insulators. There are some materials, neither
conductors nor insulators. They are called as semiconductors. They are of two types
(P type and N type). If we connect these two types of materials, we get P-N junction,
which is a barrier to the current flow. When there is no base potential, the barrier narrows
down (acts as a resistor) and it becomes a conductor, when it (J1) is forward biased (P type
to +ve and N type to ve). The barrier grows and becomes an insulator when it (J2) is
reverse biased (P type to ve and N type to +ve).
A weak signal which is to be amplified is connected across resistance R2 (between the
base of the transistor and the ground). Vcc is connected to voltage source of required level
(fixed for a given amplifier, e.g., 12V) and the gain is also set (e.g., 5). Let us say, the weak
signal that is connected is D.C. signal (e.g., 2V). Now, look at the biasing of the base-emitter
junction. Base is connected to higher potential (2V) compared to emitter. The emitter
potential is zero (0V). The base (P-type) will be considered to be connected to positive and
the emitter (N-type) be considered to be connected to negative. Hence, the base emitter
junction is forward biased. Proportional to the signal (2V), the junction barrier will narrow
down allowing more current to flow.
On the other side, the base-collector junction is reverse biased. Collector (N-type) is
connected to higher potential (12V) and base (P-type) is connected to lower potential (2V).
Here, proportional to the voltage difference (12V 2V = 10V), which is actually reduction
in potential, the barrier will narrow down and accordingly current flows.
Since, in both junctions, the barriers narrow down proportional to the input signal
(2V), there is a proportional flow of current from source (Vcc) to ground. This current is
proportional to the signal applied to the base; but the amplitude will be very high. By
connecting a load resistance across emitter resistance (Re), the corresponding output voltage
is obtained. The circuit is designed such that the output voltage is gain times input voltage.
In this example, it happens to be 10V. Note that the highest output voltage that we expect
96 Instrumentation and Control Systems

from amplifier circuit should be less than Vcc or on contrary, the Vcc should be kept higher
than the maximum expected output voltage of the amplifier. The same idea can be extended
to A.C. signals as well.



Fig. 6.2. Transistor Analogy


R1 Rc





Fig. 6.3. Basic Transistor Circuit

The point to fix on our mind is that in forward bias, as potential difference increases,
barrier decreases. In reverse bias, as potential difference decreases, barrier increases. When
the base is fed with a signal, which is positive potential, the junction ( J1)/barrier tends to
become conductor (resistance reduces) proportional to signal. Junction ( J1) is forward
biased and as signal is connected with respect to ground, the total potential difference
available for forward bias increases. The junction ( J2) also tends to become conductor
proportional to signal. The junction ( J2) is reverse biased and as signal is connected with
respect to Vcc, the total potential difference available for reverse bias decreases.
To summarize, as base voltage increases, transistor conducts proportionally. So, the
base acts as a needle valve. Collector is connected to Vcc (higher potential). The output of
transistor follows the input signal, but the magnitude is high and hence it seems that it
amplifies the input level to higher level.
Signal Conditioning 97


So far, we have been discussing discrete component amplifiers. As this circuit is used quite
frequently, we developed an IC, which is made up of transistors, diodes, resistors and
capacitors. These operational amplifiers are basically differential amplifiers. That means
there are two inputs to the amplifier and always the difference between the two inputs is
amplified. It requires a bipolar power supply (+V and V ) with respect to ground.
+V Saturation
V2 +

Differential input (V2 - V1)

Fig. 6.4. Op-Amp Symbol Fig. 6.5. I/O Characteristics of Op-Amp

The relationship between differential input voltage and output voltage is shown in
Fig 6.4. When V2 is larger than V1, then V2 V1 difference is positive. When exceeds a limit,
the output reaches negative saturation. When V2 is smaller than V1, then V2 V1 is negative.
When exceeds a limit, the output reaches positive saturation. For most Op-Amps, this V
is in the order of milli-volt and saturation is in the order of 10 V.
Very important characteristics of an Op-Amps:
It has very high input impedance (in the order of a few M) and very low output impedance
(in the order of a few ).
It has infinite gain (in the order of a few lakhs) and infinite bandwidth. It means
signals of any frequency can be amplified and the response is good. Now, let us discuss
how an Op-Amp can be used as an inverting amplifier.
+ve Supply

Inverting input If
A Vout
Non-inverting input

ve Supply

Fig. 6.6. Op-Amp Analogy Fig. 6.7. Inverting Amplifier

There are two rules of thumb in Op-Amp (ideally):
No current flows through input terminals (high input impedance).
No voltage difference between the Op-Amp input terminals i.e.,
Voltage at inverting terminal = Voltage at non-inverting terminal
98 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Vin is the signal to be amplified and is connected to the inverting terminal through
resistance R1. The non-inverting terminal input is connected to ground. The output is
connected to inverting input through feedback resistor Rf .
When signal is not given, no voltage and no current flows through both input terminals,
the rule of thumb is satisfied. So, there is no output.
When Vin is applied to the inverting input, a current (I1) flows. Non-inverting terminal
is grounded and hence current, voltage is zero. In inverting terminal there is a potential,
the difference (Vin 0) is amplified and we get non-zero output. This is fedback to inverting
terminal. So, the feedback adjusts output such that thumb rules are followed. At point A
in Fig. 6.6, the sum of the current is zero (rule 1).
I1 + If = 0 ...(6.2)
I1 current through input resistor (R1)
If current through feedback resistor (Rf)
Vin V
+ out = 0 [By Ohms law, I = V/R]
R1 Rf
Vout = Vin
Vout = G.Vin ...(6.3)
The negative sign indicates 180 phase shift between input and output voltages. Here,
G is called gain and it depends upon Rf and R1. It is clear from eqn. 6.3, if Rf and R1 are
selected such that G > 1, then the output voltage is amplified by G times hence it can be
used as an amplifier. (Rf > R1). If Rf and R1 are selected such that G < 1 then, it is called
attenuator (Rf < R1).
The following points are worthnoting:
The feedback resistance is one of the critical components, which decides the function
of an Op-Amp.
Refer the Op-Amp characteristics graph. As Rf tends to infinity (high resistance), the
linear region (V) reduces and the Op-Amp acts as a comparator, jumping between Vsat
and Vsat based on input signal.
When Rf = 0, (i.e.,) output is connected directly to inverting input, the Op-Amp acts
as unity gain amplifier. (i.e.), whatever is the input given that will be the output with
typical input and output impedances. It is called as buffer. As it just follows input voltage,
it is also called voltage follower.
As Rf decreases, the linear region V increases and slope of the characteristics line
Signal Conditioning 99

6.3.1 Non-inverting Amplifier

A non-inverting amplifier is shown in Fig. 6.8. We know,
I1 + If = 0

From Ohms law:

Vin b
V Vout
+ in
g =0
R1 R2

Vout = 1 +
OP ...(6.4)


Vin +


Fig. 6.8. Non-inverting Amplifier

Note that non-inverting amplifiers cannot be used as an attenuator, because gain is
always greater than 1.

6.3.2 Differential Amplifier

Differential amplifier amplifies the difference between the two inputs. V1 and V2 are the
two input signals and (V2 V1) is the differential input Vin. The output is given by
Vout =
cV 2 V1 h ...(6.5)

Notice that R1 and R2 appear in two each. Both R1s and R2s should have the same
resistance value to obey the above equation exactly. That means when we apply the same
voltage to both the inputs (from same source, so common mode) the difference is zero.
Therefore the output is zero. But, we may find a non-zero value some times. This non-
idealistic behavior is described by a factor called CMRR (Common Mode Rejection Rate).

CMRR = ...(6.6)
Where, A is the gain in difference input.
Acm is the gain in common mode input.
100 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Ideal amplifier will have Vout = 0 for common mode inputs.

Vout 0
Therefore, Acm = = = 0
Vin Vin
When Acm= 0, CMRR is infinity and differential amplifier is better.

V2 +

Fig. 6.9. Differential Amplifier

6.3.3 Buffer or Voltage Follower

Vin + Vout = Vin

Fig. 6.10. Buffer

As the input voltage is directly connected to the Op-Amp in an amplifier circuit, the
input impedance is very high. Looking at the circuit and comparing with inverting amplifier
circuit, R1 = R2 =0, this implies that = 1. So, the gain is one. The output voltage
follows the input voltage. The advantage is, it has very low output impedance.
What is the use of this unit gain? When we have a signal and we dont want to load
the signal, we want a circuit with very high input impedance and very low output impedance.
The unit gain amplifier does this job.

6.3.4 Instrumentation Amplifier

Instrumentation amplifier is a combination of differential amplifier and voltage follower/
buffer. What is the problem in differential amplifier? The input impedance is not sufficiently
very high, so, it loads the input signal. For each input, if we put one buffer so that buffer
offers high input impedance, it forms the instrumentation amplifier.
Signal Conditioning 101

Buffer 1 Differential Amplifier


V1 + R1


V2 +

Buffer 2

Fig. 6.11. Instrumentation Amplifier

6.3.5 Summing Amplifier

Summing amplifier adds two or more input voltages with required scaling if necessary. The
inputs are given to inverting end of an Op-Amp and feedback is given through Rf . The
output voltage is given by

Vout =
LM R f
V1 +
MN R 1 R2 PQ
By setting Rf = R1 = R2 the output voltage in inverted sum of V1 and V2
Vout = [V1 + V2]
By setting R1 = R2 and Rf = , Vout gives average of V1 and V2
V1 + V2
Vout =
By choosing suitable gain, any linear equation can be fitted between Vout and Vin

Example: Vout = 4; Vin = 3

V1 = Vin; V2 = 3 Volts
Rf Rf
= 4; = 1
R1 R2
Therefore, the above equation becomes
Vout = [4Vin + 3]


V2 Vout

Fig. 6.12. Summing Amplifier

102 Instrumentation and Control Systems

6.3.6 Integrator
Current through capacitor is i = C . This gives a way to construct an integrator, if we
emplace the feedback resistor with a capacitor. The current relation of an OP amp is
I1 + If = 0
Vin dv out
+ C = 0
R1 dt
dv out V in
dt R1C
Vout =
R1C z
V in dt

Integrator is basically accomplished with a frequency dependent feedback. The capacitor

is charged and provides a voltage offset between output and input. The rate of charging
depends on the time constant (T = 1/Rc).

R1 C

A Vout

Fig. 6.13. Integrator

6.3.7 Mechanical Integrator

Fig. 6.14. Mechanical Integrator

Signal Conditioning 103

When shaft rotates, the balls move up proportional to the speed of the shaft. The
pointer on the scale shows this movement and it will give velocity information. There is
a counter connected through two bevel gears. The counter will give the displacement
information between a given time interval.

x = z

Counter gives integration value of speed in time (t2 t1)

6.3.8 Differentiator
If we replace the input resistance with a capacitor, then what we get is a differentiator. The
output of the differentiator gives the derivative of the input voltage. This can be realized
using a single capacitor and a single resistor.
I1 + If = 0
dVin V
C + out = 0
dt Rf
dV in
Vout = RC
This circuit is practically not stable. A 100pF capacitor may be added in parallel to
Rf to increase stability.

6.3.9 Mechanical Differentiator

LM dx OP
N dt Q t=t

The counter gives displacement and pointer shows velocity at anytime t. So, pointer
shows the differentiated value of a given instant of t.

Signal is often super imposed with noise (unwanted information) that is at different
frequencies. A device or circuit that blocks certain frequencies or band of frequency is
called a filter. It can be constructed by a simple resistor (R) or capacitor (C) combination.
They are called RC filters.

6.4.1 Classification of Filters

Low pass filter
High pass filter
Band pass filter
104 Instrumentation and Control Systems

6.4.2 Low Pass Filter


Vin C Vout

Fig. 6.15. Low Pass Filter

As name indicates it passes low frequencies and blocks high frequencies. An ideal
filter will have a critical frequency (fc) above that it blocks and below which it is passed.
But practically the response is something as shown in Fig. 6.16.


0.1 1 10 100

Fig. 6.16. Characteristics of Low Pass Filter

6.4.3 Design of a Low Pass Filter

First step is to find critical frequency below which the filter should pass. The resistor and
capacitor values are chosen as discussed below to give fc. First we fix a standard capacitor
in the range of F to pF and calculate resistance. If it is below 1-kilo ohm or above one
mega ohm, then different capacitor is to be selected and corresponding resistance values
are computed. Often trimmer (variable resistor) is used to get correct values of resistance.
Care has to be taken to avoid very low resistance as it leads to very high current and
loading effect. Similarly very high capacitance also to be avoided.





Fig. 6.17. Mechanical Low Pass Filter

Signal Conditioning 105

6.4.4 High Pass Filter

It passes high frequencies and blocks low frequencies. The characteristic curve is shown
in Fig. 6.19. fc and gain expression remains same as low pass RC filters.


Vin R Vout

0.1 1 10 100

Fig. 6.18. High Pass Filter Fig. 6.19. Characteristics of High Pass Filter





Fig. 6.20. Mechanical High Pass Filter

6.4.5 Band Pass RC Filter

As a matter of common sense if we connect a low RL CH
pass RC filter and a high pass RC filter we get a band
pass RC filter. Suppose we want to pass frequencies
between fl and fh then critical frequency of low pass Vin CL RH Vout
filter is fh and that of high pass filter is fl .
fh = Fig. 6.21. Band Pass Filter
2R L C L
fL =
2R H C H
106 Instrumentation and Control Systems


Voltage divider basically divides the voltage into two; Vcc
the resistances determine the ratio of the parts. The
hydraulic analogy is shown in Fig. 6.22. If R2 increases, R1 Voc
then potential difference across R2 increases for
constant R1. Similarly, for a given R2 if R1 increases
then potential difference across R1 increases. The Vo

relation is given by
R2 V cc Voc
Across R2, Vog =
R1 + R2

R1 V cc
Across R1, Voc = Fig. 6.22. Voltage Divider Circuit
R1 + R2
Please note the non-linear relation between resistances and voltages.

From tank

To ground

Fig. 6.23. Pneumatic Divider Circuit


As name indicates, it amplifies the charges. The sources of charges are mainly capacitive
or piezo-electric sensors. It is sensitive only to variations in charge that allows us to use
any length of cable to connect sensor to a charge amplifier with out loss of sensitivity.
Practically if cable capacitance (Cc) is high then we cannot afford for long cables, as it will
affect the sensitivity.
A charge amplifier is basically a capacitive feedback operation amplifier. The feedback
capacitance gives a capacitive effort to input by Ci, which is given by
Ci = Cf (A 1)
Signal Conditioning 107

Ci = input capacitance
Cf = feedback capacitance
A = open loop gain
The output voltage is given by
Q. A
Vout =
C s + Cc C f ( A 1)
Since open loop gain is very very high compared to 1, Cs and Cc
If we keep Cf constant, then the output voltage is directly proportional to input
charge Q.
The feedback resistor is designed such that it gives a suitable bias current. We know
operating frequency,
f =
2R f C f
R is designed to satisfy the following equation
2fC f



R2 R4

Fig. 6.24. Wheatstone Bridge Circuit for Strain Measurement.

Wheatstone bridge is the simplest circuit used for measuring the change in resistance.
Note that it is not just resistance but change in resistance. It consists of a galvanometer and
4 resistance arms as shown in Fig. 6.24. The strain gauge is connected to one of these 4
arms as resistive element. Initially, the bridge circuit is balanced when there is no strain.
Meaning the following ratio is true.
R1 R3
R2 R4
108 Instrumentation and Control Systems

6.7.1 Pneumatic Wheatstone Bridge

In the Fig. 6.25, pneumatic resistances in the form of gate valve replace the electrical
resistances. The galvanometer is replaced by a flow meter. The pump replaces the voltage
source. The function is very similar to electrical Wheatstone bridge. When all the gate
valve openings are same, the potential in both the paths (upper & lower) is same. When
an imbalance occurs due to change in any valve opening, there is a potential difference
between the paths and there is a proportional flow through the middle pipe. The flow
meter shows this reading which is the measure of imbalance.
R1 R2

11 12 1
10 2
9 3
8 4
6 5

R3 R4

Fig. 6.25. Pneumatic Wheatstone Bridge

Rectifiers are basically converters. They convert AC signals to DC signals. There are two
types of rectifiers, half-wave rectifier and Full-wave rectifier.

v v
0 0
time (t) rectifier time (t)

v v
0 0
time (t) rectifier time (t)

Fig. 6.26. Full-wave Rectifier with Capacitor

One cycle of AC signal has one positive half cycle and one negative half cycle. Half-
wave rectifier converts only one of these half cycles (either positive half cycles or negative
half cycles) whereas full-wave rectifier does both positive and negative half cycles as
shown in Fig. 6.26.
Signal Conditioning 109


Vin C Vout


Fig. 6.27. Half-wave Rectifier with Capacitor

The AC signal to be converted to DC is connected to input terminals (Vin). There are
two diodes (D1 and D2), D1 is connected with reverse polarity with respect to D2. Diodes
conduct when they are forward biased and do not conduct when reverse biased. When AC
signal is presented, during positive half cycle of Vin, diode D1 conducts and D2 does not
conduct. During second half cycle (negative half cycle) diode D2 conducts and D1 does
not conduct. Thus the bi-directional signal (varying in both positive and negative direction)
is converted in to unidirectional signal (varying in only one direction). But it is not all. We
want a DC signal not varying signal. So we introduce a capacitor across the output. During
the first quarter of the cycle, the capacitor gets charged and second quarter it tries to
discharge. As discharge takes place slowly, the next quarter of the signal charges the
capacitor before appreciable drop in voltage. So, we find, across the capacitor the voltage
is nearly constant (nearly DC). Please note that it is not pure DC. The variations are so
small that it can be considered as DC.


time (t)

Capacitor charging Capacitor discharging


time (t)

Fig. 6.28. Full-wave Rectifier with Capacitor Output


Scaling devices are those in which the power level remains constant (almost). One parameter
can be increased at the cost of other parameter.
110 Instrumentation and Control Systems

6.9.1 Electrical Transformers

Transformers are called scaling devices because they increases or decreases the voltage
level at the cost of current. The total power level is constant. In fact, there will be a very
small drop in power level. If we increase voltage then current will be reduced and vice
versa. Apart from stepping up and stepping down the voltage level, transformers can be
used for electrical isolation or ground isolation.
Magnetic core

Primary Secondary
coil coil

Fig. 6.29. Electrical Transformer

Transformers work on the basis of mutual inductance. So, only AC signals can be
used. There are two windings wound on iron core. One of the coils is excited with AC
signal and is called primary winding. The output is taken through the other coil and is
called secondary winding. The coils and magnetic circuits are stationary and flux is varying
with time and e.m.f is induced in secondary coil. It is a function of number of turns of the
coil winding on both primary and secondary. It is given by
E1 N1 I
= = 2
E2 N2 I1
E1 Voltage in primary winding
I1 Current in primary winding
N1 No. of turns in primary winding
E2 Voltage in secondary winding
I2 Current in secondary winding
N2 No. of turns in secondary winding

6.9.2. Mechanical Transformer (Gear Set)

In mechanical transformers the total power
transmitted is constant. The torque and speed are
the two complimenting parameters. Torque can be
increased at the cost of speed and vice versa.
Please note that the power does not increase or
decrease, except some transmission losses.
T1 N1 S
= = 2 Fig. 6.30. Mechanical Transformer
T2 N2 S1
Signal Conditioning 111

N1 No. of teeth in the driving shaft gear
T1 Torque in the driving shaft
S1 Speed of the driving shaft
N2 No. of teeth in the driven shaft gear
T2 Torque in the driven shaft
S2 Speed of the driven shaft


1. What is signal conditioning?
2. What is the need for signal conditioning?
3. What are the signal conditioning elements?
4. What is the need for amplifiers?
5. Describe pneumatic and electronic amplifiers.
6. What is an OP-AMP?
7. State characteristics and thumb rules of an OP-AMP.
8. Explain OP-AMP as non-inverting amplifier.
9. Explain working of OP-AMP as differential amplifier.
10. Explain the OP-AMP as a buffer or voltage follower.
11. What is an instrumentation amplifier?
12. Explain OP-AMP as summing amplifier.
13. Explain OP-AMP as an integrator and differentiator.
14. Define filters and state its types.
15. Explain design and working of a low pass filter.
16. Explain design and working of a high pass filter.
17. Explain working of band pass RC filter.
18. What are charged amplifiers.
19. Explain Wheatstone bridge networks.
20. Explain pneumatic Wheatstone bridge.
21. What are rectifiers?
22. Explain half-wave rectifier.
23. Explain full-wave rectifier with capacitor.
24. What is a transformer?
25. State difference between electrical and mechanical transformer.


The objective of this chapter is to introduce to presentation units. After learning this
chapter, you will be able to:
Say presentation units and its classifications.

We have already discussed about measurement of temperature using thermocouple. It
gives e.m.f in the range of milli-volt. We have also discussed how to amplify this small
voltage to a few volts (typically 010 V). Now the information about temperature is available
Signal Presentation 113

in the form of amplified voltage. With our bare eyes we will not be able to see voltage
directly. It has to be converted into some numerical form and displayed (digital meters) or
displacement of a pointer on the scale (analog meters) or a visual display of voltage to some
suitable scale on screen (CRO). Not only thermocouples but also many other transducers
give information about the parameter of interest in the form of voltage.
This voltage may have information about the static variable (no change with respect
to time) or a dynamic variable (changes with respect to time). In the first case, we need
to just display a single number corresponding to voltage, whereas in second case, voltage
signal has to be displayed as a function of time. This is as far as display is concerned. At
times, we may want to store the signal for later analysis. In that case, we may have to store
the signal in such a way that it can be read by a machine later like magnetic tapes, punch
cards, floppy discs, compact disc. These devices are called recorders. In this chapter, we
will discuss the display units and recorders. We begin our discussion with electrical display


These are extensively used for measurement of voltage, current, resistance etc. These units
may be classified as moving coil meters and digital meters.

7.3 MOVING COIL METERS (Permanent Magnet Moving Coil Meters)

Most moving coil meters work like galvanometers, which respond to both small current
and voltage. It is basically a current sensitive device. This galvanometer type moving coil
meters uses DArsonval movement.



Pole Shoe

Fig. 7.1. DArsonval Meter

The voltage to be measured is applied to the coil through A, B. The coil resistance
converts the voltage into current as this coil is in a permanent magnetic field; the current
carrying coil produces a torque proportional to the current. The torque is converted into
deflection by using a torsion spring scale. After calibration we can directly read the voltage
from the meter scale.
114 Instrumentation and Control Systems

The torque T1 developed by the current flow in the coil is given by

T1 = NBlDi ...(7.1)
N The number of turns in the coil
B The flux density of the magnetic field
l The axial length of the field
D The mean coil diameter
The torque T1 developed by the restraining spring is
T2 = K ...(7.2)
The angle of rotation of the coil
K The spring constant
Equating both torques,

= i = Si ...(7.3)
S is sensitivity or calibration constant for galvanometer.
In principle, the sensitivity of the galvanometer can be changed by varying parameters
N, B, l, D, or K. But galvanometers are standardized to measure small currents due to
economic reasons. A typical galvanometer with coil resistance of 50 , will exhibit a full-
scale deflection at 1mA. The widerange of current and voltage measurement is performed
by controlling current passing through the galvanometer.
Earlier, we were using pivot and jewel bearings to support the shaft carrying the coil.
Now, we use Taut-band suspension. Taut-band suspension is basically suspension at the
top and metal ribbon at the bottom. The suspensions are also used as leads for current in/
out of instrument. This construction has the following advantages,
No friction
Less inertia (reduced mass)
Less loading effect
Less temperature effect
Less power consumption.

7.3.1 Voltmeter
When Limiting Resistance is connected in series and the end terminals of the meter are
connected across a load, PMMC meter measures voltage and it takes the name voltmeter.
The simplified circuit is shown in Fig. 7.2. The resistors Rsr and Rm will form a voltage
divider circuit. The meter is designed such that Rsr >> Rm so that most of the voltage drops
across Rsr and a small voltage is available across Rm. A small current proportional to voltage
Signal Presentation 115

flows through Rm. As galvanometer is very sensitive to current, high Rsr is used to limit the
current to galvanometer to avoid saturation of meter (full deflection of pointer). The Rsr and
Rm are designed such that the galvanometer will show full-scale deflection (FSD) when
maximum intended voltage is applied.

D Arsonval galvanometer



Fig. 7.2. Voltmeter

Pointer moves proportional to the current through Rm (meter resistance), which is
proportional to voltage across Rm the voltage across Rm, is proportional to applied voltage.
Thus, after calibration we can directly read voltage from dial of the meter.
Let us consider an example for calculating series resistance to design a voltmeter
circuit. [Refer Fig. 7.3]. The input voltage is 1 V and for full-scale deflection of the meter
a current of 50 A is required. If the meter resistance is 5 k, what should be the series
resistance to be added?
Rm = 5 k W
im = 50 mA (for FSD)

Vi = 1V

Rsr = 15 kW


Fig. 7.3. Voltmeter Illustration

V 1V
Total resistance required RT = = = 20,000
I 50 A
Since, both meter resistance (Rm) and series resistance (Rsr) are connected in series;
the total resistance is sum of them.
RT = Rm + Rsr
Rsr = RT Rm = 20,000 5,000 = 15,000
116 Instrumentation and Control Systems

The series resistance should be 15 k, because this in series with meter coil resistance
limits the current to 50 A when 1 V is applied. This kind of calculation is good enough
for measuring voltage for (0 V to 1 V). One such analogue voltmeter commercially available
in market is shown with voltage range of (0 V to 10 V). In practice, the requirement of
voltage measurement demands a larger range of voltage measurement and that is generally
achieved with multiple sub-ranges.

Fig. 7.4. A Typical Commercial Single Range Voltmeter

Refer Fig. 7.5, we need to calculate R1, R2, and R3. First let us calculate for 0.25 V
range what is the total resistance required as follows:
V 0.25 V
RT = = = 5,000
I 50 A
For 1 V range the total resistance is
V 1V
RT = = = 20,000
I 50 A
As R1 and Rm are connected in series, the total resistance is sum of them.
RT = R1 + Rm
R1 = RT Rm = 20,000 5,000 = 15,000
For 5 V range the total resistance is
V 5V
RT = = = 1,00,000
I 50 A
As R1, R2 and Rm are connected in series, the total resistance is sum of them.
RT = R1 + R2 + Rm
R2 = RT Rm R1
= 1,00,000 5,000 15,000 = 80,000
Signal Presentation 117

Similarly for 10 V range the total resistance is

V 10 V
RT = = = 2,00,000
I 50 A
R3 = RT Rm R1 R2
= 2,00,000 5,000 15,000 80,000 = 1,00,000



+ R1

vi 0.25v


Fig. 7.5. Multi-range Voltmeter

The circuit shown in Fig. 7.5 will work for the considered range of voltages and the
same idea can be extended for other ranges as well. But, how to measure AC voltages.
Generally, the AC input is rectified as pulsating DC which then can be averaged. The
circuit shown in Fig. 7.6 has two portions. The first portion is what we have explained so
far. And the second portion is a full-wave rectifier circuit which converts AC into DC. As
the working of full-wave rectifier is already explained in signal conditioning chapter, we
hope you can understand the circuit.
D4 D1

R2 D2

R1 io B
+15V Rm
2 7 io

Fig. 7.6. A Typical Voltmeter

118 Instrumentation and Control Systems

7.3.2 Ammeter
When limiting resistance (Rsh) is connected in parallel to meter resistance and the terminals
are connected in series, then the galvanometer measures the current and it is called ammeter.
The simplified circuit is shown in Fig. 7.7.
The meter resistance and limiting resistance offer two parallel paths for the current
to flow. As galvanometer is very sensitive to voltage and current, we want a small amount
of current to flow through the meter. So, we use low resistance Rsh and allow most of the
current to flow. The small amount of current is passed to the galvanometer and the pointer
moves proportional to the current. After calibration, we can directly read current from the

ii io = ii
DArsonval galvanometer



Fig. 7.7. Basic Ammeter Circuit

Let us consider an example. A current of 200 A is flowing in a circuit (refer Fig. 7.8).
There is an ammeter circuit which has two parallel paths. One path is through meter
resistance (Rm) and another path is through a shunt resistance (Rsh). For full scale deflection,
let us say, ammeter needs 50 A, them the remaining current should pass through the
parallel path. If, ammeter resistance is 5000 , then what should be the shunt resistance?
The voltage across the ammeter is Vm = Im Rm = 50 A 5000 A = 0.25 V.
In parallel circuit, the total current is sum of meter current (Im) and shunt current (Ish),
the shunt current can be written as
Ish = IT Im = 200 A 50 A = 150 A
Then the required shunt resistance is given by

Vm 0.25 V
Rsh = = = 1666.7
I 150 A

As we did for voltmeter, similar circuit can be built for ammeter for multi-range
current measurement.
Signal Presentation 119

im = 50 mA

i1 = 200mA io = ii
DArsonval galvanometer


ish = 150 mA

Fig. 7.8. Ammeter Illustration

7.3.3 Ohmmeter
Ohmmeter is very similar to voltmeter. The resistance to be measured is in series with the
limiting resistance RL.
Zero Decreased
Maximum Pointer Deflection
Meter N S

3 volts
Zero-adjust A B
3 volts Rheostat
Circuit Power
A B Switch Open

Test Leads Circuit R1
Shorted Voltage b R2

Fig. 7.9. Ohmmeter Fig. 7.10. Ohmmeter

When resistance to be measured (RX) is not connected across AB, then the circuit is
open. (i.e.,) AB is connected with infinite resistance and current cannot flow and pointer
will not move. When AB is short, then it offers zero resistance (Ideally). Full current will
flow and the pointer deflects to the maximum extent. That is why ohmmeter graduation
is from infinity to zero. Unlike voltmeter and ammeter, it needs a standard voltage source
for its excitation.
Under normal operation, the current will flow inversely proportional to resistance and
the pointer moves accordingly. After calibration we can directly read resistance from the
120 Instrumentation and Control Systems


Unlike pointer movement in moving coil meters, digital meters show the numerical digits
directly. LED (Light Emitting Diode) based 7-segment display and LCD (Liquid Crystal
Display) are widely used.
Digital meters can understand only digital data. So, first we need to convert analog
signal to digital signal using ADC (Analog to Digital Converter). The Fig. 7.11 shows
simplified diagram of ADC.


Give HOLD command

Give SOC command to SOC pin

Make SOC pin low

Is End Of No
pin low?


Give next sample command

Read the value from ADC

Convert the obtained value

to a meaningful value by


Fig. 7.11. Simplified ADC

For detailed discussion on ADC will be taken explained soon. The analog signal is
given to ADC. Once SOC (Start of Conversion) signal is given (made 1 from 0), ADC
converts analog signal into digital signal and makes the EOC pin (End of Conversion) high
Signal Presentation 121

(from 0 to 1). We will get digital signal through n-bit digital output pins. The digital
equivalent of analog signal Vx is
2n ...(7.4)
Vx Analog signal
Vref Reference voltage
n No. of bits
The two main specifications are as follows:
Linearity tells the ability of ADC to produce digital values linearly corresponding to analog
It is the amount of analog voltage (input) needed to make an increment in the digital value.
It is given by
Resolution = V ref ...(7.5)
At this point let us address some design issues before proceeding further. How do we
decide reference voltage?
The resolution and range of analog voltage is given by the user as specification. The
minimum and maximum digital equivalent values that can be handled by the output pins
are fixed, once no. of bits are fixed. For the above example (4 bit ADC), the minimum value
is 0000 and the maximum value is 1111. Reference voltage, Vref should be greater than
or equal to the maximum expected analog voltage, Vmax. To give some factor safety on
higher side we follow a thumb rule, Vref Vmax.
Now, we resume our digital display discussion. Once digital signal is obtained in the
form of 1s and 0s, we cannot display it directly in decimal form. Up to this, the matter
holds good for both 7-segment LED display and LCD. Now we take LED display and discuss
first, then move on to LCD.
LED is basically a semiconductor PN junction diode. It conducts only when it is
forward biased. When the charge recombines between P and N type material, the excess
energy is given in the form of light. Thus, the P type forms the light emitting face, which
can be used for display. In 7-segment display, 7 such diodes are connected to form number
8 as shown in Fig. 7.12.
Now the problem is to display zero (0000), we need to activate LED segments a, b, c,
d, e and f to display 1 (001) we need to activate b and c segments etc. (refer Fig. 7.12)
122 Instrumentation and Control Systems

f b

e c

Fig. 7.12. Seven-segments Made of LED

7-Segment Display
Binary Inputs Decoder Outputs

D C B A a b c d e f g
0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0
0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1
0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 2
0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 3
0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 4
0 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 5
0 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 6
0 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 7
1 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 8
1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 1 9

Fig. 7.13. Decoder Outputs for Binary Inputs for 7-segment Display
+5V +5V
Decimal output

Vcc a
A b
2s c
B c
d Common
4s d anode
C e
8s f
D (7447A) f
input 150 kW

Fig. 7.14. Decoder with 7-segment Display

Signal Presentation 123

1S, 2S, 3S and 4S represents digital equivalent of analog signals. When 1S = 0,

2S = 0, 3S = 0, and 4S = 0, we want LED segments a, b, c, d, e, f to be ON and segment
g to be OFF. This is performed by the circuit shown in the Fig. 7.14.
The decoder output (to display zero) is connected to LED segments a, b, c, d, e, f
through an OR gate. To display 1, the corresponding decoder output is connected to LED
segments b and c. To display 3, the decoder output is connected to a, b, c, d, g. Similarly,
for other numbers (refer Fig. 7.13).
For commercial purposes, these are IC with built in ADC, decoder etc. e.g., 7106 for
7-segment display will do AD conversion, decoding and display. You can use 7447A as


There are organic compounds in the liquid form, which exhibits property of crystal. One
of these liquid crystal is placed between glass sheets with transparent electrodes deposited
on the inner faces. Under the application of voltage, the charge carriers change the molecular
alignment and produce turbulence. This causes light to be scattered in all directions and
the corresponding portion appears to be bright. When the liquid crystal is not activated,
it is transparent. This type of LCDs is called dynamic scattering type. There is another type
called field effect LCD with slightly different working principle.
The rest of the circuits needed for excitation of appropriate bar/dot on display are
same as T-segment display. LCD display needs an A/C power supply with 30 V peak to peak
(50Hz). It draws about 25 A current. IC 7107 will do necessary ADC, decoding etc.

Table 7.1. Comparison between LED and LCD


Miniature in size Low power consumption

Numeric and alphanumeric display is possible Low cost

Moderate power consumption (1.2 V, 20 mA) Disadvantages:

Very slow
Turn ON few minutes
Turn OFF 10 minutes

Red, green, amber and yellow color are Occupies large area

Switching time is less than 1 minute Cannot withstand shock and Vibration

Can withstand shocks

Not suited for big display.
124 Instrumentation and Control Systems

An electronic measuring instrument which produces a display showing the relationship of
two (or) more variables. In most of the cases, the X-axis being a linear function of time
Y-axis is the function of voltage signal. The voltage signal can be voltage directly (or)
voltage signal which carries information about a non-electrical quantities like pressure,
flow and temperature through transducer.
time base waveform
TIME/DIV X-POS spot moves
Y across screen

O t spot

spot blanked out

during flyback
trigger time base

switch cathode anodes X-plates
Y-amplifier cathode
ray tube
signal waveform
electron SCREEN
O t beam


Fig. 7.15. CRO Internal Details

The oscilloscope basically uses a linear vertical amplifier and a time base to display
a input waveform on the screen. It is sometimes called electron beam voltmeter (or) visual
voltmeter. The screen is typically 8 cm x 10 cm in size and divided in to 8 vertical
divisions and 10 horizontal divisions. A typical CRO consists of:
1. CRT and associated controls.
2. Vertical amplifier with input terminal and controls.
3. The time base (sweep generator, triggering circuit).
4. Auxiliary facilities such as calibrator, on-screen read out.
5. Power supply.
1. Cathode Ray Tube (CRT)
It is an evacuated glass container with a fluorescent screen at one end and a electron gun
and deflection systems at the other end. Due to good high frequency response, electro-
static deflection is widely used to deflect the electron beam generated by electron gun. The
screen is coated with phosphor. The colour of the screen depends on phosphor and blue,
Signal Presentation 125

green and blue-green are frequently used. Persistence (the length of the time the trace
remains on screen after signal ended) also depends on phosphor. The electron gun typical
needs 3-6V A/C or DC at 600 mA for its operation.
2. Vertical Amplifier
The signal to be displayed is applied to vertical axis of oscilloscope. The vertical amplifier
is required to provide sufficient amplification to small signals so that it can be displayed
in CRT with enough magnitude.
To obtain suitable image size on CRT, a means of varying the gain is needed (without
frequency and amplitude distortion). A high impedance frequency compensated attenuator
is used for this purpose which can be operated from front panel (V/div knob). The position
control is achieved by controlling the current (to deflection plates) through variable resistor
in vertical amplifier circuit which can be operated from front panel. The A.C. coupling is
introduced when required, by inserting a capacitor in vertical amplifier circuit.
3. Relay Line
The horizontal axis which represents time has a delay of about 80ns. If the signal is
directly given, the initial portion will be lost. To view the complete signal a delay of 200ns
is deliberately inserted so that the time base starts early and ready for showing the signal.
A delay line either with co-axial cables or specially wound type is generally used for this
purpose and is located after vertical amplifier.
4. Time Base
A time base generator is used to generate the saw tooth voltage required to deflect the beam
in the horizontal direction. This circuit is called continuous sweep generator. It cannot
follow the fast variations, so a divider circuit is added to it and the revised circuit is called
Triggered sweep generator. The time of charging capacitor decides the timing, which is
controlled by a variable resistor. The time/div knob in front panel controls this variable
5. Power Supply
CRO uses two types of power supplies: A negative high voltage and a positive low voltage.
Various Controls in the Front Panel
Intensity Control: It controls the magnitude of the electron beam by varying the cathode
to grid bias voltage.
Focus: It concentrates electron beam to get a sharp trace on CRT screen. This is done
by varying potential between first and final accelerating anodes.
Astigmation: It makes the electron beam spot in circular form on the screen. This is
done by adjusting voltage on the accelerating anode with respect to vertical deflection
Position Control: Horizontal position control is done by varying the voltage between
horizontal plates. When two plates have same potential, the spot will be in the center of
the screen. When the potential is different, proportional to the difference, the spot will
move to one direction. The direction is decided by the polarity of the plates. Similarly the
vertical position control is performed.
126 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Time Base Control: Time base is function of a capacitor and a resistor in time base
generator circuit. By varying anyone of these, control over time base is possible.
Amplitude Control (V/Div): By changing gain of the vertical amplifier, the amplitude
of the signal to be displayed on screen can be adjusted.
DC-GND-AC: Depends on the signal measured DC/AC/Ground can be selected. It is a
3-position switch.

We may want the signal for future use (or) we may have to perform off-line analysis on the
signal, which demands storage. Can we permanently store the information, which is in the
form of voltage? If yes, in which medium and in what form? How do we do that? The
permanent storing of information is possible. We can store the information in paper, magnetic
tape or magnetic disc, etc., the widely used recorders used to record on paper are:
1. Strip chart recorders
2. Circular chart recorders
3. Galvanometric recorders
4. Printers
The method of writing on paper may be by pen and ink, optical writing, impact
writing, thermal writing and electrical writing. Optical writing uses a ultraviolet (UV) light
to record on a UV sensitive paper. The printing can be done in day light (or) artificial light.
It doesnt require any dark room or chemicals for developing it.
In impact printing, an array of hammers in the head is attached to hit the paper
through carbon ribbon. Due to impact, it leaves the color impression on the paper. In
thermal writing, a heated pointer is used to record data on a thermal sensitive paper.
Electrical writing is done on a special paper with two layers of coating. The first layer
on the paper is a color dye layer and the second one is a thin aluminum layer. A tungsten
stylus is used to record data. When a potential of 35 V is applied to it, due to electrical
discharge it removes aluminum and exposes dye.

7.7.1 Strip Chart Recorder (Servo Type)

c0 cc xi
Motor & + Pre-
Amplifier Amplifier

Stepper Displacement
motor drive transducer

Fig. 7.16. Strip Chart Recorder

Signal Presentation 127

(a) X-T Recorder

This plots the input signal in y-axis direction with respect to time in the x-axis direction.
The stepper motor (corresponding to x-axis) is given a sequence of pulses so as to rotate
and move the chart at constant speed. The signal to be plotted may vary from a few
microvolts. So, first input signal is amplified using a preamplifier and then by a main
amplifier. The motor (corresponding to y-axis) rotates at a speed proportional to the voltage
(ee) and the rotary motion is converted in to stylus movement in a given axis through gears
and allied mechanisms. The actual movement (x0) is sensed using displacement transducer,
which gives voltage output (efb). This voltage is used as feedback. The input voltage (ei) and
feedback voltage (efb) is compared and the difference voltage (ei efb) is amplified and used
to drive the motor. The stylus thus ends up moving to a position where the result (ei efb)
is equal to zero. The stylus just follows the input signal and plots the same on the paper.
There can be multi-channel input with separate drive system to plot multiple variables
to a common time axis. Another type multi-channel recorder uses one stylus on time-
sharing basis. The accuracy of the recorder is about 0.1% FSD. As the movements involve
mechanical elements, slowly changing inputs only can be plotted effectively (less than
1 Hz). Some of the variations of the commercial recorders include variable speed chart
drive, different displacement transducers (potentiometer, RVDT, capacitance type), linear
or rotary motor etc.
(b) XY-Recorders
It is slightly improved version of XT recorder. In this, the x-axis is also fed with some
signal with separate drive system. The paper (typically 8' 11' and 11' 17') is held
down by electro-static attraction or by vacuum. The two servos move the pen in x and y
directions simultaneously to cross-plot one variable against another. To increase its versatility,
there is a circuit to give ramp signal, which can be applied as voltage input of the servo
creating a time base and does the function of XT recorder.
Arm Pen head

Graph paper

Amplification and
time control
y input
x input

Fig. 7.17. XY-recorders

128 Instrumentation and Control Systems

7.7.2 Circular Chart Recorders

It is pure mechanical type recorder, where the pen moves directly over the circular chart.
Any parameter, which can be converted in to displacement can be recorded using this
recorder. For example pressure is converted in to displacement signal using bourdon tube
or bellows. The temperature is converted into displacement signal by bimetallic strip. Up
to four such separate variables can be recorded simultaneously. The circular chart is rotated
with constant speed with typically one revolution per day, 2 revolutions per day or one
revolution per week. One may ask, in the circular chart why the radial lines are in the form
of an arc? The pen movement is in the form of an arc to get the actual magnitude of the
signal on the radial line. The accuracy of this recorder is about 0.5% FSD.
Circular chart

Bourden tube

Circular chart
Fig. 7.18. Galvanometric Recorders

7.7.3 UV Recorders

Tension strip


Photosensitive paper

Pole Shoe

UV or tungsten lamp

Fig. 7.19. UV Recorders

The working principle is same as galvanometer explained earlier, instead of pointer
there will be a mirror to reflect the UV rays coming from UV source. The reflected rays
impinge on a UV sensitive paper, which is moving at constant speed thus providing the
time base. The mirror turns proportional to the input voltage and the angle of reflection
is proportional to mirror rotation. Thus the trace follows the input voltage magnitude. The
Signal Presentation 129

records will last for years if stored in dark room. It can be made more permanent by a
simple liquid fixing process. A number of mirrors can be fixed allowing multi-channel

7.7.4 Printers
The commonly used printers are dot matrix printer, ink jet printer, bubble jet printer and
laser printer.
(a) Dot Matrix Printer

Armature Drum

N S Spring

Permanent Magnet

Fig. 7.20. Dot Matrix Printer

It is an impact printer using movable needles to create dots and so form the
alphanumeric characters of the data. The return spring keeps the needle away from ink
ribbon at rest. During operation, the current charges solenoid to attract the hammer, which
then forces the print needle into contact. The inked ribbon is pressed against paper and
released leaving an ink mark on the paper. To produce a particular letter or a graphical
image, the corresponding needles are actuated in the matrix. The overrun spring controls
the pressure of needle or ribbon and paper. Typical array sizes are 7' 11', 7' 7' and
5' 7'.
(b) Ink Jet Printer
Ink jet printer uses a jet of drops of conductive ink by passing through a small nozzle. The
ink drop has constant and very small diameter, produced at constant frequency and so
regularly spaced in the jet. A piezo-electric crystal is used to convert constant stream of
ink in to fine drops. Each drop of ink is given a charge by passing through charging
electrode. The charged drops then passed between reflection plates, which can deflect the
stream of drops in a vertical direction. The amount of deflection is depending on the
charge on the drop, which can be controlled through charging electrode.
130 Instrumentation and Control Systems

(c) Bubble Jet Printer

A small capillary tube contains vaporized ink with a small heater. When the heater is ON,
it will produce gas bubbles, which push out drops of ink. The setup is such that once the
heater is ON for a moment a drop of ink will come out. The printer head has a stack of
nozzles in a vertical direction and jets of each can be switched ON or OFF on demand.


1. State types of measuring instruments.
2. Explain moving coil measuring instruments and state its advantages.
3. Explain working of voltmeter.
4. Explain working of ammeter.
5. Calculate shunt resistance and shunt current of following circuit.
Rm = 5000 m
im = 50 mA
lin = 200 mA I0 = lin

Rsh = ?

ish = 3

6. Explain working of ohmmeter.

7. Explain seven segment LED display.
8. State difference between LED and LCD.
9. Explain LCD.
10. What is an Oscilloscope?
11. State working of Cathode Ray Tube (CRT).
12. Explain Oscilloscope in detail?
13. What are recorders? State its types.
14. Explain servo type recorders.
15. Explain XY-recorders.
16. Explain Circular chart and Galvanometric recorders.
17. Explain types of printers.


This chapter will consider the different displacement measurement devices. After reading
this chapter, you should be able to:
Answer what is displacement and its classification
Say why an Engineer needs to learn displacement measurement
Describe different displacement measuring instruments
Select a displacement transducer for a given engineering application.


Motion is an action of displacement from one point to another point. It can be broadly
classified in to three categories.

134 Instrumentation and Control Systems

1. Translation
2. Rotation
3. Simultaneous translation and rotation.
Motion is a vague and general term, used to describe the action of change in position.
We need some parameters to answer the following questions.
1. How much has the object moved?
2. How fast?
We use the terms distance and speed to answer the above questions respectively. The
terms do not say anything about direction. Merely distance and speed are not sufficient
to describe the motion completely. We introduce two more terms displacement and velocity
which are nothing but distance and speed with directions respectively. We use one more
term called acceleration which indicates the rate at which the velocity changes (Fig. 8.1).
Here, we will study how to measure displacement but defer the study of velocity and
acceleration measurement for a while. Note, even though we use the term displacement,
practically, we will be measuring only distances in known direction using transducers to
get displacement in most of the cases.

= distance + direction

= speed + direction

what + direction
= acceleration?

Fig. 8.1. Displacement, Velocity and Acceleration

We first explain the meaning of translation, rotation and simultaneous translation and
rotation. Translation is displacement of an object in a straight line from one point to
another without any rotation. Figure 8.2 shows translation of an L shaped object from
position 1 to position 2. Rotation is the angular displacement of an object from one
position to another position about any one of the objects axes. Figure 8.3 shows rotation
of an L shaped object from position 1 to position 2. The displacement of a rotating body
from one point to another point is called as simultaneous translation and rotation and is
shown in Fig. 8.4.
Position 1 Position 2

Fig. 8.2. Translation

Displacement Measurement 135

Position 1 Position 2 Position 1 Position 2

Fig. 8.3. Rotation Fig. 8.4. Simultaneous Rotation and Translation


We measure displacement for of two reasons. The First is the need for displacement information
in engineering applications. We travel from one city to another city by car. We want to know
the distance between the cities (large displacement). In CNC lathe, during turning operation
we want to know the distance moved by the tool (medium displacement). See Fig 8.5. In
a piston cylinder arrangement, we want to know the clearance between them. (Small
displacement). The Second reason is the need for secondary transducer in force, torque, etc.,
measurement. Force to be measured is made to act on a spring element to produce equivalent
deflection (a form of displacement). This displacement is to be measured to measure force.
Hence, the measurement of displacement becomes very important.

Fig. 8.5. Turning Operation


We need to find out transducers, which will respond to displacement. Among the electrical
elements, resistance, capacitance and inductance elements are widely used for displacement
transducers. Electrical signal can be easily processed and manipulated; it is the most
desired form of signal. If we can make provision to change the resistance value proportional
to displacement, then the voltage drop across the resistance is also proportional to
displacement. By suitable manipulation, this voltage drop can be related to displacement.
The relation connecting the voltage and resistance is Ohms law. The law implies that the
current is directly proportional to voltage.
v I
v Voltage or potential difference.
I Current passing through the circuit.
136 Instrumentation and Control Systems

The proportionality relation can be expressed as equality relation by introducing

proportionality constant, R the symbol for resistance.
V = IR
Resistance to Man's motion


Resistance to electron's motion


Fig. 8.6. Resistance to Electron and an Analogy

How can we interpret and understand this equation given by the Ohms law? Note
that the magnitude of the voltage drop or the potential difference depends on the resistance.
As the resistance decreases the voltage drop across the resistor decreases and as the
resistance increases the voltage drop across the resistor increases. We have already studied
voltage divider circuits. On combining ohms law and voltage divider, we can link the
displacement and voltage through change in resistance. The resulting device is called

A typical potentiometer scheme will have the following elements.
1. Resistive element
2. Power source
3. Sliding contact or wiper
4. Voltmeter
5. Mandrel (Optional)
DC excitation source

e0 Resistive element

Volt meter Wiper

Fig. 8.7. Potentiometer Basic Circuit
Displacement Measurement 137

1. Resistive Element
Potentiometer is built around a resistive element. It can be in the form of a wire or thin
film. The resistivity and the dimensions of the element determine the range, sensitivity,
and resolution of the potentiometer. Further, the resistive element should possess corrosion/
oxidation resistance properties. For this reason, a protective coating is provided on the
surface. The wire is precision drawn wire of diameter about 50 microns (typical). The
commonly used resistive element materials are alloys of nickel-chromium, copper-nickel,
silver palladium and such.
2. Power Source
The resistive element is connected to a power source. The power source can be AC or DC,
although DC is desirable.
3. Sliding Contact or Wiper
The sliding contact can freely move on the resistive element. It should have good spring
action to work efficiently in a vibratory environment. The contact force should be minimum,
just to make contact, to reduce friction. Conductive lubricants can be used to reduce the
friction. On the other hand, it should have sufficient contact force to reduce the contact
resistance. The object, whose displacement is to be measured, is connected to this sliding
contact either directly or by some means.
4. Voltmeter
A voltmeter is provided to measure the voltage drop across the resistive element. One end
of the voltmeter is connected to one extreme side (end) of the resistive element and the
other end of voltmeter is connected to a sliding contact.
5. Mandrel
As the resistance of resistive element increases, the current through resistive element
decreases and I2R loss (power dissipation) decreases. To achieve this in potentiometer, the
length of the resistive element should be more for a given material. To accommodate long
length resistive element in small space, it is wound over an insulator, called Mandrel.
Mandrel can be cylindrical or flat in shape. It should posses minimum possible coefficient
of thermal expansion to stay dimensionally stable and ideally electric insulator. Ceramic,
molded epoxies are some examples of mandrel materials.
Design Variations
Potentiometer can be of the translation type or rotational type (the resistive element
spread over a circular path in the later case). Rotational type potentiometer can be of
single turn or multi-turn. Single turn potentiometer is used for measuring relatively
small angular displacements. To measure large angular displacements (more than one
cycle), we can go for wire wound potentiometers. In turn resolution is reduced. To
measure large rotations while retaining the resolution, we go for multi-turn potentiometers.
The multi-turn rotational potentiometer is in the form of spiral (like spring) as shown
in Fig. 8.9 (b). This is used, when the rotation or angular displacement exceeds the range
of single-turn potentiometers.
138 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Working Principle

Change in Change in
Displacement Display
resistance voltage

Fig. 8.8. Potentiometer Block Diagram

Referring to Fig. 8.8, as the displacement x increases, the sliding contact moves on
the resistive element, the resistance value between the terminals of the voltmeter changes.
The voltmeter always shows the voltage drop across the resistance between the terminals.
When the slider is close to the fixed terminal (x 0), the resistance value is negligibly
small; hence, a small value of voltage is indicated in the voltmeter. As the slider moves
away from the fixed contact (that is as x increases), the resistance increases and there will
be corresponding increase in voltage indicated in the voltmeter. The resistive potentiometer
(transducer) converts the motion into the corresponding change in resistance. The change
in resistance causes the change in voltage. Voltmeter measures this voltage difference,
which is proportional to the displacement. So, we need to establish a relation between the
displacement and the voltage difference and this form/represents Calibration of the
potentiometers. Incidentally, even other transducers have to be calibrated on similar lines.
Resistive element

Volt meter

DC excitation source
Fig. 8.9 (a) Single-turn Rotational Resistive Potentiometer

DC excitation source



Volt meter

Resistive element
Fig. 8.9 (b) Multi-turn Rotational Resistive Potentiometer
Displacement Measurement 139

Special issues in potentiometer:

1. Loading effect
2. Linearity
3. Sensitivity
4. Equivalent noise resistance
5. Resolution
6. Noise
Loading Effect
Voltage o/p without loading
Loading effect =
Voltage o/p with loading

Rp Ri


Ri e0

Fig. 8.10. Loading Effect

Let us derive an expression for loading effect. First consider the potentiometer (pot)
without load (voltmeter) connected to it. Meter resistance Rm , the current flowing
through the circuit is i = s .
es Source voltage
Rp Potentiometer resistance
The voltage across Ri, e0 = Ri i = Ri
e0 Ri x
= = i (1)
es Rp xt
[Since, resistance is uniformly distributed in given length]
Xi Input displacement
Ri Resistance corresponding to displacement xi
Xt Total displacement possible in pot.
140 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Rp - Ri


Fig. 8.11. Thevinin Circuit

Now, consider with loading (Connect the meter), Thevinin resistance
Ri ( RP Ri ) Ri ( RP Ri )
RT = =
Ri + ( RP Ri ) Rp
[Short the source. Ri and (RP Ri) are in parallel]
The output voltage when meter is connected
(e0) = e (2)
RT + Rm
e0 open circuit voltage
Rm meter resistance
RT Thevinin resistance
e0 Rm Rm
= =
e0 RT + Rm Ri + ( RP Ri )
+ Rm
Divide by Rm on both denominator and numerator,
e0 1
Loading effect = (3)
e0 R ( R P Ri )
xi x
From equation (1), e0 = es and Ri = RP i . Substituting these in equation (3),
xt xt
e0 xt
= (4)
es R x x i
1+ P i 1
Rm x t x t
What do we understand from this equation?
Displacement Measurement 141

Ideally, when meter resistance Rm , 0.
e0 x
= i e0 x i
es xt
[Since, es, xt are constant for given pot]
Practically Rm should be high and Rp should be low to reduce the loading effect.
2. Linearity
The Fig. 8.12 shows the linearity (Non-linearity) for various values of (Rp/Rm).

Curve No. (Rp/Rm) values

1 0

2 0.1

3 0.5

4 5

As you observe, as the Rp/Rm values increases, the non-linearity increases. For practical
use R = 0.1 is used. Note that, here Rp should be small to reduce non-linearity.


xi / x t 1

Fig. 8.12. Non-linearity

3. Sensitivity(s)
Sensitivity of pot is given by change in output voltage to change in input displacement.
de e
S = 0 = s ,
dx t x t
where, es source voltage.
Sensitivity is directly proportional to source voltage. we cannot increase the voltage
source to increase sensitivity. The power dissipating capacity will restrict it. The power
rating P = . To maintain power rating, if we want to increase voltage source to increase
142 Instrumentation and Control Systems

sensitivity, Rp should also be increased. In essence, for more sensitivity, Rp should be

How do we select Rp (Pot resistance)?
For less loading effect and non-linearity, Rp should be small. For high sensitivity Rp
should be big. We have to strike a balance between them based on the need.


loading effect sensitivity

Fig. 8.13. Pot Resistance Selection

4. Equalent Noise Resistance (Ren)

It is an equalent contact resistance variation corresponding to largest fluctuation. It is
calculated by measuring pots output voltage fluctuations with constant current and with
all possible noise effect. For given potentiometer, using this equalent noise resistance, one
can calculate the worst spurious voltage (current Ren), typical value is between few
ohms to 100 .
5. Resolution
For single wire potentiometer the resolution is infinity. For wire wound pots the resolution
is equal to the pitch of the winding.
6. Noise
There may be a spurious voltage in the output terminal even when there is no output in
the slider or there may be sudden spike in pot. The noise may be due to intermittent
contact, dirt, wear and contact resistance. When the wiper moves over the winding beyond
certain speed, it jumps and makes intermittent contact. This problem becomes more severe
during resonance (when frequency of force matches with wiper natural frequency). This
can be solved with two wipers with different natural frequencies, so that, even if one
wiper is resonating, the other wiper will be in contact.
When wiper moves on the wire winding the wiper makes contact and slips to make
contact with next wire. This phenomenon is called stick-slip phenomenon. In this process
the contact resistance varies and there will be a spurious voltage equal to i Rc, where
Rc is contact resistance variation.
Specification of wire wound potentiometer.
1. All climatic operation.
2. One and two-sectional with circular operation.
3. Power at a temperature of 100C = 0.5 watt
Displacement Measurement 143

4. Rated resistance range = 100 to 15000 .

5. Tolerance on rated resistance 5%.
6. Resistance behavior is linear.
7. Tolerance on linearity 0.5%.
8. Mass = 12g.
9. Temperature range 60C to 125C
10. Relative air humidity (@35C) = 98%
11. Air pressure = 0.13 to 304 kPa.


8.5.1 Conductive Plastic Potentiometers

The development of new conducting polymers and some polymers with graphite particles
can be used as resistive element. It is molded into a uniform strip of required size. It has
infinitesimal resolution due to its continuity. The resistance of conductive polymer elements
can be adjusted using milling or laser processes in the molded condition. Its rotational life
is more than 10 million revolutions and linearity is better than 0.05%. It has very low
noise and extremely uniform torque and friction. Speed of response is also high, over 1000
rpm. It is available in the following configuration in the market: Single turn (Rotary type),
Linear motion, environmentally sealed.
Some linear motion sensors are designed with high strength die-cast aluminum housing
and are used in industrial automation and robotic applications. Typical specification of
conductive plastic linear sensor is as follows:
Total resistance 1 k 20%
Independent linearity 1%
Output smoothness 0.1% max.
Power rating 0.3w @70C
Temperature co-efficient 400 ppm
Insulation resistance 100 M @ 50/60 Hz.
Mechanical stroke 15 1 mm
Friction 40g max.
Operating temperature 25C to + 80C.
Vibration 15g through 1000 Hz
Shock 50g
Life expectancy 10 million strokes (min)
144 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Magneto-Resistance Potentiometers
The materials whose resistance change in the presence of a magnetic field is called Magneto
resistor (MR). In the presence of magnetic field the resistance increases. Two identical
magneto-resistors are connected in series and the output is taken from the junction as
shown in Fig. 8.14.
V0 V0
Permanent magnet

+Vs Vs

+Vs Vs
Linear type
Rotary type

Fig. 8.14. Non-linearity

A fixed voltage is applied; the output voltage is zero when the permanent magnet is
in middle. i.e., the change in resistance in both magneto-resistors are same and hence the
middle point will have potential. When the permanent magnet to one side, the resistance
of one side is more compared to other side and there will be output voltage proportional
to this change in resistance. Its characteristics include:
1. Non-contact type
2. Infinitesimal resolution
3. Fast response
4. Low actuating force
5. Frequency response is high (up to 10 gHz)
6. Low operating power
7. No electrical contact to oxidize or wear out.
8. Less sensitive to environmental conditions such as humidity, salt spray, shock and
9. It may need temperature compensation
Electrical angle 45
Output sensitivity 2.5% Vin/10 min
Independent linearity 1.5% FS
Input impedance 15 k 30%
Maximum input voltage 10 V DC
Insulation resistance 100M @ 500 V DC
Di-electric strength 100 V AC rms
Displacement Measurement 145

Mechanical angle 110

Maximum torque 50 gcm
Operating temperature 40C to +125C

8.5.2 Optical Potentiometer


Resistive layer +
nref Output
Photo-Resistive layer voltage
Conductive layer

Light spot
Fig. 8.15. Optical Potentiometer

It is also used as displacement sensor, which eliminates the wiper-related problems

(contact resistance, friction, jumping etc). It consists of a photo-resistive layer in between
a conductive layer and a resistive layer. The photo-resistive layer acts as an insulator when
there is no light falling on it. There is a light source, which projects a pot light to connect
the conductive layer and resistive layer. The displacement to be measured is connected to
this movable light spot. The output voltage is given by
v0 1
v ref x Rc
+ 1
L R p
v0 Output voltage across the load resistance
vref Supply voltage to pot.
Rc Resistance of resistive layer
Rp Resistance of photo-resistive layer
Signal processing
Pots are excited with DC voltages up to 15 V. A buffer may be used for current amplification.
Normally unit gain is sufficient because of high input signal range. But, an instrumentation
amplifier may be used with wire wound and conducting polymer type, if they are remotely
located. For magneto-resistance type, the output voltage is restricted and hence it needs
higher amplification.
146 Instrumentation and Control Systems


It has practically infinitesimal resolution (it is incorrect to use the term infinite resolution).
Rotational life is more than 10 millions revolutions with extremely low torque and friction.
The typical range available in the market is 340 to 355 (angular displacement).

Resistive element

Fig. 8.16. Rotary Type Potentiometer


Steel wire

Moving body

Rotary potentiometer

Spring loaded drum

Fig. 8.17. Potentiometer for Large Displacements

There is a spring-loaded drum on which the steel wire is used for sensing large
displacements. The wire is attached to the moving body and as the body moves the steel
wire rotates the multi-turn pot. The corresponding change in resistance gives the
displacement. A pulley can be used if the body movement direction is perpendicular to
steel wire.

8.7.1 Advantages of Potentiometer

1. It is relatively less costly
2. It doest not require amplification, as it gives high voltage output signals in most
of the cases.
3. Wide ranges are available.

8.7.2 Disadvantages of Potentiometer

1. Due to friction and arm inertia, force is needed to move the slider. This mechanical
loading distorts the original signal.
Displacement Measurement 147

2. It is not suitable for high frequency applications due to slider bounce, friction,
3. Electrical loading error is high when load resistance is low.
4. Wear out, heating effect, oxidation of resistive element and wiper increases
5. The resolution is limited by number of turns and coil uniformity and making it
not suitable for small displacement applications.
6. Variation in supply voltage causes error.


8.8.1 Capacitance
The amount of electrical energy stored (in the form of electrostatic field) between two
plates of different potential, which is separated by a di-electric material, is called capacitance.
The device is called capacitor. When a DC source is connected between two plates, the
plate, which is connected to the negative terminal, will have more electrons and the other
plate will have fewer electrons. As the plates are separated by di-electric medium, the
electrons cannot flow. These highly charged plates form an electrostatic field. Meaning
the electric energy is stored in the form of electrostatic field. As this circuit element
has the capacity to store the electric energy, it is called capacitor and this effect is called
The capacitance is directly proportional to the effective surface area of the plates,
number of plates and the dielectric constant (Permittivity) of the substance separating the
plates. It is inversely proportional to the separation between the plates. Thus capacitance
of a parallel plate capacitor is given by
C = r 0 ( N 1)
C Capacitance of capacitor
A Effective area between plates
N Number of capacitor plates.
r Relative Permittivity of di-electric material.
0 Permittivity of free space (= 8.854*10 12 F/m)
The capacitance of the cylindrical capacitor is given by
C = r 0
log e 2
148 Instrumentation and Control Systems

l Length of the overlapping part of the cylinder.
r1 Radius of inner cylindrical plate.
r2 Radius of outer cylindrical plate.
Why partiality?
Capacitors will pass AC current but not DC current. This important property is taken
advantage to pass AC signals from one stage to another while blocking any DC component
from the previous stage. As my friend funnily says, AC voltage moves in the form of
sinusoidal like snake moves. So, it jumps the capacitor, which looks like a barrier and
proceeds. Since, DC voltage is moving in form of straight line, it is blocked by the capacitor.
I hope this will help you to fix the idea in the mind. But, what is the reason behind it?
To be more precise, the capacitor is frequency dependent resistor. The resistance offered
by a capacitor is given by
R = 1/(2f C)
f Frequency.
C The capacitance.
Capacitor passes A.C

capacitor blocks D.C

Fig. 8.18. Capacitor passes A.C and blocks DC An illustration

DC current can be thought of zero frequency AC current. From the above expression,
it is clear that capacitor will offer infinite resistance to DC current. Also, one can observe
that, as the frequency of current increases, the resistance offered by the capacitor decreases.
One can ask, if di-electric medium is an insulator, then, how capacitor can pass current,
let it be AC/DC? Well, I too had the same doubt. We could understand the current passing
through a resister. But, it is difficult to imagine the current passing through a di-electric
medium, which is an insulator, right? O.k. Take a hot cup of coffee and come back.
One thing for sure is the di-electric medium cannot pass current. When a DC source
is connected to a capacitor, the plate, which is connected to the negative terminal, will
have more electrons and the other plate will have fewer electrons. This process of creating
a charge difference between plates is called as a charging of a capacitor. During this
process the charges flow from source to capacitors plates. This flow of charges is called
as charging current. For DC source the charging current takes place in a fraction of a
Displacement Measurement 149

second. Note that the current does not flow through the capacitor (between the plates
through di-electric medium), but the current flows in the external circuitry to the capacitor.
This momentary current in DC is not usually sensed and it does not have any physical
In case of AC source, the polarities of the plates are changed with the frequency of
the source. Hence the plates of the capacitors have to be charged with high and low
charges alternatively. So the charging current will flow in one direction, immediately, when
the polarity changes (Since AC source), the current direction also changes. The speed of
change in the direction of current is in par with the source frequency. Note that here also
the current flows only in the external circuitry to the capacitor and not through the
capacitor. Thus for observer, it seems that the capacitor conducts AC and blocks DC.

(a) (b)

Fig. 8.19. Current due to Capacitance Change in the Circuit.

The standard unit of capacitance is the farad, abbreviated F. This is a large unit; more
common units are the microfarad, abbreviated F (1 F = 106 F) and the picofarad,
abbreviated pF (1 pF = 1012 F). The di-electric constant K varies with the di-electric used.
Some examples are: Glass 4 7, Mica 5 7, Porcelain 6 7, Paper 2 3, Ceramics 3 7.

8.8.2 Factors Affecting Capacitance

1. Effective Surface area.
2. Distance between the plates.
3. Dielectric material.
1. Effective Surface Area
For given di-electric material and distance between the plates, if the surface area of the
plate is more then positively charged plate can attract more electrons and negatively
charged plate can give more electrons. So the Electrostatic force increases and hence
capacitance increases. One should note that the effective surface area is different from
surface area. The area, which is common to both the plates, is effective surface area where
as the surface area refers to its actual dimensions as shown in Fig. 8.20.
150 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Bridge ckt V0

Effective area

Rotating plate

Fixed plate

Fig. 8.20. Effective Area of a Parallel Plate Capacitor

2. Distance Between the Plates

The coulombs law states that the strength of the electrostatic charge is inversely proportional
to the square of the distance between the charges. So, as distance increases, the strength
of electrostatic field decreases. Meaning, the amount of energy that can be stored decreases
and hence the capacitance decreases.

Bridge ckt V0

Distance between

Fixed plate

Fig. 8.21. Distance between Plates of a Parallel Plate Capacitor

3. Dielectric Material

Bridge ckt V0
Fixed plate
Fixed plate

Level (h)

Effective di-electric

Fig. 8.22. Effective Dielectric Material between Plates of a Parallel Plate Capacitor
The di-electric materials have equal number of electrons and protons. These electrons
and protons are so arranged to form two poles namely positive pole and negative pole.
(Di means two). When electrostatic force exists between the ends of dielectric,
Displacement Measurement 151

the negative plate repulses the electron towards positive plates. On the other hand, the
positive plate attracts the electron towards it establishing more electrostatic field. Meaning
the amount of energy that can be stored is more and hence the capacitance is more. Let
us put our understanding in this way, for a given dielectric material, as the effective di-
electric material available between the plates increases, the capacitance increases and
vice versa.
Any variable that can be related to the above factors (Effective area between plates,
Number of capacitor plates, Relative Permittivity of dielectric material), can be sensed by
using capacitor as a transducer. As the variable changes, the related parameter changes the
capacitance. This change in capacitance can be detected using suitable bridge circuit. In
our case, the displacement can be related to all the above parameters. However, it is not
usually related to the Permittivity of di-electric material, as the Permittivity changes due
to environmental conditions. This leads to unpredictable readings during the measurement.
Still, it is discussed to give a theoretical idea.

8.8.3 Types of Capacitive Transducer

1. Parallel plate type
(a) Variable effective plate area type
(b) Variable separation type
(c) Variable effective di-electric type 2
2. Cylindrical type
(a) Variable effective plate area type
(b) Variable separation type
(c) Variable effective di-electric type
Fig. 8.23. Cylindrical Type
8.8.4 Construction
Two metallic conductors are kept parallel to each other with a small gap. The plate can
be plane or cylindrical in shape. But the gap between the plates should be maintained
constant. The gap has significant effect as explained earlier. It should not be too small.
Practically the gap is not less than 0.002 mm.
Dielectric Material
The dielectric material is kept in between the plates. As the capacitance depends on the
dielectric constant, proper selection is to be made considering the entire requirement for
the given measurement conditions. One should note that the effective dielectric, which
affects the capacitance, is the portion of di-electric falls between two plates (which is
common to two plates). Some dielectric materials used are Ceramics, Glass, Porcelain,
Mica, and Paper.
Power Source
The capacitive element is connected to a power source. An AC bridge circuit or other
active electronic circuit is employed to convert the capacitance change to voltage signal.
152 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Display Unit
A meter is provided to measure the flow of current in the circuit due to change in the
capacitance. The constructional details are almost same for all types discussed above. In
variable effective plate area type, the displacement to be measured is connected to capacitor
plates such that the effective plate area changes as displacement takes place as shown in
Fig. 8.20. In variable separation type, the displacement to be measured is connected to
capacitor plates such that the distance between the plates changes as displacement takes
place as shown in Fig. 8.21. In Variable effective dielectric type, the displacement to be
measured is connected to capacitor plates such that the effective dielectric, which affects
the capacitance, changes as displacement takes place as shown in Fig. 8.22.
Working Principle

Change in Change in
Displacement Display
Capacitance voltage

Fig. 8.24. Block Diagram of Capacitance Transducer

Initially, there will be a voltage across the capacitor due to the power supply. At this
condition the voltmeter is made to read zero by adjusting the other circuit elements like
resistor, capacitors that is usually part of display unit.
The displacement changes the value of capacitance either by changing the effective
Surface area or distance between the plates or the effective di-electric material. This
change in capacitance value changes the voltage across the capacitor. The change in the
voltage is sensed by the voltmeter.
The capacitive transducer converts the displacement into the corresponding change
in capacitance. The change in capacitance causes the change in voltage. Voltmeter measures
this voltage difference, which is proportional to the displacement. So, we need to establish
a relation between the displacement and the voltage difference and this process is called

8.8.5 Relation between the Displacement and Voltage Difference

Consider three plate capacitor whose capacitance
between first two plates is C1 and that of second Plate 1
two plates is C2 which is equal to total capacitance C1
C. Note that the second plate is exactly at the center
of the first and third plate and all three plates are X Plate 2
parallel to each other. Plate 3

c1 = c2 = c = 0 r
When the central plate is displaced parallel to Fig. 8.25. Three Parallel Plate Type
the other plates through a distance x towards plate 2. Capacitor
Now, the capacitances are:
Displacement Measurement 153

c1 = 0 r t x
c2 = 0 r t x

For an altering voltage e applied between the terminals 1 and 2, the voltages across
c1 and c2 are given by:
ec2 t+x
e1 = c + c = e 2t
1 2

ec1 tx
e2 = =e
c1 + c2 2t
The voltage difference between the two pairs of plates is given by:
e1 e2 = e
The voltage difference is a linearly varying with the displacement of the middle plate.


The construction feature of capacitive transducer for measurement of rotary motion is
shown in the Fig. 8.26. There are two sectors, one is fixed and other one is movable. The
motion to be sensed is connected to this movable sector. As you know, there will be di-
electric medium between the plates. As the rotation takes place the capacitance changes
and this is detected as discussed in the previous article.


Fig. 8.26. Capacitive Transducer for Measurement of Rotary Motion

1. Fixed sector and 2. Movable sector.
154 Instrumentation and Control Systems

8.9.1 Application Case Studies of Capacitance Sensors

As the capacitance sensor is very sensitive to environmental changes, the application for
precise measurement of application is limited. Nevertheless, it is widely used in the
following applications.
1. Product Detection
Capacitive sensors can detect the presence of a target without physical contact. This can
detect both metallic and non-metallic objects. Normally, they use a multi-turn potentiometer
to adjust sensitivity to suit particular application.

Fig. 8.27. Product Detection

2. Level Sensing

Fig. 8.28. Level Sensing

Capacitive sensors help in automating level control in a tank equipped with a sight
glass. When level falls below the low level limit the pump is turned on and runs until the
liquid level reaches the high level limit. As it operates in non-contact mode, there is no
abrasion (or) chemical reaction problem with sensor.
Displacement Measurement 155

3. Food Processing/Packaging Industries

Fig. 8.29. Food Processing/Packaging Industries

It is used to check the presence of product inside the package in food processing and
packaging industries. Weighing of product to check is more time consuming. It is better,
especially, when product moves in a conveyor.
4. Bottling Industries

Fig. 8.30. Bottling Industries

In bottling industries like beverage industries, distilleries, cooking oil packaging

industries capacitive sensors are used in multiple locations. In Fig. 8.30, sensor 1 detects
the presence of the bottle on the conveyor and sensor 2 detects the level and sensor 3
detects the presence of cap.
5. For Checking Presence of Transparent Objects and Threads

Fig. 8.31. For Checking Presence of Transparent Objects and Threads

156 Instrumentation and Control Systems

6. Feed Roll Limit

In this application, the capacitive transducer senses when the feed roll is full and tells us
when to change the roll, typically printing press and similar applications.

Fig. 8.32. Feed Roll Limit


The Fundamentals
When A.C current is flowing through a conductor, a varying magnetic field is setup around
the conductor. The reverse is also true. Meaning, if we take a conductor, near the magnetic
field, the current will flow through the conductor. Taking a wire whose ends are connected
to an ammeter, near the permanent magnet, can experience this. You will notice that there
is a small deflection in the meter. This is because, when we take the wire near the
permanent magnet, it cuts the magnetic lines. This induces an e.m.f in the conductor.
When conductor is made into a coil, a magnetic field is setup around the coil.
Because of its coil shape, it cuts the magnetic field. As excitation source is alternating
current, an e.m.f is induced. This e.m.f opposes the flow of current and this resistance is
called inductance. As the resistance to the current is in the same coil, it is also termed
as self-inductance. If this e.m.f is induced is in some other coil then it is called mutual



Magnetic lines
Fig. 8.33. Mutual Inductance An Illustration

8.10.1 Linear Variable Differential Transformer (LVDT)

LVDT is a displacement transducer works on mutual inductance principle, which outputs
a voltage proportional to the displacement with respect to a reference. Why is it called
Displacement Measurement 157

LVDT? T stands for transformer. It works on transformer principle (Mutual inductance).

D stands for differential. Normal transformer will have one primary and one secondary
winding. But LVDT has two secondary windings and the difference between the two is
used as output. The term differential signifies this. LV stands for Linear Variable. The
differential voltage varies linearly with position. Thus the name LVDT.

Primary winding

Push rod Core

Secondary winding

Fig. 8.34. LVDT Electrical Schematic

A typical LVDT will have the following parts.
1. Shell
2. Primary winding
3. Secondary winding
4. Core
5. Power supply
6. Display unit
1. Shell
A shell is a metallic tube on which the windings are made. The shell is designed such that
the core can easily move in the axial direction and only in axial direction so that the errors
due to lateral movement can be eliminated. The shell should have good magnetic property
for the effective functioning of the instrument.
2. Primary Winding
There is one primary winding, wound on the shell. The coil is made up of thin wire,
which is having a protective coating. The protective coating is provided in order to avoid
electrical short-circuiting and protect the coils from other environmental effects such as
corrosion, rusting etc. These windings are connected to the excitation/source voltage.
3. Secondary Winding
There are two secondary windings wound on the shell. These coils also having the protective
coating for the same reason. The secondary windings are symmetrically wound on the
shell such that the phase of the induced e.m.f is opposite to each other. The net output
from LVDT is the difference between the voltage of two secondary windings. The secondary
windings act as the output of the instrument, which carries the information about the
158 Instrumentation and Control Systems

4. Core
Core is metallic rod with good magnetic properties. Its prime duty is to link the primary
and the secondary windings through magnetic lines without physical contact with the
windings. It is designed such that it can move smoothly inside the shell without much
force to reduce loading effect. The position of the core determines the mutual inductance
and the corresponding change in voltage. The core may be guided by simple O- rings or
by Delrin bearings for better accuracy. The core is attached to measurand through push
rod. The core moves proportional to measurand while the shell and coil assembly is fixed
at a reference point. Various mechanical linkages can be used so that the core moves
greater or smaller than the measurand (for amplification/attenuation purpose).
5. Power Supply
AC excitation of 5kHz 20 kHz is applied to primary winding to develop an inductance
current in secondary windings which are linked by magnetically conductive core. The
frequency of excitation depends on the input signal. What is the significance 5kHz20 kHz
in excitation frequency? At very low frequencies the resistance effect dominates and at
very high frequencies the capacitance effect dominates. The LVDT works on inductance
principle and its effect is more in the frequency range of 5kHz 20 kHz.
6. Display Unit
The output terminals of the secondary windings are connected to the display unit. The
display unit typically consists of an analog to digital converter, which coverts the analog
A.C signal to digital voltage. This is displayed in the digital voltmeter.
Working Principle
Amplitude change
with core position

Output signal

time (t)

Phase determined by direction of

core w.r.t. reference position

Fig. 8.35. Waveform Representation of LVDT Signal

Change in Change in
Displacement Display
inductance voltage

Fig. 8.36. Block Diagram Representation of LVDT Working

An excitation voltage is applied across the primary winding and due to mutual
inductance the voltage is induced in the secondary windings. When the core is in middle
position, the net output voltage will be zero, as both secondary coils are connected
differentially (the difference between the two secondary will come as output). This position
is called as Null position. As the core moves from center in one direction the voltage
Displacement Measurement 159

induced in secondary coils are different and there will be a net voltage proportional to the
displacement. The phase of the output voltage is determined by the direction of the core
displacement and the amplitude is determined by the cores displacement from the center.
Signal Conditioning
Electrical Signal
Displacement signal conditioning Display
Oscil- Demo-
lator dulator

Fig. 8.37. LVDT Block Diagram

LVDT is a passive AC device, which means it needs an AC excitation source (sinusoidal
input of certain frequency) and a circuit to convert AC output signal to DC signal. There
are two modules called oscillator module and demodulator module in LVDT, which does
these functions.
Oscillator Module

Frequency Sine wave Power Oscillator output

select oscillator amplifier

Square wave
generator Square wave o/p

Reference Remote sense

Fig. 8.38. Oscillator Block Diagram

It provides an accurate sine wave voltage to drive the transducer (stable in both
amplitude and frequency). It also provides a square wave to act as phase reference to
demodulator and voltage reference for zero setting. Generally, it uses wein bridge oscillator
to generate sine wave whose frequency can be varied by varying the resistance. The sine
wave voltage is amplified (power amplification) to provide enough current (50 mA) to
drive the transducer. The sine wave is converted into square wave using scimitt-trigger
circuit or other techniques.
Demodulator Module

Coarse gain
Amplifier Demodulator Square wave

Input from Filter o/p

transducer amp. gain DC o/p Voltage

Coarse and fine

zero adjustment

Fig. 8.39. Demodulator Block Diagram

160 Instrumentation and Control Systems

The function of demodulator module is to convert AC output of transducer into a DC

voltage proportional to displacement. It also has provision for zero adjustment and gain
adjustment to accommodate a wide range of transducers. The voltage from amplifier is
amplified and passed through a phase sensitive demodulator, which uses a square wave
to convert sine wave in to a DC signal with some superimposed AC. This is low pass
filtered to remove majority of AC components. This module has provision to change filter
Specification of LVDT
1. Electrical
Linearity (Expressed as % of FSD)
Sensitivity (Expressed as mV/V/mm)
Excitation: Energizing current
Response time
Output ripple (Expressed as % of FSD)
Thermal effect (Expressed as % FSD/C)
Compensated temperature range
Operable temperature range
Electrical connection (about cable and wiring details)
2. Mechanical
Threaded core (M2, M3 etc.)
Core material
Case material
Special Issues in LVDT
Null stability and gain stability
Lead out effects
Life expectancy
Stray EM Interference
Linear range of Transducer
1. Null Stability and Gain Stability
These two are important design goals. Null stability is another name of zero shift. Its
typical values are 0.15% of FSD during warm-up and 0.025% of FSD after warm-up.
The change in ambient temperature will affect null stability (typically 50 to 70 ppm/C).
Changing the transducer temperature disturbs the null stability due to skin effect (as
temperature increases inductance increases). Increasing diameter of the core or/and using
core material with high conductivity reduces this effect.
Displacement Measurement 161

Gain stability is the ability to maintain constant gain for the instrument and is expressed
as volt per mm of core displacement. The gain is influenced by the following factors:
(a) Excitation frequency
(b) Magnitude of driving current
(c) Transfer functions of signal conditioning units such as amplifier, filter etc.
(d) Temperature
(i) Excitation frequency is directly proportional to gain and a quartz crystal is
generally used to eliminate frequency drift.
(ii) Gain is proportional to magnitude of driving current also. It is regulated by
a zener diode.
(iii) The transfer functions of signal conditioning units are stabilized by using
negative feedback circuits and components with low temperature co-efficients.
(iv) The temperature effect is minimized similar to null-stability.
In the above discussion, there are two possible doubts that may arise. First, what is
skin effect? Consider a conductor carrying current. Assume the current density is same
initially across the cross-section. Take an elemental area at the center of the conductor.
There will be a magnetic field, which will generate an e.m.f, which ultimately resists the
flow of current in the elemental area. The total current through the cross-section of the
conductor is same and the resistance to current at the center is more. So, there will be a
tendency that the current near the periphery is more as the center portion is affected by
more magnetic force around it. This effect is called skin effect. The central portion of the
conductor offers more resistance to current, as skin effect increases. This can be reduced
by increasing the cross-section area (diameter of the conductor) or by increasing conductivity
of the material.
Magnetics line direction

Current direction

Elemental area at center

Fig. 8.40. Skin Effect

Secondly. What do we understand from the unit of temperature ppm/C, while the unit
of (linear) temperature co-efficient is mm/C? Consider an example. If a 10 mm LVDT at
30C gives an output voltage of 2v, the same LVDT at 40C will give output voltage of
2.0002v for same core displacement. The change in the voltage is only due to the temperature
that is calculated as follows:
162 Instrumentation and Control Systems

For 2v output for 10C temperature change, the temperature coefficient is equal to
0.0002v, i.e. 0.0002v/2v/10C.
For million-volt output unit temperature change, the temperature coefficient is equal to

0.0002v 10000000v
= = 100 ppm/C
2v 10C
The gain temperature co-efficient is very small (in the order of 103 to 104), if expressed
in terms of mm/C or equalent v/C. The ppm/C is appropriate unit and hence used.
2. Lead Out Effects
Typically, 50 to 70 connector are used with length less than 100 mm. The lead loads
transmission system and affect the following:
1. Null voltage
2. Gain
3. Non-linearity
For a given connector, null voltage can be compensated by zero potentiometer, and
the gain, by gain potentiometer and non-linearity by shunt compensating resistor.
3. Noise
The noise in the transducers output is typically 0.01% of FSD (rms value).
4. Resolution
Theoretically, LVDT has infinitesimal resolution. Display unit restricts it.
5. Life Expectancy
As the core moves in a polymer tube (modern type LVDTs), which has same co-efficient
of expansion as core material, the friction is low and life is believed to be infinite.
6. Stray EM Interference
The stray electro-magnetic fields can create problem. The mutual inductance due to stray
field (other than excitation source) is identified and removed by protection filtering.
Typically, beyond 10 kHz, all the frequency components are filtered off.
7. Linear Range of Transducer
For both side core displacements from null position, the voltage varies linearly only up to
certain limit. This range is called linear range and is illustrated in Fig. 8.41. When the core
is in the center the voltage output is zero. As it moves in one direction, till it links both
primary winding and secondary windings, the voltage varies linearly. Beyond this limit the
voltage variations are non-linear and falls.
Displacement Measurement 163

Linear range Displacement

Fig. 8.41. Linear Range of LVDT

8.10.2 Application Case Studies

1. Elongation Measurement in Tensile Testing Machine



Fig. 8.42. Elongation Measurement in Tensile Testing Machine

In tensile test, we apply a load and measure the corresponding distance that the
material stretches under that load. An extensometer incorporating LVDT is connected
directly to the test specimen. But the problem is the extensometer is to be setup for each
test and it restricts access to test specimen. If the test is done till the breaking point, the
sudden shock can damage LVDT. A better method is illustrated in the Fig. 8.42.
A wedge (Precision machined) is fixed on the side and LVDT is fixed perpendicular
to wedge and made to move over it. As the loading rod moves downwards due to elongation,
the vertical motion is converted in to proportional horizontal motion of LVDT core. The
LVDT outputs corresponding voltage and is directly calibrated to read elongation.
164 Instrumentation and Control Systems

This setup does not restrict the access to test specimen and need not do setup for each
sample. During break test, the LVDT core simply moves faster along the wedge surface
without shock.
2. To Measure Material Thickness
LVDT is used in industry to check the thickness of
sheet metal, paper and leather. A series of LVDTs
are used to find the variation in the thickness of Moving roller

sheet metal. The fixed rollers can rotate freely but

it cannot move. This forms the reference for
measurement. The moving roller can rotate as well
as it can move up and down. As the thickness of
the material passing through the rollers varies, the
moving rollers move up/down transmitting the
variation in the thickness to LVDT core. A computer
collects these data and the surface is generated. For Fixed roller
leather, they cut out uniform thickness area for better Fig. 8.43. Material Thickness
use. Thin leather area for gloves and thick leather Measurement
for handbag and shoe etc.,
3. To Measure Pressure, Force and Load

Proving ring



Fig. 8.44. Load and Pressure Measurement

The parameters such as pressure, force and load are converted into displacement
using some primary transducers. This displacement is measured by LVDT precisely and
when calibrated, we can read the parameter value directly from the read out device.
Force or load is converted in to displacement using proving ring, which is a metallic ring
deflects under load. Pressure is made to act over a diaphragm and converted in to
equalent displacement.
4. LVDT for Counting Currency, Sheets etc.
The notes are fed between two rotating rollers as in the case 2, one roller is fixed and the
other movable. The moving roller is in positive contact with notes by suitable (light) spring
loading. When a single note is passed between the rollers, LVDT outputs a voltage pulse,
Displacement Measurement 165

which can be counted by electronic counter. When two notes are passing, it will double
the sustained signal intensity. A suitable circuit is built for signal processing and extract
information for the following defects:
(a) Repaired note with cello tape
(b) Folded corner
(c) Portion of note missing
5. Inspection of Dimensions
In automobile industries, the wheel dimensions are critical and are to be inspected. The
wheel is fixed in a test rig and rotated at a constant speed. Many LVDTs are fixed to
measure various wheel parameters and computer checks these data.

8.10.3 Rotational Variable Differential Transformer (RVDT)

ar y w

P rim

y win

Fig. 8.45. RVDT Schematic Diagram

The schematic diagram is shown in Fig. 8.45. The construction is same as LVDT,
except the core shape is different and is designed such that as it rotates inductance
changes. It is enclosed in a protective enclosure. The core needs precision machining,
which otherwise reduces the accuracy of the instrument. Typical range of the instrument
is 40. We can go up to 60.
Advantages of LVDT
1. Infinite resolution
2. High repeatability, accuracy, stability and linearity
3. Wear and tear are almost not there unlike pots
4. Near ideal electro-mechanical conversion
5. Both magnetic hysteresis and mechanical back lash are negligible.
6. It has low output impedance in the order of 100 .
7. Directional measurements (positive/negative) are possible.
8. It is durable, robust and less expensive.
9. Small ranges (2 mm) are available.
166 Instrumentation and Control Systems


Let us first see what is piezoelectric effect and then see how it can be used to measure
displacement. When certain materials are deformed, they generate electric charge
proportional to mechanical deformation in the surface. When the charge is applied, the
material in response will deform proportionally. This effect is known as piezoelectric
effect. Piezo is a Latin word which means force. Some natural materials like quartz
crystal, rocelle salt and synthetic lithium sulfate, ammonium di-hydrogen phosphate and
polarized Ferro electric ceramic like barium titanate exhibit this effect.
Piezoelectric transducer is mainly used as secondary transducer to measure pressure,
vibration, acceleration etc., because it needs more force for functioning. This limits the
piezoelectric transducer to be used as primary sensing element. Here, we discuss this
transducer, because the above said parameters are converted finally in to displacement and
the displacement is measured and displayed the parameter value. The metallic leads are
plated on selected sides (two opposite sides) of piezoelectric crystal to transfer charges
developed. The piezoelectric crystal is highly directional and hence the sides for leads
have to be chosen carefully. Electrode
The leads will act as capacitor, as the
piezoelectric crystal is an insulator between two Piezo
plates. One can imagine or visualize a piezoelectric crystal
crystal as a charge generator with a capacitor. Thus
Q e0
the voltage developed, E = ; where, Q is charge
and C is capacitance. The piezoelectric crystal will
develop a voltage with a polarity, if it is compressed
and reverses its polarity, if it is expanded.
Fig. 8.46. Piezoelectric Crystal with
Signal Processing Electrode
Voltage output

0 Time
Fig. 8.47. Voltage Time Characteristics (Discharge Curve)
The charge developed is very small and that needs to be amplified. A charge amplifier
is used for this purpose with very high input impedance, as the output impedance of
piezoelectric crystal is high. A buffer (unit gain current amplifier) is sought for than an
Displacement Measurement 167

amplifier with high voltage gain. Once a displacement is given to piezoelectric crystal and
maintained, the corresponding voltage is generated initially, but leaks off as shown in
Fig. 8.47. So, the leakage resistance should be sufficiently high for static measurements.
However, it is not suitable for static measurement. Some commercial units with very high
resistance (in the order of 1014 ) make it possible to do static measurement. More
discussion on this transducer is deferred till specific sections on vibration, acceleration


When a fluid impinges on a plate, it creates a backpressure. When the pressure is regulated,
for a small range the pressure varies proportional to the displacement of the plate. This
backpressure concept is used in nozzle flapper.
There is tank, which holds the working medium at low pressure (but above atmospheric
pressure). Generally air is used as working medium. To supply air at constant pressure there
is a pressure regulator. There is an orifice to reduce the pressure. The measuring chamber
facilitates pressure measurement. The flapper is hinged and connected to body whose
displacement is to be measured. The fluid line ends very close to flapper with a nozzle.

Linear range
Orifice X
Pressure gage

plate 0 Distance between nozzle and flapper

Fig. 8.48. Flapper Nozzle Arrangement Fig. 8.49. Back Pressure Vs Nozzle Distance

As the body moves, the flapper also moves and varies the gap between the nozzle tip and
the flapper. Due to variation in restriction, the pressure inside the measuring chamber
(Backpressure) changes. This is sensed using a pressure gauge. The gauge is calibrated in
terms of displacement to read the displacement directly from the dial. It acts like a first
order system with a measuring range of 0.05 mm and resolution of 0.01 m. Typical time
constant of such instruments is 0.1s.
168 Instrumentation and Control Systems

8.12.1 Example Case Studies

1. Non-contact Type Displacement Measurement
Air supply


Pref Pb

To atm Piston Cylinder

Fig. 8.50. Non-contact Type Displacement Measurement
Piston can freely move inside the cylinder along with push rod. The push rod is connected
to LVDT core. One side of cylinder is connected to air supply directly, which will act as
reference pressure. The other side, the backpressure varies with objects distance. The push
rod and LVDT core move proportional to the pressure difference between reference pressure
and backpressure. The output of LVDT is calibrated to read the displacement directly.
2. Electro-pneumatic Inspection
The setup is used to inspect the components in shop floor for undersize, oversize, and
intolerance. This acts as a pneumatic wheatstone bridge. R1 and R2 are fixed restrictions
(resistances). Rv is variable restriction. The design ensures R1=R2. When nozzle resistance
(Rn) is equal to Rv, then the piston will be in the middle of the cylinder. As dimension
varies, the backpressure varies and accordingly piston moves and activates the micro
switches. The value of Rv is set such that red light glows when an under size component
is kept and yellow light glows when an oversize component is kept.


Ps Pb


Fig. 8.51. Electro-pneumatic Inspection

3. To Check the Presence of Parts/Holes

The backpressure varies for two different states (presence and absence of an object/hole).
It is used to sense the presence of drill bit. Also the backpressure varies differently, when
Displacement Measurement 169

a hole is missing in the plate. Knowing the backpressure we will be able to detect missing
of holes and which hole is missing in many of the cases.


Orifice Dril bit

Plate with hole

Fig. 8.52. To Check the Presence of Parts/Holes

4. Counting of Parts
Assembled product Conveyor

Light spring

Fig. 8.53. Pneumatic Counter

The assembly of parts is done on the moving conveyor in many industries. To count
the number of parts assembled, a spring-loaded flapper on a cam and nozzle is used. As
the object passes the flapper, it rotates the cam by a definite amount. This causes a change
in backpressure due to slot (Profile) in the cam. This causes one pulse. Converting this to
electrical signal and counting the pulses gives the complete industrial unit.


Synchro-pair is an electromechanical device, which works on differential transformer or
rotating transformer principle. Physically the construction is same as AC motor. The diameter
varies from 10 mm to 100 mm. Functionally, it is used for angular displacement. It has two
units, one transmitter and a transformer. Both are identical in construction except the rotor
shape. Stator is stationary and has three windings RR, BB and yy 120 apart from each
170 Instrumentation and Control Systems

other as shown in Fig. 8.54. The rotor of transmitter is in the form of dumb bell. Electrical
connection is given through slip rings and brushes. The stator windings in transmitter are
connected to respective windings in transformer as shown below. The rotor of transformer
is fixed to act as reference for angular displacement measurement and the transmitter is
connected to rotating body whose angular displacement is sought for.
Transmitter Transformer

Y Rotor Y


400 Hz
Fig. 8.54. Syncro-pair
The rotor windings are excited with sinusoidal voltage (typically 400 Hz). It forms a flux
with a pattern around the coil. It induces voltage in stator winding by mutual induction.
As the stator windings of transmitter and transformer are connected, it produces a similar
flux pattern in transformer unit stator windings. This induces a voltage in rotor (of
transformer) by mutual induction. As the flux pattern is same the voltage induced in
transformer is maximum when both the rotors are in same position (direction). The voltage
induced is zero, when the rotor of transmitter is perpendicular with respect to transformer
rotor. If is the angle as shown in Fig. 8.55, then the induced voltage Vi = Ve sin , where,
Ve excitation voltage. It is constant for given instrument.
sin = V

for small values of , sin = . = . Since Ve is constant, Vi. The induced
voltage in transformer rotor is directly proportional to angular displacement (for small ).
Transmitter Transformer

Rotor Rotor


Fig. 8.55. Syncro Pair Schematic Diagram

Displacement Measurement 171

Transformer rotor position

emf is max.

e.m.f. = 0 q
e.m.f. = V sin q

Transmitter rotor positions

Fig. 8.56. Syncro-pair Rotor Position and Corresponding e.m.f.
It basically works on differential transformer principle. So, either transformer or
transmitter can be fixed for reference and the other can be connected to rotating body
for angular measurement purpose.
Application Example
1. Machinetool
2. Servomechanisms
3. Aircraft gyro compass measurements
4. Load positioning.


It is also working based on rotating transformer principle. It resembles two-phase alternators
in magnetics and windings. The two-phase windings are 90 to each other. In the dumb-
bell shaped rotor, the third winding is wound and electric connections are through slip
rings and brushes.
The rotor winding is excited with a constant voltage at some frequency . The current
through the coil produces a varying flux and induces voltage in the stator windings. When
the rotor is as shown in Fig. 8.57 (vertical position) stator links maximum flux with stator
windings P1 and zero flux with windings P2. The e.m.f. induced in P1 is maximum and
that of P2 is zero. When the rotor is in horizontal position, it induces maximum e.m.f. in
winding P2 and zero e.m.f. in P1 winding. As the stator moves from vertical to horizontal,
the e.m.f. induced in stator P1 varies as a cosine function of . is shown in the
Fig. 8.57 and that of stator P2 varies as a sine of . Exciting voltage for rotor
Ve = a sin t
a - amplitude
- Frequency
Induced voltage in stator P1 = Ve cos and P2 = Ve sin
172 Instrumentation and Control Systems


P2 P2

Fig. 8.57. Schematic Diagram of Resolver
As the induced voltages in the stators are resolved vector components of excitation
voltage for given , it is called Resolver. To use this as rotary position transducer, the
stator-windings are excited by a set of two phase voltage (with 90 phase shift). This
produces a rotating magnetic field in the air gap. The magnetic field rotation speed and
magnitude are constant irrespective of rotor position. For any position of rotor, the induced
e.m.f. is given by
e = Em cos (t + )
Em - Maximum e.m.f. induced
- Excitation frequency (typically, 400 Hz, 1000 Hz, 1600 Hz)
- Angular position of shaft
While other parameters remain constant, as varies, the induced voltage varies
nearly linearly. It has high repeatability and sensitivity. It can be used in poor environmental
conditions. The accuracy can be as high as 0.1% of FSD or better with high precision
stampings, windings.


q 1 Rotor


4 3

Fig. 8.58. Microsyn
The rotor is made up of iron and has no windings on it. So, there is no slip rings and
brushes in microsyn. The stator has four poles (1, 2, 3, 4) placed at 90 apart. There are
two windings, one for excitation and the other for taking induced e.m.f. out.
Displacement Measurement 173

When the excitation coil is energized (typically 5V to 50V at 50Hz to 5000 Hz), for the
rotor position shown in Fig. 8.58, the voltage induced in poles 1, 2 will be same in
magnitude and opposite in phase, with poles 3 and 4. So, they cancel each other, the net
e.m.f. is zero. When the rotor moves in one direction, the net voltage is produced proportional
to angular displacement, because it links more flux in one set of poles and less flux in
another set of poles. When the rotor rotates in opposite direction, the phase is 180 shifted
and magnitude is again proportional to angular position. Thus microsyn can be used to
detect small angular displacements with linearity of 0.5% FSD. The sensitivity is typically,
0.2 to 5 V/degree rotation. It can be improved with windings of a large number of ampere-
turns. Null stability is good and magnetic reaction torque is very small, so the loading
effect is small.


The instrument has two main parts, track and slider, which are separated, by an air gap of
0.125 mm. The track is attached in the direction of displacement to be measured. It may
be several meters long. There is a tin metal wire deposited in the rectangular form as sown
in Fig. 8.59. The slider is moving part over track and is attached to the part whose
displacement is sought for. There is a metal wire with same size and shape of track
winding. This may be one set or two sets. If the slider has one set of winding it can be
used for large displacement, otherwise it can be used only up to the pitch of winding (see
Fig. 8.59 for pitch).
Mode 1 (5-10 kHz) V0

Track Slider

Mode 2


2 mm pitch Slider

Fig. 8.59. Linear inductosyn

174 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Mode 1: The track windings are excited with high frequency (5 kHz to 10 kHz) AC voltage.
The current in the wire sets up a varying field and induces e.m.f. in slider. This e.m.f. is
maximum when the track windings match with slider windings. It is zero when shifted
as shown in Fig. 8.59. The slider movement of a pitch distance causes one electrical pulse.
This can be processed and counted to know the total displacement of slider. In this mode,
the resolution is one pitch, not acceptable for many applications.
Mode 2: In mode 2, the slider has two windings with phase shift of 90 or physically,
a shift of one quarter of a pitch. The excitation and other working are same as mode 1.
Here the e.m.f. induced in slider winding 1 and 2 are different and the difference is
proportional to displacement within a pitch movement as given below.
The excitation voltage Ve = V sin t
V amplitude of excitation voltage
At null position, the winding pattern of slider winding matches with track winding, the
voltages induced in coils are
V1 = 0; V2 = V sin (t) = Ve
For any other position, the slider winding voltages are
2x 2x
V1 = Ve sin ; V2 = Ve cos
p p
Ve Excitation voltage
x Displacement of slider away from null position
p Pitch of windings
with suitable computation, within pitch distance x can be related to voltages induced.


Helium-neon laser gives two lights with frequencies 5.00000002 1014 Hz (f1) and
5 1014 Hz (f2), which has opposite polarization. It is separated by beam splitter
measurement beam and reference beam. The two waves in the reference beam interfere
constructively and destructively alternately. This produces bright and dark at frequency of
(f1-f2). i.e. 2 106 Hz. This produces an electrical signal of 2 MHz in poto-detector1.
The measurement beam is split in to f1 and f2 by polarizing beam splitter. The beam
with frequency f2 is related by fixed reflector and f1 by movable reflector. At null
position, the two reflected waves interfere and produce 2 MHz electric signal in photo-
detector2, same as reference beam. Any displacement to movable reflector, changes the
Displacement Measurement 175

frequency of reflected beam (Doppler shift) and the electrical signal frequency changes.
The difference in frequency is directly proportional to the amount of displacement. Using
suitable signal processing and suitable display unit the displacement is measured.
Fixed reflector

Movable reflector
Beam splitter
f2 f1
Dual frequency
He-Ni Laser

PD1 f1 + Df
Beam splitter

AC amplifier



Fig. 8.60. Laser Interferometer


Moving Object

Optical fibers

Fig. 8.61. Fotonic Sensor
There is a light source. The light emitted is transmitted by an optical fiber. The light
beam is focused on the object whose displacement is to be measured. The head has
another fiber optic cable to detect the light beam reflected from moving object and transmits
this light to a photo detector. The light-sensing device generates voltage signal proportional
to the amount of light received. The amount of light received is directly proportional to
gap between optical fiber head and moving object. By fixing the head to a reference point
and adjusting the zero setting, the voltage signal will directly give displacement, after
176 Instrumentation and Control Systems


There is a infra-red source and there are two identical photo-diodes. For each photo-diode
output there is an amplifier. The differential amplifier amplifies the difference between the
two photo-diodes output. There is a display unit to display displacement.
IR source


Photo-diodes Display

Shadow plate
Fig. 8.62. Infra-red Sensor

When both the photo-diodes are exposed to infra-red radiation equally, the output from
the differential amplifier is zero, as it amplifies the difference between the two inputs.
When the plate shades a portion of photo-diode, proportional to this there is a difference
in voltage exists. This difference is amplified by differential amplifier and displayed. For
a range of displacement, it is proportional to voltage and thus the displacement reading
can be taken directly from display unit upon calibration. The range of such instrument
is small and typical inaccuracy is 0.1% of FSD.


The Fundamentals
Any sophisticated instrumentation scheme will involve the digital technology, as the signal
processing and manipulation is easier. Now a days, digital computer plays an important role
in control system areas. So far, we have been discussing about the analog transducers
whose output is in the form of analog signal. If we want this signal to be processed by a
computer, then it has to be converted to a digital signal before processing. It would be very
convenient to have the signal in digital form to communicate with digital computers. But
there are very few transducers which will give digital output directly. Let us discuss one
such transducer for measurement of linear as well as rotary displacements.
It is a basic memory circuit. It Has two stable states and remains in one state until directed
to change that state. The state will change when it encounters a raising edge or a falling
Displacement Measurement 177

edge. The two states are set (when a bit of logic 1 is stored),
reset (when a bit of logic 0 is stored). The corresponding Q
two outputs are Q and Q1. Q1 is called inverting end and CP FF1
Q is called non-inverting end. Meaning, If Q is logic 1 then Q1
Q1 will be at logic 0 and If Q is logic 0 then Q1 will be at
logic 1. A flip-flop and a signal with a raising edge/falling Fig. 8.63. A Typical Flip-flop
edge is shown in the Fig. 8.63.
Encoders are nothing but digital transducer which are used for measurement of displacement.
A device which senses the analog signals like displacements and gives the digital output.
Types of Encoders
1. Incremental Encoder
(a) Linear Encoder
(b) Rotary Encoder
2. Absolute Encoder
(a) Linear Encoder
(b) Rotary Encoder

8.20.1 Incremental Encoder

Light Source
It is fixed source of light, glowing at constant light intensity. It may be white light or infra-
red light.
Detector is basically a photo cell, which will produce the output voltage depends upon the
light intensity received. If the displacement is uniform, the photo cell produces a sinusoidal
output (analog). This output is in the range of milli-volt.
Rotary Type
Slit disc is used and is connected to the shaft, where the
rotary displacement is to be measured. As the shaft
rotates, the disc also rotates. The disc has number of Source
square segments, near the outer periphery, with equal
spacing between them as shown in the Fig. 8.64. It has Disc
alternate opaque and clear segments. The light cannot Detector
pass through the opaque segment where as it can pass
through the clear segment. Fig. 8.64. Optical Encoder
Linear Type
A slit plate is used and is connected to the shaft, where the linear displacement is to be
measured. As the shaft moves, the plate also moves. The plate has number of square
segments, with equal spacing between them. It has alternate opaque and clear segments.
178 Instrumentation and Control Systems

As output voltage is very small (in the range of mV), it cannot drive the logic circuit (digital
circuit). So the signal has to be amplified using internal or external amplifier.
Schmitt Trigger Circuit
It is widely used circuit to convert a sine wave signal to a square wave signal. This circuit
has rise and fall threshold limits. When sine wave is feed to the Schmitt trigger circuit,
it produces zero voltage (OFF state), till the
sine wave reaches the rise threshold value. Once Signal Q
the rise threshold is reached, it outputs the
ON state voltage. It continues to give the ON
state voltage till the Fall threshold limit is
reached. Afterwards it continues to give the
OFF state voltage, till next rise threshold is
reached. The same process is repeated and gives
the square wave output as shown in the Fig. 8.65. Schmitt Trigger Circuit
Fig. 8.66.
Digital Counter
It is an up counter, meaning it starts counting from zero till its maximum value. It is made
up of trigger type flip-flops (T-type), in this case, as shown in the Fig. 8.66. The flip-flop
will change its state when a falling edge is encountered in square pulse. The square wave
generated from schmitt trigger circuit is fed to the first flip-flop (FF1) and the output is

Q1 Q2 Q3

Q1 Q1 Q1


Raising edge

Falling edge



Fig. 8.66. Signal Processing of an Incremental Encoder

shown in the Fig. 8.66. The output of the FF1 is fed as input to FF2 and the output of the
FF2 is fed as the input of the FF3. Finally, the output from FF3 is sent to the display unit.
Note that this counter will count from 0 to 7. The number of flip-flop should be increased
to increase the range of the counter.
Displacement Measurement 179

As the signal is in the form of digital, it is very convenient to display using either seven
segment display or LCD display.
Working Principle
Photo Schemitt-
Cell triger ckt.
Displacement Change in Square Digital
of disc voltage pulse Counter


Fig. 8.67. Block Diagram of Digital Encoder

Initially, let assume that the source, photocell and transparent segment are all in a
straight line. So, The light from the source passes through the transparent segment and
falls on the photo cell. This generates a signal.
As the disc rotates (when there is a displacement), the opaque segment comes in line
with source and detector, gradually. This produces a sinusoidal signal output. As the disc
continues to rotate, a sequence of such signal is generated. This signal is amplified by
internal or external amplifier so that it can drive the logic circuit. The amplified sine signal
is passed through Schmitt trigger circuit to convert to square wave. This square pulses are
then counted by a digital counter and the counted value is displayed using display unit.
In case of linear type, instead of disc rotation, we have linear motion of the plate. The
working principle remains the same.

8.20.2 Absolute Encoder

The construction details of light source, detector, amplifier, schmitt trigger circuit, digital
counter, and display unit are same except the disc.
In the absolute type, the disc has many tracks (8 in our case) with opaque and transparent
segments. The tracks are equally divided into number of sectors. The opaque and transparent
segments follow a particular pattern, which can be obtained by the binary number system.
Meaning, the first sector will have one opaque segment and the second sector will have
opaque sectors corresponding to binary equalent of 2. Each track will have a separate light
source and a detector. So, at any point of time, in the disc, we will have a distinct
combination of opaque and transparent segments in line with the source and detector. The
absolute counter senses this combination and displays the corresponding digital value on
the display unit. In case of linear type, instead of rotation we have linear motion.
180 Instrumentation and Control Systems

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

7 8

5 10


3 12
2 b1 13
1 b3 14
0 15
Fig. 8.68. Absolute Encoder with Binary Code


1. Define motion and classify it.
2. What is the need for displacement measurement?
3. How do we measure displacement?
4. Explain how potentiometer is used as displacement transducer? State its specification.
5. Explain loading effect of potentiometer.
6. Describe about various types of potentiometer along with advantages and disadvantages.
7. Explain capacitive type displacement transducers along with its classification.
8. State the classification case studies of capacitance transducers.
9. Explain inductive type transducer (L.V.D.T) along with its linearity.
10. Explain various applications where LVDT is used.
11. Describe about R.V.D.T.
12. Explain piezoelectric transducer.
13. State construction, working and applications of nozzle flapper.
14. What is a synchro-pair? Explain its working principle.
15. Explain construction and working of a resolver.
16. What is microsyn and linear inductosyn? Explain working and construction of each of
17. What is laser interferometry? Explain laser interferometer working.
18. What are flip flops?
19. What is an encoder? Classify it.
20. Explain in detail about both linear and rotary absolute encoder.
21. Explain in detail about both linear and rotary type incremental encoder.


This chapter will consider the different strain measurement devices. After reading this
chapter, you should be able to:
Answer what is strain and its classification
Different strain measuring methods
Wheatstone bridge and its use in strain measurement
Effect of temperature and its compensation
Installation and selection of strain gauge.


Solids are made up of atoms where the arrangements of the atoms are determined by the
pressure, force, temperature and other environmental factors around the solids, at any
182 Instrumentation and Control Systems

moment. The atoms try to rearrange themselves so that the solid is always in equilibrium.
If the temperature increases, the atoms get more energy resulting in expansion of solids.
At this higher temperature, the solid establishes an equilibrium resulting in stable expanded
solid as long as this higher temperature remains constant. Similarly, if the force acting on
it increases, the arrangements of atoms get changed. This may change the physical
dimensions of the solid. When forces are removed, the atoms again rearrange themselves
to get its original shape. Note that this happens only within the elastic limit. This deformation
or change in dimension is called as strain. If we look at this in a broader sense it is
nothing but the displacement. When displacement is in the form of change in physical
dimension due to rearrangement of atoms caused by the external force, it takes the special
name strain.


It is obvious that if the length of the solid is more then the strain will be more for given
stress and vice versa. Also, various materials can obtain the same amount of strain by
applying the required load (force). So, just change in length(dimension) does not give any
useful information. It does not reflect the property of the material. But, the strain of unit
length is always constant for a given material. We wanted to study this property of the
given material. That is the reason why strain is always expressed as the ratio of change in
dimension to its original dimension.


Based on the Force Acting

1. Tensile strain
2. Compressive strain
3. Shear strain
Based on the Direction
1. Longitudinal strain
2. Lateral strain
Based on the Sign
1. Positive strain
2. Negative strain

9.3.1 Tensile Strain

When the test specimen is subjected to tensile force (the force which pulls apart/ elongates
the work piece), there is an increase in the length. The ratio of this increase in length to
its original length is called as tensile strain.
Strain Measurement 183

Tensile strain =
l Increase in length
l Original length


Fig. 9.1. Application of Tensile and Compressive Force on a Circular Rod

9.3.2 Compressive Strain

When the test specimen is subjected to compressive force (the force which pushes or
contracts the work piece), there is a decrease in the length. The ratio of this decrease in
length to its original length is called as compressive strain.
Compressive strain =
l Decrease in length
l Original length

9.3.3 Shear Strain

,X F

Fig. 9.2. Application of Shear Force and its Deformation

When the test specimen is subjected to a couple of force (the force which not acting on
the same line), there is a deformation. The ratio of change in position of any point (x),
along the direction of force to its length (l), perpendicular to the direction of force is called
as shear strain.
Shear strain =
X Change in position along the direction of force (as shown in Fig. 9.2)
l Original length perpendicular to the direction of force
184 Instrumentation and Control Systems

9.3.4 Positive Strain

If the change in dimension is positive, then the strain is called as Positive strain.
Positive strain =
l Change in length (always positive)
l Original length

9.3.5 Negative Strain

If the change in dimension is negative, then the strain is called as Negative strain.
Negative strain =
l Change in length (always negative)

9.3.6 Longitudinal Strain

If the direction of change in length coincides with longitudinal axis then the strain is called
as Longitudinal strain.

9.3.7 Lateral Strain

If the direction of change in length coincides with the lateral axis then the strain is called
Lateral strain.


It is obvious that the strain has no units, as it is change in length divide by original length,
both length units get cancelled. Do you say length of my pen is 0.0002 km. certainly no!
Because the smaller length can be expressed well with other units like cm, mm etc., for
similar reason, strain is expressed in terms of mm/m and such. But now it became a
practice and we started using inch/inch, cm/cm etc., while we do so one should note that
there is no need of unit conversions. Meaning 1cm/cm has same meaning as 1m/m or
1inch/inch. Some manufacturers use commercially micro strain as unit. 5 micro strain
means 5 micron/meter, when the strain is uniform through out the length. If the strain is
not uniform, as in the case of bending of beam, it simply indicates the local strain where
the strain gauge is place.


1. Mechanical strain gauges
2. Optical strain gauges
3. Acoustical strain gauges
Strain Measurement 185

4. Semi-conductor strain gauges

5. Electrical strain gauges

9.5.1 Mechanical Strain Gauges

As the amount of strain is very small, it requires greater amplification. In early twentieth
century, the mechanical elements such as levers, gears, and wedges are used to amplify
motion. The gauge shown in Fig. 9.3 uses lever as amplification element and dial gauge
to measure the amplified strain. These mechanical gauges have the following
1. It is bulky and can measure only average strain over the long gauge length.
2. It cannot be used to measure strain on steep gradient surface.
3. Friction, inertia and lost motion also affect the lever performance.
4. It cannot be used for dynamic (time varying) strain measurements.

Dial gage

Fig. 9.3. Mechanical Strain Gauge

Another improved version of mechanical strain gauge, often called extensometer is
still widely used. But it uses electrical strain gauge for its operation. The extensometer has
a knife-edge and a wire spring that presses tensile specimen against knife-edge. The
elongation of specimen makes the arm to move and deflect the flexural elements. The
electrical strain gauge on these elements gives corresponding voltage output.

Top arm


Cross flexure

Bottom arm
Vertical flexure

Fig. 9.4. Extensometer
186 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Fluxtural element Change in Change in Display

strain bending resistance voltage

Fig. 9.5. Block Diagram Extensometer

9.5.2 Optical Strain Gauges

The development in laser such as gas and ruby, which are monochromatic, collimated
and coherent light sources, led many developments in strain gauge. We consider diffraction
strain gauge only here. The diffraction strain gauge has two blades at a distance of g as
shown in Fig. 9.6. The laser is directed on to this gap to produce diffraction pattern that
appears as a line of dots on a screen, which is located at longer distance compared
to g.
g Rn ( y 0 y1 )
The strain = =
l l y 0 y1
Wavelength of light
R Distance between the blade and screen
n Order of excitation
y0 value of y before deformation
y1 value of y after deformation
l gauge length

L Screen



Light source l en

Fig. 9.6. Optical Diffraction Strain Gauge

Strain Measurement 187

Zero strain

1000 microstrain

2000 microstrain
Fig. 9.7. Optical Diffraction Strain Gauge Result

9.5.3 Acoustical Strain Gauge

Tension screw

steel wire
Fixed knife edge

Leaf spring

movable knife edge

Fig. 9.8. Acoustical Strain Gauge

There are two knife-edges, one fixed and the other movable, which is mounted in
bearing suspension and is free to elongate with specimen. Steel wire starts from a tension
screw passes through fixed knife-edge through a small hole and connected to movable
knife-edge. The movable knife-edge is connected to another tension screw through a leaf
spring. There are two small electromagnets to make the wire vibrate. One magnet is used
to make wire vibrate at its natural frequency and the other is to pick up the system
vibration and uses as feedback to keep the wire vibrating at its natural frequency. This
gauge is called test gauge. There is an identical unit called reference gauge, except
micrometers are placed instead of knife-edges.
The test gauge is mounted on the specimen and the reference gauge is placed near to it
to compensate for temperature effects. Both the gauges are energized and each wire will
emit a musical note. Beat will occur when the frequencies of both wires do not match. The
188 Instrumentation and Control Systems

reference gauge micrometer is adjusted until the beat stops. The micrometer reading is
The gauge is made to experience strain. The change in tension of the wire changes
the frequency of vibration. Due to this frequency change the beat will occur. Again we
adjust the reference gauge micrometer till the beat vanishes. Now, the micrometer reading
is taken. The difference between the two readings is proportional to strain. The strain and
frequency of vibration is connected by the formula
1 E
f =
L - Length of the wire between two supports
E Modulus of elasticity
- Strain
- Density of the wire

9.5.4 Semi-Conductor Strain Gauge

Semi-conductors such as silicon, germanium, boron and arsenic are used as resistive
materials for semi-conductor strain gauges. A strain sensitive crystal and leads are covered
with protective matrix. The semi-conductor technology is used for manufacturing from
wafer of thickness 0.05 mm and bonding them with suitable insulating substrates. The
change in sensitivity sue to strain is used as a measure of strain. The relation between
sensitivity, strain and resistivity is given by

s = 1 + 2 +


For metallic conductors, 1+2g 1.5 and = 0.5 to 2.0 for common strain gauge

alloys. For semi-conductor materials can be varied from 100 to +200 by choosing

type and concentration of impurity. Thus very high sensitivity is possible. The negative
gauge factor is used advantageously in wheatstone bridge especially when multiple strain
gauges are used. In semi-conductor strain gauge the resistivity and the change in resistance
is very high. The grid shape to increase the length and thus to increase the change in
resistance is not required. The size is extremely small in the range of 0.7 to 7mm. The
linearity is poor and the effect of temperature is high. It is difficult to fix it to specimen
and it is expensive.

9.5.5 Electrical Strain Gauges

Electrical strain gauges may be of one of the following types depends on the sensing
Strain Measurement 189

1. Resistance type strain gauge

2. Capacitance type strain gauge
3. Inductance type strain gauge
The capacitance and inductance type strain gauges work in a very similar way to that
of displacement transducer discussed in displacement measurement. Here, we take up
resistance type strain gauges and discuss in detail.


Resistivity is the property of the material, which offers resistance to the flow of current per
unit length of the given material.
Piezo Resistivity
The property of change in resistivity due to strain is called Piezo resistivity.
Gauge Factor (GF)
The gauge factor is the ratio of change in resistance per unit resistance to strain. It is given
by the expression
Gauge factor = R
R change in resistance
R Original resistance or Initial resistance
The gauge factor in fact tells how much change will be there for a given strain. If the
gauge factor is more then there will be large change in resistance, which makes the
measurement easy and accurate. On the other hand, if the gauge factor is small then there
will be only less change in resistance, which leads to scale limitations


Consider appropriate length of a suitable material strained within the elastic limits. The
change in the physical dimensions of the conductor will cause a change in its resistance.
The resistance of a conductor of length L, uniform cross-section A and uniform resistivity
is given by
R =
Resistivity of the material
L length of the conductor
A Cross-section area
190 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Taking logarithms on both sides

loge R = loge + loge L loge A
Differentiating the expression with respect to R,
1 1 d 1 dL 1 dA
= +
R dR L dR A dR
taking dR outside common and bringing to left side of equation

dR d dL dA
= +
The area may be related to the square of some transverse dimension, such as diameter
D of the conductor.
A = C * D2
Where C is a constant; its value being unity for a square cross-section of dimension
D and /4 for a circular cross-section of diameter D.
Take logarithm on both side,
log A = log C + 2 log D
Differentiating with respect to A,
1 2 dD
= 0+ [Differentiation of constant=0]
A d dA
bringing dA to left hand side, we have,
dA 2dD
substituting this in dR/R expression,
dR d dL 2dD
= +
Dividing throughout by dL/L, we get gauge factor as,

dR d 2dD
+1 D
dL = dL dL

As poisons ratio () is the ratio of longitudinal train by lateral strain which is given
by= D , the gauge factor expression reduces to
L d

+ 1 + 2
Gauge factor = dL
Strain Measurement 191

For many metals, the resistivity does not vary with strain, i.e., the Piezo-resistive term
is vanishing small, and then the gauge factor is a function of Poisson ratio only:
F = 1 + 2
It is apparent from the result that for any given value of the original gauge resistance
and the unit strain, the change in resistance will vary directly with the gauge factor. Hence
the magnitude of gauge factor indicates the sensitivity of the gauge. A high gauge factor is
desirable because that would give a large change in resistance for a given strain input,
thereby necessitating less sensitive readout circuitry. It is worthwhile to mention that for
most commercial strain gauges the value of gauge factor is same for both tensile and
compressive strains.


Wheatstone bridge is the simplest circuit used for measuring the change in resistance. Note
that it is not just resistance but change in resistance. It consists of a galvanometer and 4
resistance arms as shown in Fig. 9.9. The strain gauge is connected to one of these 4 arms
as resistive element. The excitation source can be DC or DC If the source is AC then any
combination of resistor, capacitor and inductor can be used as the circuit element. But id
it is DC source, then only resistor can be used. Initially, the bridge circuit is balanced when
there is no strain. The galvanometer will read zero reading. Meaning the following ratio is
R1 R
= 3
R2 R4
When there is a change in anyone/ combination of resistances, which will break the
above relation, then the unbalanced voltage will be read by the galvanometer.



i2 A i1
R4 R1



Fig. 9.9. Wheatstone Bridge

Consider a DC excited wheatstone bridge as shown in the Fig. 9.9. Let R1, R2, R3 and R4
be the resistance values at balance.
192 Instrumentation and Control Systems

i1R1 = i2R4 and i1R2 = i2R3

i1 R R R R
= 4 = 3 1 = 4
i2 R1 R2 R2 R3
This is an important relation in bridge circuit.
Then voltage at B, VB is given by,
VB = i1R1
i1 =
R1 + R 2
[R1 and R2 are in series, therefore Rtotal=R1+R2]
VB =
R1 + R2
Similarly, voltage at D, VD is given by

VD =
R3 + R4
we pose a condition, R1=R2 and R3=R4 at balance.
The unbalanced voltage, e0 = VB VD

R1 R4
e0 = E
R1 + R 2 R3 + R4
let R1, R2, R3, and R4 be the changes in resistance values.

R1 + R1 R4 + R4
e0 = E
R1 + R1 + R2 + R2 R3 + R3 + R4 + R4
since R1=R2 and R3 = R4,

R1 + R1 R4 + R4
e0 = E
2R1 + R1 + R2 2R4 + R3 + R4
taking R1 from first part and R3 from the second part of the equation,
R R 4
1+ 1 1+
R1 R4
e0 = E
2 + R1 + R2 2 + R3 = R4
R1 R1 R3 R4
Differential change in resistance R is small, and multiplication of such two quantities
is negligibly small, hence neglected.
Strain Measurement 193

R R3 R4 R4 R1 R2
2+2 1 + + 22
R1 R3 R4 R4 R1 R2
= E
R1 R2 R3 R4
2 + + 2 + +
R1 R2 R3 R4
On simplification,
E R1 R2 R3 R4
e0 = 4 +
R1 R2 R3 R4
The Modes of Operation of Strain Gauge
1. Quarter bridge or one-arm configuration
2. Half bridge or two-arm configuration
3. Full bridge or four-arm configuration

9.9.1 Quarter Bridge or One-Arm Configuration

Active SG


Fig. 9.10. Quarter Bridge Configuration

Only one arm is connected to strain gauge, while other three arms connected to fixed
resistors, the configuration is called one-arm or quarter bridge configuration. The unbalanced
voltage is given by
E R1
e0 =
4 R1
The corresponding strain would be
4 e0
GF (1 + 2e0 )
If the length of the wire connecting the strain gauge is considerably big, then,

4 e0
= 1 + R1

GF (1 + 2e0 ) Rg
Rl Resistance of wire
Rg Resistance of gauge
GF Gauge factor
194 Instrumentation and Control Systems

9.9.2 Half-Bridge or Two-Arm Configuration

Both R1 and R2 are active. i.e., in place of R1 and R2, the strain gauges are attached.
The change in resistance in R2 will be subtracted from change in resistance in R1. So, R2
is mounted such that (R1 R2) gives useful information.
Active SG



Active SG
Fig. 9.11. Half Bridge Configuration
Example 1: Bending measurement
R1 (Rg + A)

R1 (Rg - A)

Fig. 9.12. Cantilever Beam Subjected to Bending

E R1 R2
The unbalanced voltage is given by e0 =
4 R1 R2
Setting R1 = R2,
e0 = (R1 R2 )
the corresponding strain considering wire resistance
2 e0 R1
= 1 +
Example 2: Axial strain measurement

F R1 R2 F

Fig. 9.13. Axial Strain Measurement

4 e0
strain = 1 + Rl
GF [(1 + ) 2 e0 ( 1)] R1

Considering wire resistance,

Strain Measurement 195

4 e0
strain = 1 + Rl
GF [(1 + ) 2 e0 ( 1)] R1
Bridge Constant
It is the ratio of the actual bridge output to that of a single gauge sensing the maximum
strain while other bridge resistances remains fixed. It is denoted by k.
4 0
k =
e0 Unbalanced voltage of wheatstone bridge
ei excitation voltage
e Maximum strain
GF gauge factor.


The sub-classification of resistance type strain gauge is given below.
1. Unbonded strain gauge
2. Bonded strain gauge
(a) Wire type
(b) Foil type
(c) Semi-conductor type

9.10.1 Unbonded Type

The unbonded strain gauge has a movable frame on a fixed frame. There are few pins on
both the frames and these are insulated to isolate the resistance wire from other parts.
A high tensile wire of fine diameter is wound around the insulating pins tightly as shown
in Fig. 9.14. Light springs are used to hold the movable frame in balanced position.
The ends of the wire are connected to the Wheatstone bridge.
This type is widely used in measurement of force, pressure and allied variables. It can
be mounted and removed frequently as it is unbonded type. Sometimes it is not used
measurement of strain because of it occupies more space.

Fig. 9.14. Unbonded Type Strain Gauge

196 Instrumentation and Control Systems

9.10.2 Bonded Type Strain Gauge

Wire Type
A fine resistance wire of diameter 0.025 mm is folded to a form as shown in Fig. 9.15. (For
reasons refer general constructional features). To protect this wire, it is placed between two
carrier base like paper, Teflon etc., for electrical connection purpose the ends of the wire
is kept out with a small length.

Fig. 9.15. Wire Type Strain Gauge

The whole unit is attached/pasted to the place where we need to measure the strain
using some adhesives. This puts a constraint that we cannot remove and fix frequently.
Foil Type

Fig. 9.16. Foil Type Strain Gauge

Drawing the required shape on the foil produces the foil type element and unwanted
portions of the foil are etched away using suitable acid. This is same as printed circuit
board manufacturing and enables us to produce the foil of 0.02 mm thickness of any shape
with good dimensional accuracy.

9.10.3 General Constructional Features

Resistive Element
It is the signal (strain) sensing element or transducing element, which is normally used in
the form of either foil or wire. A question may arise, why cant we use a solid rectangular
block or simply a sheet of metal, as strain gauge? When we apply a tensile force, not only
the length increases but also the area decreases. If the resistive element is in the form of
Strain Measurement 197

rectangular block, the same changes are reflected in the sensing element. This causes the
change in resistance. Now, the display unit will read the combined strain of both increase
in length and decrease in area. But we are interested in measurement of strain in one
direction or more than one direction separately, not in the combined strain. The similar
effects will happen in other cases also (not only in tensile strain). In order to make the
strain negligible in the unwanted directions, the sensing element is used in the form of foil
or wire.
If the length of the wire is more, then the change in resistance also will be more;
hence it can be easily measured using voltmeter. But practically, the area, where the strain
measurement is to be made lays the space limitation. And also, it is always designers
dream to make the instruments handy. Now is the problem! we cannot have the sensing
element in the form of sheet metal and wire with long length for more accurate and
versatile measurement. This can be solved by making the sheet of metal in the form of bent
(folded) wire as shown in Fig. 9.17. If the transverse strain exists, it will unfold the strain
gauge element rather than straining in transverse direction.
Power Source
The strain gauge is connected to a power source. The power source can be AC or DC,
although DC is desirable.
Active direction

Inactive direction Inactive direction

Active direction
Fig. 9.17. Active and Inactive Direction of Strain Gauge Element

Wheatstone Bridge


R2 R4

Fig. 9.18. Wheatstone Bridge Circuit for Strain Measurement

Wheatstone bridge is the simplest circuit used for measuring the change in resistance.
Note that it is not just resistance but change in resistance. It consists of a galvanometer and
4 resistance arms as shown in Fig. 9.18. The strain gauge is connected to one of these 4
198 Instrumentation and Control Systems

arms as resistive element. Initially, the bridge circuit is balanced when there is no strain.
Meaning the following ratio is true.
R1 R3
R2 R4

9.10.4 Dummy Strain Gauge

Dummy SG



Active SG
Fig. 9.19 Wheatstone Bridge Circuit with Dummy Gauge
Let us say, the gauge is calibrated at 25C. As long as it is used in the same temperature,
it is working properly. When the difference between the calibrated temperature and the
temperature at which the gauge is used is more, then the gauge starts reading abnormally.
If the temperature difference is positive, the gauge will read more than actual value and
if it is negative, the gauge will read less than the actual value as discussed earlier. For
example let us say, the change in resistance due to temperature difference, is 5ohms. Now,
arm 4 will have the total resistance of (R4+5) ohms. This 5 ohms is the error due to
temperature difference. How to take care of this error? The fact we know about the
Wheatstone bridge is that, if we increase the same 5 ohms to R3 by some means, then the
difference between the resistances is nullified. Because the galvanometer is going to read
the change in resistance which breaks the balance. But how to increase the same resistance
always (say 5 ohms in this case) which will vary, as the measurement condition changes?
There is a saying in Tamil, which means, remove the throne (from the body) with the
help of throne. We are going to nullify the error due to temperature with the help of the
same temperature. We use one more strain gauge, which is subjected to the same temperature
as the arm 3-resistance element in the bridge. So, the change in resistance due to temperature
is same in both the arm 3 and the arm 4 of the bridge. Note that to keep the ratio of R2 and
R3 constant, both the strain gauges should have the same resistance value. As the second
strain gauge is not involved in the measurement, it is called Dummy strain gauge.

R1 R2

R3 R4

Fig. 9.20 Wheatstone Bridge Circuit with Dummy Gauge for Temperature Compensation
Strain Measurement 199

Adjustment Knobs
Two knobs are provided to change the bridge resistance value. This is used for balancing
the bridge.

Change in Change in
Displacement Display
resistance voltage

Fig. 9.21 Block Diagram Strain Gauge

Initially the Wheatstone bridge is balanced to read the zero value. This process is
called zero setting. This is accomplished by adjusting the coarse and fine tune knobs.
When strain is sensed by the strain gauge, there is a change in resistance corresponding
to the strain. This change in resistance will change the voltage drop across it. The
galvanometer will show a reading corresponding to this change in resistance. If the meter
is calibrated in terms of strain, it can be directly read from the galvanometer. Instead of
galvanometer, digital display units are also can be connected.

9.10.5 Gauge Rosettes

When the direction of force and the direction of strain is known then, we fix the strain
gauge such that the active direction coincides with the strain direction. In some force
system the resultant force direction is not known or in some structures, we need the strain
in more than one direction. In such cases, one active strain gauge will not serve the
purpose. So, we need to go for more number of strain gauges normally 2 or 3. It can be
placed adjacent to each other at desired angle, so that the strain in each direction can be
measured independent of others. But, some cases, the space limitation may be there. This
can be tackled by placing the strain gauges one above the other and bonded firmly to the
structure. Note that there should not be any electrical contact between the gauges. The
arrangement of strain gauges in order to measure the strain in more than one direction or
in an unknown direction is called rosette. The commonly used rosettes are shown in the
Fig. 9.22.

120 120


Fig. 9.22 Strain Gauge Configurations (Rosette)

200 Instrumentation and Control Systems

9.10.6 Lead Wire Effects

In bridge circuit based strain measurement lead wire can cause error due to two reasons.
1. The resistance changes in lead wire, which is indistinguishable from resistance
change in gauge
2. Lead wire desensitization. It becomes significant when lead resistance exceeds
0.1% of the gauge resistance.
The main reason for lead resistance change is temperature difference. As lead wire
resistance and gauge resistance are in series, any change in these, leads to error.
The effect is seen in configuration shown in Fig. 9.23, as the change in resistance
occurs in ad only. In three wire method, as shown in Fig. 9.24, the change in resistance
occurs in PQ and MN which forms adjacent sides of the bridge and cancels each other.
The temperature compensation is possible, because the change in resistance is equal in
adjacent arms. The change in resistance in ln is not very significant, because a very small
current passes through it due to high impedance of voltage measuring instrument.



b G d

R2 R3

Fig. 9.23. lead Wire Effect

P n

1 RL

G m

R2 R3

Fig. 9.24 Modified Circuit for Lead Wire Effect

9.10.7 Special Issues

1. Mounted Gauge Resistance
It is unstrained resistance after mounting on the work piece without electrical wiring.
There will be a variation in nominal value of resistance of strain gauge before and after
installation. The variation is normally around 2%. If it is more than 2%, there is a chance
for damage of gauge.
Strain Measurement 201

2. Gauge Isolation Resistance

It is the isolation resistance from gauge grid to specimen measured before electrical wiring.
This very important especially with conducted materials. The resistance should be measured
using ohmmeter, and not with high-voltage insulation tester. The high voltage may damage
the gauge. Typical, well-installed setup will have isolation resistance of 1000 M. If it is
less than 200 M then there may be a continuation is gauge, which will act parallel to
gauge resistance and introduce error in the measurement.
3. Error Sources
The error sources in that may occur in typical strain measurement are:
1. Voltage induced
2. Capacitive coupling
3. Resistive leakage
4. Gauge bond etc,
Now there are two issues to be addressed. One how to identify the voltage due to error
source, and the other how to nullify them.
The induced voltage may be static offset as in the case of thermally induced voltage
(or) a time varying one such as magnetically induced voltage. To fined out voltage due to
error sources, we switch on all equipments which will be operating during the measurement
and switch off the excitation supply.
This enables all possible error sources, which will interfere in strain measurement.
Take many bridge output readings. If it is near to zero, then, it is O.K. If the voltage is not
zero and not varying, then the voltage is thermally induced. If the time varying cyclic
voltage may be due to capacitive coupling, Resistive leakage (or) magnetic coupling to
interfering source. An erratic voltage could be due to an open input to voltmeter.
Thermally induced voltages are due to thermocouple effect at dissimilar metal junction
with temperature difference. Magnetically induced voltage occurs when time varying
magnetic field is present near wiring. The magnetic induction can be controlled by the use
of twisted lead wires, and in severe conditions magnetic shielding for wire is required.
Now, we switch on the excitation voltage. The heat dissipated by circuit component may
also contribute to thermally induced voltage. When everything described till how is all
right, make all connections ready for measurements. Apply little pressure with rubber
piece and take the reading. Before and after the application of pressure, if the both are same
or very close then bonding of gauge is good. If it varies randomly, then the gauge bonding
may be damaged (or) needs replacement.
Shunt verification
In unbalanced bridge method strain measurement, we place a known value resistance in
parallel to any of resistance in the bridge and measure corresponding output. Since we
know change in resistance exactly, we can check/verify the proper functioning of instrument
and gain confidence in test setup. Typically 10500 K resistance is used, so that less than
1 mA current flows through it.
202 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Carrier matrix
Optical fibers


Fig. 9.25. Strain Gauge Construction

The diameter of wire or thickness of foil is around 25 . Normally, it will buckle and
cannot take compressive load. Then, how does the strain gauge take compressive load? If
you look at the typical manufacturing process, the strain gauge element is pasted to carrier
matrix with a help of cement and allowed it to dry and settle for about 5 to 6 hours with
a small weight on it to apply moderate pressure. After curing process the cement fills the
entire gap between gauge element and carrier matrix as shown in Fig. 9.25. So, the wire
cannot buckle, rather no space for wire to buckle and thus it can take compressive load
and undergoes compressive strain.
Why the thickness of gauge element is thicker in the ends (loop ends) compared to
other elements in strain gauge? We intend to measure strain in active direction of strain
gauge and installation is also done accordingly. But the loop (refer Fig. 9.26), senses the
strain in the lateral direction (perpendicular to direction of interest), which is a potential
error source and is to be reduced. We know resistance R = . If we increase area for
given length, the resistance will decrease in that area. Using this idea, to reduce resistance
in loop area, to reduce error, the length is to be small and thickness of the foil is to be

Less thickness

More thickness

Fig. 9.26. Strain Gauge Element

2 60 3

60 60

Fig. 9.27. Delta Configuration
Strain Measurement 203

If we do not know the direction of strain, how do we fix the direction of strain gauge?
If we are interested to know the maximum strain and the direction of the maximum strain,
then we place three strain gauges in triangular fashion as shown in Fig. 9.27.
1 2
p,q = 1 + 2 + 3 2 (1 2 ) + (2 3 ) + (3 1 )
2 2

E 1 + 2 + 3 1 2
2 (1 2 ) + (2 3 ) + (3 1 )
2 2
p.q =
3 1 1+

1 3 ( 2 3 )
p,q = tan 1
2 21 2 3

Rectangular Configuration

3 45


Fig. 9.28. Rectangular Configuration

( 1 3 ) + (22 1 3 )
2 2
p,q = 1 + 2

E 1 + 3 1
(1 3 ) + (22 1 3 )
2 2
p.q =
2 1 1 +

1 (22 1 3 )
p,q = tan 1
2 ( )
1 3
p,q Principle strains
p,q Principle stress
p,q Angle from gauge 1 to nearest principle axis when < 90 and positive.
If we want to find strain along any other axis, then suitable rosette configuration can
be selected and used.


When temperature changes, the error is introduced in strain measurement due to the
following reasons.
204 Instrumentation and Control Systems

1. Expansion of gauge material changes resistance.

2. Gauge factor changes with temperature.
3. Differential expansion, if specimen and gauge material are different.
4. Creep, if operating temperature is above 200C and measurement is done for
long time.
1. Expansion of Gauge Material Changes Resistance
As we discussed earlier, solids are made up of atoms where the atoms are in equilibrium.
At absolute zero temperature (though practically difficult to achieve, for the sake of
discussion), the atoms are in a fixed position. When current is passed, the electron can
move freely as there is no restriction.
When the temperature increases the energy level of the atom increases and it starts
vibrating about a mean position. The amplitude of this vibration is directly proportional
to the temperature. The vibration causes obstruction to the freely moving electrons. Meaning
it increases the resistance to the current flow. Thus, the resistance of a metal is function
of temperature. The change in resistance due to temperature change is given by
R = R0 T
R Change in resistance due to temperature change
Linear temperature co-efficient. ( 0.004/C)
T Change in temperature
R0 Initial resistance value.
During strain measurement (especially in industries), the temperature is not same
always, in all areas. The strain gauges are designed and calibrated at particular temperature
(say, at room temperature). If the temperature where the strain measurement is done is
more than the design temperature of the gauge, the strain gauge will read more than the
actual value. Obviously, if the temperature where the strain measurement is done is less
than the design temperature of the gauge, the strain gauge will read less than the actual
value. If the strain, which is being measured, is very small and this lesser temperature
reduces the reading, there is a possibility that the gauge reads even zero. In order to
measure the strain exactly, this effect has to be nullified by some means.
2. Differential Expansion, if Specimen and Gauge Material are Different
If the specimen material is different from gauge material, the thermal expression co-efficient
will be different and the amount of expansion/contraction will be different for a given
temperature change. So, the one, which expanded the more will pull the other material and
causes strain. This introduces an error in the reading.
Strain Measurement 205


Poissons Method

R1 R2

R3 R4

Fig. 9.29. Poissons Method for Temperature Compensation
Poissons ratio is the ratio of longitudinal strain to lateral strain. In this method, the
dummy strain gauge is mounted perpendicular to the active strain gauge. The active strain
gauge is supposed to measure longitudinal strain alone. But a small quantity of lateral
strain also present, obviously which is an error in the measurement apart from error due
to temperature difference. When the dummy gauge is mounted in the perpendicular direction,
it will measure the lateral strain. This reduces the error to some extend. Since the dummy
gauge is also exposed to the same measurement condition as that of active strain gauge, the
change in resistance due to temperature is same and hence it is nullified.
Two Active Gauge Method

R1 R2

R3 R4

Fig. 9.30. Two Active Gauge Method for Temperature Compensation

In case of cantilever beams/structures the temperature compensation is done by fixing
the dummy strain gauge on the other side of beams/structures precisely just below it or
above it. The active strain gauge is subjected to tension, so the corresponding resistance
increases. Dummy gauge is subjected to compression, so the corresponding resistance
206 Instrumentation and Control Systems

value decreases. The increase and decrease in resistance is same in magnitude hence
detection becomes easier (though sign is opposite). The effect of temperature is same on
both gauges, hence temperature effect is compensated.


The parameters considered in selection of strain gauge in the order of importance are:
1. Gauge length
2. Pattern geometry
3. Gauge series
4. Gauge resistance
5. S-T-C Number
6. Creep compensation code
1. Gauge Length

Fig. 9.31. The Strain Distribution Along the Cantilever

Consider an arrangement as shown in Fig. 9.31. The hole produces localized strain
concentration and x represents the length of maximum strain (uniform). The active strain
gauge length (including the end loops) should not be greater than x. This produces
maximum allowable signal output and low fatigue failure. The gauge length selection is
based on space availability, power dissipation requirements and cost and it is optimized
with in the range of 1.5 to 3 mm.
2. Pattern Geometry
It is basically to decide the grid width, multiple grid patterns or not, and tab geometry.
Wide grid width is preferred over narrow ones because of better power handling capability.
The multiple-grid pattern has the following advantages:
1. Alignment and installation are faster
2. Wiring tine is less, as it shares the common solder tabs
3. Thermal properties are almost identical and balancing of bridge becomes easier.
Strain Measurement 207

Tabs can be at one end or one on each end. If temperature difference along the gauge
length is more then both tabs should be at one end. Otherwise, the thermal e.m.f. will
affect the performance.

Fig. 9.32. Tabs Position of Strain Gauge

3. Gauge Series
It refers to the combination of grid alloy and carrier involved in the construction. Most
widely used carriers are polyamides, epoxies, and reinforced epoxies. Carrier or backing
material performs basically three functions.
1. It acts as a strain transfer medium from spring element (specimen) to strain
gauge. The capacity of strain transfer depends on the shear modulus. Higher
shear modulus materials perform better in higher temperatures, but they are less
flexible than the general-purpose strain gauges. So, based on the application, a
suitable material for carrier is to be selected.
2. It insulates the substrate material from conductive metal.
3. It provides a protection to strain gauge foil against damage during handling and
Constantan, karma, isoelastic alloys, and platinum-tungsten are commonly used
materials for grid. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Constantan, an alloy of
copper-nickel, has good linearity over a wide range. It is easy to manufacture with good
solderability and precise temperature compensation in bridge circuit is possible. But they
are slow, and exhibit irreversible drift in grid resistance above 75C. Since the drift increases
exponentially, it is not recommended for applications above 100C. However, using full-
bridge, as the drift is in same direction and in same quantity can eliminate small drifts.
Karma, an alloy of nickel and chromium, has not only good linearity but also posses
higher resistivity allowing high temperature operations. It can be used for dynamic strain
measurement, as its fatigue life is also high. But it is expensive and soldering requires
special soldering aids.
Isoelastic alloy has good fatigue life and gauge factor. But self-temperature-compensation
is difficult. So, it is restricted to only dynamic measurements. Platinumtungsten alloy is
also used for dynamic measurements. It has same problems as isoelastic alloys. But its
sensitivity is very high and hence finds application in low strain dynamic measurements.
It is costly and difficult to manufacture.
208 Instrumentation and Control Systems

4. Grid Resistance
The size of the gauge is mainly fixed by the nature of application. We would like to get
good sensitivity in the given size. There are two possibilities to improve sensitivity. Either
we can increase the excitation voltage or increase the gauge resistance. Increasing excitation
voltage to increase the sensitivity is at the cost of thermal problems. The power dissipation
rises as a square of excitation voltage and it is to be dissipated in the form of heat. It creates
lot of temperature related problems. By increasing resistance, these problems can be avoided.
For this reason higher gauge resistances are preferred.
5. Self-Temperature-Compensation (S-T-C Number)
Normally, half-bridge and full-bridge circuits are used for temperature compensation, under
the assumption that all strain gauges have identical characteristics and measure identical
temperature. But, practically, it is a rare phenomenon. A better way would be to match
thermal co-efficient of specimen to that of gauges and S-T-C number gives a measure of
thermal expansion co-efficient.
6. Creep Compensation Code
The specimen exhibits creep under static loading for prolonged period of time. If the
specimen shows positive creep, it is possible to compensate it with a gauge, which will
show negative creep of same magnitude. It is expressed as a code in strain gauge like p,
t, q etc., The meaning of that can be obtained from the manufacturers catalog.

1. Small size to measure local strain and low mass (inertia) to measure dynamic
strain also. (strain that varies with time).
2. Good linearity over widerange of strain.
3. Low and predictable thermal effects allow suitable compensation and correction.
4. Low cost and durable and stable with time at all environmental conditions.
5. The output of transducer is change in resistance and insensitive to supply
voltage frequency, unlike capacitance/inductance type.

1. Organic components such as adhesives, carriers and protective components can
be used only in the range of 50C to 250C.
2. Stable amplification and controlled excitation voltage is necessary for accurate
measurement. Otherwise signal-to-noise ratio is less.
3. Installation should be done very carefully, the performance is affected by the
procedure used to bond the gauge, wire them to circuit etc.
Strain Measurement 209


1. Define strain, types of strain.
2. What is longitudinal strain and lateral strain?
3. What are strain gauges?
4. Explain mechanical strain gauge.
5. Explain optical strain gauge working.
6. Explain acoustical strain gauge.
7. Explain electrical strain gauge working.
8. Explain Wheatstone bridge network and describe about one-arm configuration, two-arm and
four-arm configuration.
9. Explain bounded and unbounded strain gauge.
10. Explain various temperature compensation techniques.
11. Define gauge rosettes.
12. How do we select a gauge? Explain the parameters.


In this chapter, we will discuss about the level measuring devices. After completing this
chapter, you will be able to:
Describe the need for level measurement and application area.
Describe pneumatic and electronic amplifiers.
Understand the function of operational amplifiers and its applications.
Describe need and types of filters, and design a RC filter for given specification.


Liquid level refers to the position or height of a liquid surface with respect to a datum line.
It is a measure of the quantity of liquid held within a container. Level gives a direct

Liquid Level Measurement 211

indication of the volume of liquid contained in a container. Moreover level affects both the
pressure and rate of flow of liquid in and out of the container. Hence, it plays a major role
in measurement and control.


1. Direct Methods
In this method the varying level is directly measured. It is fairly simple and does not
require complicated set up.
2. Indirect Methods
In indirect method, a variable changing with the liquid level is made to accurately show
the liquid level reading.


In direct liquid level measurement, the devices used may be dip stick, lead lines, sight
glass or gauge glass. They are briefly described below.
1. Dip Sticks and Lead Lines
A dipstick is essentially a stick or rod that is calibrated to indicate level. The dipstick is
lowered vertically into a tank or vessel until it reaches a reference point. Usually the
bottom of the tank is used to ensure that the dipstick is inserted to the correct depth. The
dipstick is then withdrawn and the level is ready by determining where the interface last
made contact with the dipstick. Reading the scale on the dipstick indicates the level
A lead line acts in the same way as a dipstick. A steel measuring tape with a weight
attached, the lead line can be used in most places that the dipstick can. Since the lead line
can be rolled up into a smaller, compact unit, it is often easier to handle than a dipstick.
2. Sight Glasses and Gauge Glasses
The sight glass is an important method for visually
determining level. The sight glass is a transparent
tube of glass or plastic mounted outside the vessel
Glass tube
and connected to the vessel with pipes. The liquid
level in the sight glass matches the level of liquid in
the process tank. Liquid

In process systems that contain a liquid under Scale

high pressure a reflex sight glass is used. This device
is robust which can tolerate higher temperatures and
higher pressures. Gauge glasses are typically glass-
covered ports in a vessel that make it possible to Fig. 10.1. Sight Glass
212 Instrumentation and Control Systems

observe the level of the substance in the vessel. Many gauge glasses will have a scale
mounted on the tank that allows the level to be read.


Indirect level measurement involves converting measurements of some other quantity,
such as pressure to level by determining how much pressure is exerted over a given area
at a specific measuring point. The height of the substance above that measuring point can
also be determined.

10.4.1 Float Devices

These devices operate by float movement with a change in level. This movement is then
used to convey a level measurement. An object of lower density than the process liquid
is placed in the vessel, causing it to float on the surface. The float rises and falls with the
level, and its position is sensed outside the vessel to indicate level measurement.

10.4.2 Float Gauge

The float gauge is a simple, inexpensive, yet practical means of continuously indicating
liquid levels in tanks and reservoirs. It also is used extensively as a reference gauge in
stilling wells to check the record accuracy on water level recorders. The Float gauge
consists of a copper float, a pulley mounted on a standard counterweight. A graduated
stainless steel tape is attached to the float with an adjustable clamp and connected at the
other end to the counterweight. The pulley standard has an adjustable index for precision

10.4.3 Hydrostatic Pressure Devices

A liquid at rest in a vessel exerts a pressure. At any given point, the pressure is proportional
to the vertical distance between that point and the surface of the liquid. Thus, the pressure
varies with the height of the liquid. The relationship between the weight produced by the
vertical height of a column of water and the pressure exerted at a point on the liquid of
the vessel can be used to determine level. The relationship between pressure and level
makes it possible to convert hydrostatic measurements directly to level in feet or inches
or meter.
For example, the formula used to determine the height of water in an open tank is:
h =
h Height,
P Static pressure indicated on a gauge,
For substances other than water, the specific gravity of the liquid (the ratio of the
density of liquid to density of water) used for the level calculation.
Liquid Level Measurement 213

h =
g (G Specific gravity of water)
G specific gravity
Temperature can affect the accuracy of indirect level measurement. Substances have
a tendency to expand when heated and contract when cooled. Gases are greatly affected
by changes in temperature, while solids are affected very little. Because indirect level
measurement is sensitive to specific gravity and the effects of temperature, it is necessary
to compensate for these factors to ensure accurate measurement.

10.4.4 Air Bubble Liquid Level Sensors

Air flow meter
Pressure gauge

Pressure regulator

Fig. 10.2. Air Bubble Level Sensor

It is known by various names, including an air bubble, a surge tube, an air purge and
a dip tube. It uses a continuous air supply that is connected to a tube that extends into
the tank to a point that represents the minimum level line. An air regulator controls the
airflow. It increases airflow to the tube until all liquid is forced from the tube. At this
pressure and flow rate, the air begins to bubble out of the bottom of the tube. This
indicates that the air pressure forcing the liquid out of the tube is equal to the hydrostatic
head produced by the height of the liquid being forced into the tube. The air pressure
acting against the hydrostatic head provides the pressure indication to the gauge.
This is most useful for applications such as underground tanks and water wells.
However, as with other hydrostatic pressure systems, the major limitation of these systems
is that they are generally limited to open-tank applications.
214 Instrumentation and Control Systems


10.5.1 Float Operated Rheostat

The float position changes with a change in the liquid level of the liquid in the container.
The float displacement actuates an arm, which causes a slider to move over a rheostat. The
circuit resistance change is proportional to the liquid level in the tank. By measuring the
change in resistance, the level is measured.


Float Slider


Fig. 10.3. Float Operated Rheostst

10.5.2 Gamma Ray Liquid Level Sensor

It is based on the principle that the intensity of gamma rays reaching a Geiger-Muller tube
varies with the height of the liquid column between the gamma ray source and detector.
Higher the liquids level lower the detector output. The output is measured and correlated
with the level of liquid in the tank.
Level measurement is divided into two streams, point level measurement and
continuous level measurement. As the name implies, point level sensors are used to
measure a single discrete point. Continuous level sensors provide a complete level
monitoring of a system.

10.5.3 Float Switches

This is a basic point level sensor. A magnet equipped
float actuates the hermetically sealed reed switch. This
hermetically sealed switch gives trouble free long life.
The float switch is designed to provide high repeatability,
due to minimizing effects of shock, vibration and pressure.
This type of switches enjoys advantages such as low Float

maintenance, simple installation. There are float switches Fig. 10.4. Float Switch
available as shown in Fig. 10.4 also. In this type, there is a float which makes a contact with
its counter part upon liquid reaching a specific level. Once the float is contacted, it gives an
electrical signal. That signal is used to know that the liquid level has reached the predetermined
level. This can also be used for control applications.
Liquid Level Measurement 215


10.6.1 Non-contact Ultrasonic Sensor

The non-contact ultrasonic level sensor consists of elements such as, a transmitter, sensor,
analog signal processor, microprocessor, binary coded decimal range switch, and an output
driver circuit. The microprocessor generates a series of transmitter pulses which passes
through analog signal processor to transmitter. The transmitter transmits ultrasonic beam to
the surface of water, then the surface of water transmit echo to the sensor, the sensor absorbs
echo from surface of water. This echo is transmitted to the analog signal processor, which
coverts echo to the signal, the signal passes to the microprocessor which processes the signal
into digital representation of the distance between the surfaces of water to sensor. The use
of ultrasonic waves is that they are most efficient in transmitting the echoes.



Fig. 10.5. Ultrasonic Sensor


Level measuring in vessels may look simple but in most of the industrial applications
traditional techniques such as piezometer cannot be used. Only in these cases capacitance
based level measuring techniques are used. This technique depends a lot upon material to
be measured. If the material has a corrosive action on the vessel, then it might be necessary
to coat the vessel with a lining made up of glass, rubber etc.
Let us consider lined metal vessel with a non conductive material such as a hydrocarbon
as the material in the vessel.
216 Instrumentation and Control Systems



Metal vessel


Fig. 10.6. Capacitance Based Level Sensor

The set up consists of a electrode insulated with a suitable material (preferably a
material of high capacitance) dipped in the centre of the vessel. The metal vessel is
grounded. The metal electrode and the grounded metal vessel act as the two plates of the
capacitor with electrode insulator, the measured material and the vessel lining acting as
the insulators in between. Since each of the materials of individual capacitances they can
be considered as three capacitances connected in series as shown in figure.
We know that,
Capacitance C = r 0 ( N 1)
C Capacitance of capacitor
A Effective area between plates
N Number of capacitor plates.
r Relative Permittivity of dielectric material.
0 Permittivity of free space (= 8.854*10 12 F/m)
As the level in the vessel changes, the value of the capacitance changes and with this
change in the value of capacitance, the level can be calibrated. This set up will work
perfectly if the vessel is linear. If the material to be measured is conductive in nature, the
same technique with slight modifications can be used. Since a conductive material does
not have the capability to store charges it does not have any capacitance.


There are also ways to measure the level by using a electrode which does not make contact
with the measured material. The electrode is kept parallel to the surface of the liquid to
be measured. As the level varies it is seen that the distance between the plates varies
whereas the area of the plates remain constant unlike the previously discussed methods.
Liquid Level Measurement 217

The approximated equation for equivalent capacitance becomes

Ceq = 0.225 (Kair Aair)/Dair + 0.225 (Kmatl x Amatl)/Dmatl
Since the area of the plates remains constant this equation can be re-modified into
C = 0.225 (Kair/Dair + Kmatl/Dmatl)
Electrode Electrode insulator

Distance Metal vessel


Fig. 10.7. Proximity Level Sensor

The disadvantage with this method is that the equivalent capacitance variation is not
linear with the level variation. All the capacitance based level measuring systems is
dependant on the conductivity of material used for measuring. So, it does not really matter
if the measured material is in the form of solid. The measured material can be in the form
of granules or heavy aggregates.


1. What is level? What are the different types of level measuring instruments?
2. Explain different types of indirect level measurement devices.
3. Explain hydro-static pressure devices for level measurement.
4. Explain different electric liquid level sensors.
5. Explain ultrasonic level sensor.
6. Explain capacitance based level sensor.


This chapter will consider the different force measurement devices. After reading this
chapter, you should be able to:
Answer what is force and its classification
Describe various force measuring devices and its descriptions
State the specifications of force measuring devices.

Let us first try to understand the meaning of force. The literal meaning of force is anything
against our desire. We feel that we are forced on the following situations.
1. We wanted to stick on to something but we may be forced to change.
2. We wanted to change something constantly/uniformly but we may be forced to
change from this pattern.
Force Measurement 219

Force means a similar one in the engineering sense also and can be defined as follows.
Force is one which changes/tends to change or deforms/tends to deform a body which is
at rest or moving uniformly in a straight line. This is a qualitative definition of a force.
Newtons second law gives the quantitative definition of force, which states that the rate
of change of momentum of a body is directly proportional to the applied force and takes
place in the direction of the force. Mathematically,
F = m a
F Force
m Mass
a Acceleration
As it is a law, one needs to understand this, with more of intuition. However, we shall
supplement the understanding by posing the following questions.
1. How the force is related with acceleration it creates?
2. How does the property (mass) of a body influence its ability to accelerate its motion
under the action of force?
The answer for the first question turns out to be very simple. The acceleration is
directly proportional to force.
a F
If no force is acting on a body, it can move only without acceleration. Conversely, the
action of a force accelerates a body. Moreover, greater force produces greater acceleration.
The clue to the later question is as follows. One and the same force acting on different
bodies will give them different accelerations. The bodies with more mass need more force
than the bodies with less mass to produce the same acceleration. Newtons second law
ascertains the following fact. Acceleration is directly proportional to the force acting and
inversely proportional to the mass of a body and does not depend on any other properties
of a body.


Often people confuse weight with mass. Weight is a force with which a body is attracted
by the earth. It depends on the gravitational force and hence it varies from place to place.
At pole a body weighs about 0.5% more than at the equator. In Moon a body weighs about
six times less than on earth. However, the ratio of weights of two bodies remains unchanged
under any condition.


There are four types of lever balances as given below:
1. Equal arm balance
2. Unequal arm balance
220 Instrumentation and Control Systems

3. Bent lever balance

4. Compound lever balance

11.3.1 Equal Arm Balance


Commodity Standard weight

Fig. 11.1. Equal Arm Balance

Working Principle
It works on the principle of lever arm. The lever arm principle states that at equilibrium,
the clockwise moment equals the counter clockwise moment. Moment is force times
perpendicular distance. By maintaining equal distance from the pivot point, force
equilibrium can be established.
Equal arm balance has a central stem and supports the arm at pivot point. The stem should
have sufficient strength to withstand the load, at least twice the maximum weight prescribed.
The top surface, where the pivot rests is hardened to reduce wear and tear. The pivot is
made up of knife-edge bearing with knife radius about 10 m. This radius is provided to
reduce the friction, which is a potential source of error. The arm is designed such that it
does not end during measurement. At the ends of the arm, there is a hook to hang pans.
From the center of the arm there is a pointer to indicate zero. A scale graduated with zero
at the center is fixed on the stem.
Standard weights are used to equal the weight of the commodity to be measured. This
device may be used in two modes depending upon the situation.
(i) Fixed mode
(ii) Variable mode
(i) Fixed Mode
In Fixed mode, weight of the commodity is fixed and kept on the left hand side pan. A
combination of standard weights is placed on right side pan to equal the moment produced
by the commodity. When the pointer reads zero, the sum of the standard weights is taken
as the weight of the commodity. e.g., Measuring a weight of a coconut.
Force Measurement 221

(ii) Variable Mode

In variable mode, the commodity weight is not constant. For example, we want to buy 1 kg
of sugar. In this mode the standard weight (1 kg in our example) is placed on the left hand
side pan and the commodity is varied to make the pointer read zero and take the reading.
Special case: Physical balance/Chemical balance/Analytical balance
High frictional torque due to more surface area explained above is not suitable for
high precision measurement. Applications like measuring chemicals for drugs and costly
materials like gold demands accuracy level of at least 5 mg. To suit these applications
physical balances are designed. While working principle remains same, the construction
has undergone extensive refinement. Figure 11.1 depicts many of the constructional features.
These knife-edge bearings are used (one at the center and two at the ends) to reduce
frictional torque by reducing contact surface area. The whole setup is kept inside the glass
box to avoid unnecessary disturbances due to air movement. While this device gives
sufficient accuracy one should note that there are electrical balances, which give accuracy
level of 0.1 mg or better.

11.3.2 Unequal Arm Balance

Working Principle





Fig. 11.2. Unequal Arm Balance

It also uses lever arm principle, which is mathematically given by,
w1 l1 = w2 l2
To measure large weight of commodity with the small standard weight, the length is
varied to equal the counter clockwise and clockwise moments.
Unequal arm balance has a graduated beam and a poise weight, which can slide on it.
Poise weight is a small weight with the pointer used for varying the force to counteract
weight. At one end of the beam there is a pointer and a weight hanger. The pointer, which
is free to move, can show reading on a graduated scale engraved on a fixed frame. In some
models, the graduated scale is replaced with a fixed zero to indicate zero. The beam can
oscillate about a fulcrum point O. To restrict larger oscillations, stoppers are provided.
Small weights can be added in the weight hanger. On the other side of the fulcrum point,
counter poise is provided. The counter poise is threaded to facilitate easy adjustment. As
the name indicates, it counteracts the poise weight.
222 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Counter balance Fulcrum

Poise weight Ref. zero

Fig. 11.3. Unequal Balance

The object whose weight is to be measured is placed on the platform meant for it. About
the fulcrum point O, the beam rotates on the counter clockwise direction. A stopper
stops this moment after allowing the beam to move to some extend. Then the poise weight
is moved until the pointer fixed on one end of the beam reads zero. Some standard weights
in small steps are added and adjust the poise weight to make the pointer read zero. When
the pointer reads zero, the calibrated scale directly gives the weight.

11.3.3 Compound Lever Balance

The working principle is same as unequal arm balance and it differs only in constructional
The compound lever balance is mainly used to weigh heavier and bulky objects. Naturally,
the weight is spread over an area and the spread need not be equal. Apart from unequal
arm ratio, certain constructional features stated below are crucial for better working of a
compound balance.
Counter balance Fulcrum
Poise weight
weight stopper


b a
w1 w w2

o3 o2 o1

f e
c d

Fig. 11.4. Compound Lever

Force Measurement 223

To simplify the analysis, let us assume that the poise weight lies at zero position and
the weight to be measured W i.e., acting at two places W1 and W2 as shown in Fig. 11.4.
The moment about fulcrum point O,
T b = WS a ...(11.1)
We need to find the design criteria, which gives W = W1 + W2, i.e., the weight
producing the moment is independent of the location on the platform. The moment produced
by W2 about O1 = W2 h. The weight W1 acts through O2. The force acting at O2
is unknown. Let us call it as x. To find the value of x, we write the moment equation
about O3 as follows,
W1 f = x d
W f
x = 1
W f
Therefore, the moment produced by x about O1 = 1 e
Now, equating clockwise and anticlockwise moments about O1,
W1 f
T c = e + (W2 h)
For W = W1 + W2
e = h
f h
Therefore, the lever system is proportioned such that = . Then we have,
d e
T c = (W1 + W2) h = W h ...(11.2)
Equating Eq. 11.1 and Eq. 11.2:
Ws a Wh ca
= W= Ws = ks Ws
b e b h
Ws a W h ca
= W Ws = k Ws
b e bh
Where, constant k = and is called multiplication ratio of the scale. The
b h
multiplication ratio 1000, for example, tells us 1000 kg of weight on the platform can be
balanced by 1 kgf on the weight hanger. The accuracy of the device is largely depends on
the performance and location (how accurately located) of the knife-edge bearings.
The object whose weight is to be measured is placed on the platform meant for it. About
the fulcrum point O, the beam rotates on the counter clockwise direction. Stopper stops
this moment after allowing the beam to move to some extend. Then the poise weight is
224 Instrumentation and Control Systems

moved until the pointer fixed on one end of the beam reads zero. In case, the poise weight
is not sufficient even after moving it to the maximum extent, the poise weight is brought
back to the zero position. Some standard weights in small steps are added and adjust the
poise weight to make the pointer read zero. When the pointer reads zero, the weight on
the hanger and the number of divisions on the beam is noted and the weight is calculated
as follows:
W = (k Ws) + (Wp No. of divisions)
Does the relative position of weight to be measured have any effect on measurement?
The answer is no. The measurement is done by comparing moments. In the moment
equation (Eq. 11.2), the positioning of the weight to be measured doesnt appear.


Working Principle
The force is applied to a definite area of the fluid surface to produce static pressure in the
fluid, which can be measured by pressure gauge.
Force to be measured


Load button

Liquid (silicon oil)

Pressure gauge
Fig. 11.5. Hydraulic Load Cell

Force Pr. Pressure X0

Diaphragm Display
+ Oil gauge

Fig. 11.6 Block Diagram

The hydraulic force meter consists of a container to contain an incompressible fluid,
diaphragm and a load button. The liquid should be incompressible. The incompressibility
of the fluid is to ensure a linear relationship between the applied force and the indicated
reading. Any compressibility will introduce a non-linearity error. The load button transmits
the applied force to metal diaphragm as shown in Fig. 11.5. The diaphragm converts the
applied force into equivalent deformation. It also separates the incompressible fluid and
load button. A bourdon tube pressure gauge is attached to the container to measure the
static pressure developed. The bourdon gauge is calibrated in terms of force. In the place
of metal diaphragm a piston or bellows can be used as force transmitting element. In place
Force Measurement 225

of bourdon tube pressure gauges and electrical pressure gauge can be used where an
electrical signal is needed.
When the force to be measured is allowed to act on the load button, it is transmitted to
diaphragm. The diaphragm undergoes equivalent deformation (expansion). As the
incompressible fluid is already at some initial pressure (typically at 2 bar), any expansion
in the diaphragm results in additional pressure. This pressure is measured using bourdon
tube pressure gauge.
Range : 0 30000N (0 5 million Newtons also available)
Accuracy : +/ 1% FSD
Resolution : 0.02%
Overload limit : 300%
1. The range is very high and can high overload without loss of accuracy
(upto 300 400%).
2. Trouble free operation for long time.
3. It is an active instrument and does not require any external power. Hence,
suitable for hazardous area.
4. It has very good dynamic response. It has very high natural frequency.
5. The instrument is insensitive to temperature variations.


Working Principle
Pneumatic load cell makes use of force balance and backpressure concepts. The unknown
force to be measured is balanced by upward force due to air pressure acting over the
diaphragm area and the tendency of the diaphragm to come back to its original (undeformed)
Force to be measured



Load button

Pressure gauge

Fig. 11.7. Pneumatic Load Cell

226 Instrumentation and Control Systems

position due to elasticity. While achieving this, the amount of backpressure developed is
proportional to the unknown force.
Force X0 Pr. Pressure
Diaphragm Flapper
nozzle gauge

Fig. 11.8. Block Diagram

Pneumatic load cell consists of a container to contain an air container and diaphragm
assembly. A diaphragm is placed in the container as shown in Fig. 11.7 and it serves the
following purposes.
1. It closes the container on the topside providing a closed volume for air pressure
to build up.
2. It helps in balancing the unknown force along with air pressure.
Above the diaphragm there is a baffle connected through a rod to the diaphragm.
There is a F-R unit (Filter Regulator unit), which supplies a clean air at constant pressure
to the bottom of the container. From the air supply line there is pneumatic line to a nozzle,
which is placed below the baffle as shown in Fig. 11.7. A bourdon tube pressure gauge is
attached to this pneumatic line to measure the backpressure. In place of bourdon tube, a
manometer can also be used.
When the force to be measured acts on the diaphragm rod the upward force of air tends
to balance it. (The upward force is equal to pressure times the diaphragm area). Since the
air is compressible fluid, initially the diaphragm moves downwards till the baffle closes
the nozzle completely. The closure of the nozzle causes the pressure to build up. This
pressure moves the diaphragm upward along with baffle. As the gap between nozzle and
the baffle increases, the pressure in the container is released and the diaphragm tends to
comedown. As it comes down the gap is reduced and again the pressure is built up moving
the diaphragm upward. An equilibrium position is achieved between downward force and
upward force of the diaphragm for all forces within the measurable range of the instrument.
The displacement due to the net downward force is directly proportional to the unknown
force. The baffle-nozzle arrangement converts this displacement to a proportional
backpressure as prescribed above. This backpressure is measured using bourdon tube
pressure gauge, which is calibrated in terms of pressure units.
When the nozzle is removed and the air is freely let out, the bourdon tube pressure gauge
reads zero. When a nozzle is fitted the free flow of air is affected, the air is not able to flow
as earlier, a pressure is developed due to this is called as backpressure. In general, any
obstruction in the pipe causes backpressure.
Force Measurement 227

Corrugated Diaphragm
It has more surface area than a normal diaphragm for a given container diameter. As the
area is more, for a given supply air pressure, the upward air force it can balance (unknown
force to be measure) is more. Hence, the corrugated diaphragm increases the range of the


Force to be measured


Load button

Ps Air

Fixed nozzle Pressure gauge


Fig. 11.9. Pneumatic Load Cell

The working principle is same; only arrangement is different. The equivalent flapper
nozzle arrangement will be as shown below.

Fixed nozzle

Variable nozzle
Fig. 11.10. Pneumatic Pressure Gauge

Linear range
Pressure gauge

0 Distance between nozzle and flapper

Fig. 11.11. Linear Range of Flapper Nozzle

228 Instrumentation and Control Systems

dxmax =
xmax =
The graph, backpressure Vs flapper distance depicts the non-linearity between them
there is a small region where they are approximately linear and the instrument is designed
to operate in this region. Use of instrument outside the instrument will lead to more
nonlinearity errors.
Range: (0 25 N) to (0 12000 N)
Accuracy: 0.5% FSD
Pneumatic load cell does not contaminate due to leakage unlike hydraulic load cell. The
effect of temperature is negligible. As the working medium is air, it can be used safely in
an explosive and hazardous environment.
1. The air must be free of water vapour and dry to prevent condensation.
2. The dynamic response is low hence not suitable for testing operations.


These types of load cells essentially have a spring element, which converts force into
displacement, and the resulting displacement is a measure of force. The types of elastic
element load cells are as follows:
1. Spring balance load cells
2. Column type strain gauge load cells
3. Proving ring
4. LVDT load cell

11.7.1 Spring Balance Load Cells

The spring balance arrangement is shown in Fig. 11.12.
There is a spring, which is the main component of the Spring
instrument. The stiffness of the spring determines the
range of the instrument. One end of the spring is fixed
and the other end is connected to the weight pan,
weight pan is an accessory. If spring balance is intended
to use to measure force other than weight, the pan is
removed and force is directly applied to the free end
of the spring. There is a scale graduated in terms of
force units. Fig. 11.12. Spring Balance Load Cell
Force Measurement 229

Working Principle
From the definition of spring stiffness, force is directly proportional to the deflection and
stiffness of the spring accesses proportionality constant. If the stiffness of the spring is
chosen appropriately, a range of force can be measured by the deflection it causes. The
typical range of the instrument is 20 kgf and least count is 0.5 kgf or below.

11.7.2 Column Type Strain Gauge Load Cell

Working Principle
When the force is applied to the elastic element, it deforms proportionality. This deformation
(strain) is measured using strain gauge. A Wheatstone bridge display and allied circuits are
used to show a calibrated output on display unit.

i2 A i1
R4 R1
4 1 2 3

R3 R2

Fig. 11.13. Column Type Strain Gauge Load Cell

Change in
Strain resistance Voltage
Force elastic Strain
Bridge ckt Display
element gauge

Fig. 11.14. Block Diagram

The setup mainly consists of strain measuring scheme. (Refer strain measurement chapter).
The important construction features on elastic element only discussed here. The elastic
element used for force measurement is normally made of metals. It requires more force for
measurable deformation. The force to be measured using this type of load cell need not
be high enough to create such deformation. Hence, the applied force is to be amplified so
that it creates measurable strain in the elastic member. The elastic member cross section
is reduced to create stress concentration at that area to achieve force amplification. The
strain measured using strain gauge is largely affected by the shape of the structure. A
rectangular cross section is preferred for placing strain gauges due to the following
advantages: The surface is flat so that strain gauge easily affixed. The complete strain in
230 Instrumentation and Control Systems

the member is transferred to the strain gauge. The analytical equation for measuring strain
is available for different configurations of the strain gauges of the rectangular member.
An alternate structure of the elastic member which is very widely used in force
measurement is called Proving Ring shown in Fig. 11.15. It also does the functions of
elastic member as described above. The difference lies in the amplification factor. Since
the cross section of the proving ring is small it gives greater amplification of the force
producing greater strain. This strain can be measured using strain gauge by placing the
strain gauges as shown in Fig. 11.15. It is important
to note that proving ring not only producing strain Force

due to force but also changes its shape from circle to External boss

an ellipse giving raise to axial displacement. This

will be discussed later in detail. To reduce hystersis
Strain gauge
alloy steel is used. For higher sensitivity of strain
1 2 4 3
gauge the strain gauge is chosen with high Poissons
ratio. As sensitivity is given by
Circular ring
S = 2(1 + )
Where, is Poissons ratio. The temperature
compensation is done in wheatstone bridge (refer Force
strain measurement for details). The device is Fig. 11.15. Proving Ring Type Load
sensitive only to the axial loading. Any bending Cell
moment present is nullified by wheatstone bridges. The length of the column is kept small
to avoid buckling. The strain gauge is to be fixed in sufficiently weaker cross section for
good sensitivity as discussed above. As a thumb rule for maximum loading there should
be at least 200-micrometer strain. The stiffness of the element should be high for larger
natural frequency to avoid resonance.

wn =
n Natural frequency,
k stiffness of the spring
m mass of the structure.
Proving ring is used for less load capacity, hence stiffness is low. As the stiffness is
low sensitivity is high for given force. The overload protection for load cells using proving
rings is shown in Fig. 11.16. When the load exceeds the range of the instrument, the gap
becomes zero and force is directly transferred to ground. So the proving ring is saved. For
smaller load ranges a cantilever type load cells are prescribed as illustrated in Fig. 11.16.
Force Measurement 231

1, 3

Front View
2, 4
1 2 Gap 4 3

3 Top View

Fig. 11.16. Overload Protection Fig. 11.17. Cantilever Type Load Cells
The cantilever type load cells, measures the stain due to the bending moment produced
by the force. In shear type load cells, the strain gauges are placed in principle strain
direction. (i.e., 45o to neutral axis). Please note that bending load cell is sensitive to point
of application of force as moment is force times distance. In shear type load cell, the shear
force is independent of point of application of force.

Principle strain direction

Bending moment

Shear force diagram

Fig. 11.18. Strain Gauge Location

The constructional features may vary from each other to suit particular application and
loading condition. Nevertheless, the working principle is same. We shall describe the
working of column type strain gauge load cell.
When a compressive force is applied to the load cell, the strain gauge 1 and 2 grid
length will be reduced and cross section area will increase. The resistance of the grid is
decreased. Strain gauge 2 and 4 are not affected appreciably. They are meant for the
purpose of temperature compensation. Initially, the Wheatstone bridge was balanced; now
it will be unbalanced. The amount of unbalance is proportional to the applied force.
When a tensile force is applied, the strain gauge grid length 1 and 2 increases and
cross section area decreases. The resistance of these strain gauges increases and unbalances
232 Instrumentation and Control Systems

the bridge proportional to the force by measuring unbalanced voltage. After calibration we
can get force directly from the display unit. Variable resistances are provided to accommodate
the following aspects.
Variation of modulus of elasticity due to temperature
Temperature coefficient of resistance of strain gauge
Input resistance. These resistances are set before operation of the gauge.
Type of loading : Compression/Tension/Universal
Output : 1 to 3 mV per volt of excitation
Excitation : 5V to 25V (AC or DC)
Range : 1 to 12 million lbs
Accuracy : +/ 0.1 FSD
1. It gives electrical output signal and thus suitable for control application where
microprocessor/computer interface is involved.
2. It is small in size and price
3. It can measure deflections upto 0.25 mm
4. It is maintenance free.
5. It has good dynamic response.
1. Care should be taken to avoid angular loads and non-axial loads
2. Overloading may permanently deforms strain gauge grid.
1. Weighing bridge
2. Tool force dynamometer.


Working Principle
When a thin elastic ring is subjected to force, it deflects. The deflection is proportional to
applied force. By measuring the deflection force can be measured.

Force Deflection Voltage

Proving ring LVDT Display

Fig. 11.19. Block Diagram

Force Measurement 233

It essentially consists of a thin metallic ring. The ring is made up of alloy steel with high
poissons ratio to increase the sensitivity and to reduce hystersis. The stiffness of the
material is kept relatively low to increase the sensitivity. There are two vertical boxes. One
is fixed to the base and the other is used to transmit force to be measured to the proving
ring. There are two internal bosses which are used to hold the displacement transducers.
The displacement transducer can be either dial gauge or LVDT. Dial gauge is used when
display of reading alone is sufficient. LVDT is used where an electrical energy is needed
and to interfaced with electronic devices.
When the force is applied to the ring, the ring deflects (due to compression or tension) and
tends to become an elliptical in shape. This deflection is known as ring deflection. This
deflection of the ring is proportional to the applied force within the range of the instrument.
It can be measured using LVDT which gives an electrical output proportional to the
displacement. The signal is amplified to drive an indicator to indicate the measured value
of the force.
Range : 0.005 kgf to 50,000 kgf
Output : 5200mV/volt of excitation
Linearity : +/ 0.1%
Repeatability : +/ 0.05%
1. Accuracy is high.
2. Measuring range is wide.
3. It gives output signal level compared to strain gauge column type load cell.
4. Resolution is very high.
5. Hystersis is very low.
1. Sensitive to stray magnetic field.
2. Performance of the LVDT is affected by the temperature.


Working Principle
A diaphragm converts force to be measured into a proportional displacement. LVDT measures
the displacement and gives a proportional electrical output. By measuring the voltage, we
can calculate the unknown force.
234 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Force Deflection Voltage

Proving ring LVDT Display

Fig. 11.20. Block Diagram

Construction Force
There are two diaphragms attached to a shell
and rod passes through the diaphragms. The rod
is used to transmit the unknown force to one
end. The other end is connected to LVDT. There
is a power supply to excite the primary coil. It
has the demodulating circuit and amplifier
The force to be measured is applied on the rod,
the rod transmits the force to the diaphragm.
The diaphragm converts the force to the
proportional displacement. The extension rod is
connected to the LVDT moves away from the
mean position. The voltage induced in the Fig. 11.21. LVDT Type Diaphragm Load Cell
secondary coil are different and the differential
output is modulated, amplified and displayed. It is calibrated in terms of force units to
measure the force directly.


Piezo Electric Effect
Some material generate electric potential when subjected to mechanical strain and vice
versa also is true. Such materials are called Piezo electric materials and the effect is known
as Piezo electric effect.
Working Principle
When the force is applied to two parallel sides of a Piezo-electric crystal, it generates
electric charges to another two parallel faces which are perpendicular to this. The amount
of charges generated is proportional to applied force or unknown force. By suitable
calibration the unknown force can be measured by measuring electric charges developed.
Signal Flow Diagram

Force Charges Voltage

Piezo-electric Charge
crystal Display

Fig. 11.22. Block Diagram

Force Measurement 235

The construction of Piezo-electric load cell is very similar to Piezo-electric accelerometers.
Piezo-electric cells can be used only for dynamic measurement. If the time constant of the
Piezo-electric crystal is sufficiently large, then the static force can be measure in short
term. Two Piezo-electric discs are placed and electrical wiring is done to collect the
electrical charges from Piezo-electric materials. For measuring smaller forces, the Piezo-
electric material is preloaded. It is covered with titanium housing. There may be micro
electronics module for amplification purpose. There is a charge circuits to amplify the
charges generated in the Piezo-electric crystal. There is a display unit to display the
The force is applied (dynamic force) to the preloaded piezo-electric crystal. Due to Piezo-
electric effect the charges are produced on two parallel sides of the crystal. The leads with
golden plating collects the charges and takes into preamplifier. Preamplifier amplifies
these changes into voltages. In most cases, this voltage is not sufficient. Hence, one more
stage of amplification is used to amplify the voltage and displayed in the display unit.
After calibration, in terms of force units, force can be directly read from the display unit.
Piezo-electric material : Silicon crystal, quartz.
Non-linearity : +/ 1%
Natural frequency : 10 kHz to 300 kHz
Cross access sensitivity : 5% of axial sensitivity
Range : 1000 N Tension 5000 N Compression (for smaller units)
4000 N Tension 16000 N Compression (for larger units)
1. Small in size and rugged.
2. Natural frequency is high.
3. Dynamic response is very good. Suitable for dynamic force measurement.
4. It gives an electrical output.
5. It has high frequency output.
1. The instrument is sensitive to change in temperature.
2. It is sensitive to cross access sensitivity.
3. It is subjected to hystersis error.


Working Principle
The amount of current required to bring back the lever to the original position is measure
of force.
236 Instrumentation and Control Systems

current Voltage
Force Pick up +
Lever Resistance Display


Fig. 11.23. Block Diagram

Force S S

R e0
Coil spring Carrier
pickup frequency

Fig. 11.24. Electromagnetic Balance

There is a lever which is pivoted. A spring is attached to lever to reduce the oscillations.
In one end of the lever a provision is given to apply the unknown force to be measured.
The other end of the lever is connected to the inductive pickup. The inductive pickup is
connected to carrier frequency amplifier. Carrier frequency amplifier is connected to the
force coil. The core of the force coil is also connected to the lever. The inductive pickup
and the force coil will work in a closed loop till it balances the applied force.
The force to be measured is applied on the one end of the lever. Since the lever is pivoted,
it undergoes an angular displacement. The inductive pickup connected to the other end
of the lever generates an electrical signal proportional to an angular displacement. The
carrier frequency amplifier amplifies the current and energizes the force coil. The force
coil in turn tries to bring back the lever to its original position. This forms a closed loop
and inductive pickup and force coil work in tandem till the angular displacement is
nullified. The amount of current required to keep the lever in the mean position becomes
the measure of force. In case, voltage signal is required a load resistance is placed and
voltage resistance is tapped across the load resistance as shown in the Fig. 11.24.


Computers and microprocessors are widely used in automated measurements and control
systems. They need digital signal. Normally, the analogue signal is converted to the digital
Force Measurement 237

signal using ADC (Analogue to Digital Converter). Digital transducers can be directly
connected to such electronic devices.
Working Principle
When a string is stretched with different forces it vibrates with different natural frequencies.
By measuring this frequency using magnetic pickup force can be measured.
Frequency e1 e2
Force Magnet +
Strain Bridge Ckt AC amp.


Reading Frequency R

Fig. 11.25. Block Diagram

Dummy coil


Force counter

Fig. 11.26. Digital Force Transducer

There is a thin string whose one end is fixed and the other end is connected to hook, to
which the unknown will be connected. In the middle of the string, there is a small
permanent magnet with less weight as shown in fig. 11.26. There is a coil around the
permanent magnet which connected to AC bridge circuit. There is a power amplifier to
amplify the bridge circuit output and there is the frequency counter to measure the natural
The force to be measure is applied to the string. A small disturbance is given to the string
and it vibrates with its natural frequency. The permanent magnet attached to the string also
vibrates with the same frequency. The voltage is induced in the coils around the permanent
238 Instrumentation and Control Systems

magnet. Now, the voltage across the active coil will be sum of supply voltage and induced
voltage. This is connected to one arm of the bridge. In the adjacent arm, a dummy coil is
connected with only supply voltage across it. The bridge circuit output will be equal to the
induced voltage and it is power amplified. A frequency counter is used to find the frequency
of the induced voltage. This frequency is proportional to applied force and upon calibration
the force can be directly read from the frequency counter.


Working Principle
When a force is applied to a ferromagnetic material the permeability of the material changes.
When permeability changes between coils of differential transformer, a voltage will be
induced. This voltage is proportional to the applied force.
Force Deflection Voltage
Laminated mutual
column induction

Fig. 11.27. Block Diagram



Unstressed stressed
Laminated load
bearing column

Fig. 11.28. Pressductor Load Cell

It consists of a laminated load bearing column. There are four holes in the column through
which the primary and secondary winding are wound. They are oriented 90 to each other.
The primary coil is excited with an excitation voltage. Provisions are given to take the
outputs from the secondary windings. This column is enclosed in a housing as shown in
Fig. 11.28.
When the pressductor is unstressed, the permeability of the material is uniform throughout
the load bearing column. Since the primary and secondary coils are perpendicular to each
Force Measurement 239

other, the magnetic flux lines around the windings do not influence each other. Hence the
output is zero.
When the force to be measured is applied, the laminated load bearing column is
stressed. The permeability of the column becomes non-uniform and changes the magnetic
flux pattern. The magnetic lines cut each other and induce a voltage in the secondary
winding. The voltage induced is proportional to the applied force. After calibration, force
can be directly read from the display unit.
It is widely used in steel plants to measure roll-force in rolling mills, strip tension in strip
mills and weighing cranes in steel-melting shops.
1. It can withstand overloads about 10 times the rated load.
2. It is extremely robust transducer.
3. The output signal level is very high.
1. It has hystersis errors.
2. It is affected by temperature variations.
3. Overloading and ageing may cause permanent drift.


1. Define force.
2. Distinguish weight and mass.
3. State classification of force measuring instruments.
4. What is fixed mode and variable mode in equal arm balance?
5. Describe principle, construction and working along with advantages of hydraulic load
6. Explain difference between hydraulic and pneumatic load cell based on its construction
and working.
7. What is back pressure and corrugated diaphragm?
8. Explain alternate arrangement of pneumatic loads cell.
9. Explain the working and construction of spring balance load cells.
10. What is strain gauge and describe about column type strain gauge load cells?
11. Explain proving ring as a force transducer.
12. Explain LVDT type load cell.
13. Describe about electromagnetic balance.
14. What is digital force transducer? Explain its working.


This chapter will consider the different torque measurement devices. After reading this
chapter, you should be able to:
Answer what is torque and its need for measurement
Describe various torque measuring devices and its descriptions
State the advantages and disadvantages of torque measuring devices

Measurement of force is sufficient in many applications where the force is acting axially.
A tree dimensional force transducers is used to measure the angular forces. However, the
effect of the force is of our interest when it is acting through a line other than the axis.
Torque Measurement 241

Such forces cause moment (bending effect or tuning effect). The moment is given by Force
x Distance. Moment is always calculated with respect to a point or an axis. In practice, it
is great importance to find the moment of the tangential force acting over a circular rod
or disc with respect to its axis. This particular moment takes a special name Torque as
illustrated below. Torque represents the amount of twisting effort, and is given by,
T = F r
where, T Torque in N-m.
F Force in N
r Perpendicular distance from the point of rotation to the point of application
of the force in m


Fig. 12.1. Torque-illustration


1. The main purpose of torque measurement is to calculate mechanical power
transmitted by a shaft as power is given by,
2 NT
P =
where, N Speed of the shaft in rpm.
T Torque in N-m
To use the above equation speed and torque are measured and power is calculated.
2. In rotating cylinder viscometer, measurement of torque helps in measurement of
3. In an automated assembly line where screw and bolts are used for assembly,
electrical or pneumatic screwdrivers are used. Applying over will spoil the tread
of the fastener. Calibration of such devices requires torque measurement.


There are four types of torque measuring devices as given below:
1. Stroboscopic type torque meter
2. Proximity torque sensor
242 Instrumentation and Control Systems

3. Strain gauge torsion meter

4. Optical torsion meter

12.3.1 Stroboscopic Method

Working Principle
When torque is applied to a shaft between its ends it is twisted with respect to each other.
The amount of twist is proportional to the torque applied. By measuring the amount of
twist at one end with respect to another end the torque can be determined.

Force Twist
Shaft Pointer Display


Fig. 12.2. Stroboscopic Type Torque Meter Block Diagram



Flange Shaft clibrated
Fig. 12.3. Stroboscope Type Torque Meter

It has a shaft of particular diameter. The diameter of the shaft and the material together
determines the range of the instruments. At the ends of the rod, flanges are attached. One
end is connected to the driving shaft and other end is connected to the driven shaft. The
shaft has two drums between the flanges. In one drum, a pointer is fixed as shown in
Fig. 12.3. In another drum, a torque calibrated scale is engraved or marked. There is a
stroboscope to take the reading from the scale while the shaft is rotating.
The stroboscopic type torque meter is connected to the shaft where the torque is to be
measure. The shaft of the measuring instrument is normally small compared to the
shaft on which torque will be more twisting of the shaft for the given torque. Due to
the torque to be measured the shaft of the instrument is twisted between two flanges,
which is proportional to the applied torque. A measure of the twist angle becomes a
measure of torque when calibrated. When shaft is rotating, we will not be able to
absorb the reading directly from the torque calibrated scale. A stroboscope is used to
Torque Measurement 243

get a stationary image of the rotating shaft. A stroboscope works as follows. There is
a flashing light whose flashing frequency can be changed. When the flashing frequency
matches the cycles/second, the drum looks as if it is stationery. At this point, the scale
reading is taken.
1. Simple and inexpensive method
2. Power of the shaft can be calculated.
1. It can be used only with shafts rotating at constant speed.
2. The variation in speed affects the sensitivity.
3. The accuracy is low due to small displacement of the pointer.

12.3.2 Strain Gauge Torsion Meter

Working Principle
When a shaft is subjected to torque, it is twisted due to shear stress. There will be maximum
strain in the principle axis direction of the shaft. By measuring the strain which proportional
to the torque, we can measure the torque.

Force Twist ,R ,V
Strain Bridge Display
gage ckt

Fig. 12.4. Block Diagram


Slip ring

Insulating layer
Slip ring

Fig. 12.5. Strain Gauge Type Torsion Meter

If the shaft where the torque is to be measured, sufficiently small in diameter then four
strain gauges in two pair are pasted on it at 45 helix to the axis (diagonally opposite). If
the shafts diameter is big, then a separate shaft with small diameter is connected through
flanges in between the main shaft to increase the sensitivity. As the strain gauge is fixed
on to a cylindrical surface, care has to be taken to fix it properly. Refer manufacturers
catalogue for steps to be followed to do the same.
244 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Strain gauges torque

4 3

1 2

Fig. 12.6. Strain Gauge Placement

The leads of the strain gauges are connected to form a wheatstone bridge. The shaft
will be rotating during measurement. Hence, the wiring for excitation to bridge and bridge
output is to be done such that, it is suitable for rotating shaft. It can be done in the
following two ways.

Transformer 1 Transformer 2
(Bridge input) (Bridge output)

signal conditioning



1 2

Stationary portion Rotating portion Stationary portion

Fig. 12.7 Entire Circuit

One way is using slip rings and brushes. The leads are connected to the slip rings,
which are encircled over the shaft. There is an insulating material in the form of ring
between sliprings to avoid electrical short circuiting. The brushes are just touching the
sliprings as shown in fig.12.5 and electric connection is taken away from the shaft. It has
the following disadvantages.
1. Rotational speed is twisted (in the order of 25 m/s) at the brush surface.
2. Contact resistance introduces change in resistance.
3. Contact friction leads to heating effect which also changes the resistance and
affects the accuracy of the measurement.
On the other hand, a non-contact type signal pickup also can be used in place of
slipring brush assembly. Two transformers are used to achieve this function. The bridge
power is constant power high frequency sine wave and the bridge output signal is in the
form of sine wave whose amplitude is proportional to torque. The power supply system
consists of an oscillator to generate the carrier frequency. The output circuit has a rectifier
to convert sine wave to a proportional DC signal. There is a display unit to display.
Torque Measurement 245

12.3.3 Proximity Torque Sensor (Magnetic/Photoelectric Torsion Meter)

Working Principle
There is a relative displacement between two slotted discs due to applied torque. This
relative displacement is measured using photoelectric or magnetic pickup. There is a
proportional phase shift in the phase generated/received by proximity pickup. The phase
shift becomes a measure of the torque.
Force Twist shift
Shaft Slotted Display

Fig. 12.8. Block Diagram

The instrument consists of a shaft with two slotted discs. Near each slotted, there is a
magnetic pickup. There is a signal processing circuit to shape the pulse produced. Two
outputs are connected to CRO and phase shift between them is measured. There can be
a inbuilt phase shift measurement unit.

Toothed disc

Flange Shaft



Fig. 12.9. Proximity Torque Sensor

In place of magnetic pickup, photoelectric pickup also can be used. Instead of slotted
discs, perforated discs are used. On one side of the discs light source is placed and on the
other side photo detectors (LDR, Phototransistor) are used to receive light and produce
corresponding sine waves. A schemit trigger circuit is used to convert sine wave to square
wave. A similar phase measuring devices described in magnetic pickup is used to measure
phase angle between phases.
Initially when torque is not present, the two discs are aligned perfectly and there is no
phase shift between the two pulse produced by the two discs. When torque to be measured
is applied to the shaft, there is a relative angular displacement (twist) between discs. Pulses
come out of first disc with a time lag to the pulses produced at the second disc. The phase
measuring instrument measures this and gives proportional display. When calibrated, the
torque can be directly read from the display unit.
246 Instrumentation and Control Systems

12.3.4 Electromagnetic Torque Meter

Working Principle
The amount of current required to bring shaft to standstill is measure of torque.
displacement Voltage
Torque Pick up + current
Shaft Resistance Display


Fig. 12.10. Block Diagram

Air bearing
There is a shaft from the torque source

(Motor). The torque source is connected to Torque motor
the torque motor through an air bearing. There
is an inductive pickup and it is connected

force coil through carrier frequency amplifier.
The core of the force coil is also connected to R e0
the shaft. The inductive pickup and the force Inductive Carrier
coil will work in a closed loop till it balances pickup frequency
the applied torque.
The torque to be measured is applied on the shaft. The inductive pickup connected to shaft
generates an electrical signal proportional to an angular displacement. The carrier frequency
amplifier amplifies the current and energizes the force coil. The force coil in turn tries to
stop the rotation of the shaft. This forms a closed loop and inductive pickup and force coil
work in tandem till the angular displacement is nullified. The amount of current required
to keep the shaft in the mean position becomes the measure of torque. In case, voltage
signal is required a load resistance is placed and voltage resistance is tapped across the
load resistance as shown in Fig. 12.11.


1. Define torque.
2. What is the need for torque measurement?
3. Explain stroboscopic type torque meter.
4. Explain strain gauge torsion meter along with its physical wiring.
5. Explain photoelectric torsion meter.
6. Describe in detail about electromagnetic torque meter.


This chapter will consider the different pressure measurement devices. After reading this
chapter, you should be able to:
Answer what is pressure and its classification
Illustrate different types of pressure
Describe various pressure measuring devices and its descriptions
State the specifications of pressure measuring devices.
248 Instrumentation and Control Systems

There was an ego clash between Urvasi and Ramba, the well-known dancers in the heaven.
Each of the thought, I am the best dancer. A day had come; they demanded to announce
the best dancer explicitly in the public. It was a problem for Indhiran, the king of the
heaven. Indhiran tried his level best to evaluate their performance, but he could not
conclude. Because, they both were performing equally well. That was the time,
Vikramadhithan, our heros fame scaling all three worlds. Indhiran invited Vikramadhithan
to help him out to solve this problem. Accepting the invitation, Vikramadhithan came to
heaven and arrangements were ready.
The dancers, Urvasi and Ramba appeared in the stage to prove their talents.
Vikramadhithan gave them a bouquet in their hand and they were instructed to perform
dance with that till the end. The program was over and everybody eagerly waiting for the
judgment. Without a thought, casually, Vikramadhithan announced that Urvasi was the
Best dancer. Indhiran asked for justification for his judgment. Our hero, Vikramadhithan
opened both the bouquet and there was a Scorpio coming out of each bouquet. He further
explained, Ramba held the flowers tightly, applied more pressure, so the Scorpio bit her
and she lost control in between. But Urvasi held lightly, applied less pressure, hence
nothing has happened, she could perform well till the end. In bharatha Nattium (south
Indian classical dance) the rhythm, softness are important. Hence Urvasi is the Best Dancer.
As the answer was logical with proof, they were convinced and happy.
Thus based upon the pressure applied on the bouquet the Scorpio took action and
ultimately leads to a solution this problem. This incident took place long time back where
there was no technology as we see today. Therefore, Vikramadhithan used a Scorpio as a
sensor. Can we go with a Scorpio for measurement of pressure? Let us try to explore some
modern techniques available for measurement of pressure here.


The Fundamentals
Consider nothing. Neither I am joking nor am I telling story. Consider nothing, the absence
of all. This state is called Vacuum and there are no molecules hence there is no question
of pressure. We refer this state as Absolute zero pressure or Absolute vacuum.
Now, consider a cylinder with small quantity of gas/air. As the gas molecules are free
to move anywhere, they move randomly inside the cylinder. As the molecules are moving,
they have velocity and hence kinetic energy. They hit the wall of the cylinder with this
kinetic energy too. The kinetic theory of gases assumes that the collisions between the wall
and the molecules are elastic collisions. So, after hitting the wall, the molecules bounce
back and hit the other side of the wall of the cylinder. This process continues. We are
interested in the amount of force exerted by these molecules. The total force exerted will
vary, as the area of the wall (of cylinder) varies. To tell the state of the gas uniquely, we
were in need of a quantity and was calculated as force exerted per unit area. This quantity
is termed as Pressure.
Measurement of Pressure 249


Fig. 13.1. Piston-cylinder Arrangement Containing Gas

As the volume of the gas decreases the pressure increases and vice versa at a given
temperature. What is happening actually? Let us extend the same idea to answer this

Fig. 13.2. As volume Increases Pressure Decreases A Visualization

Consider the piston-cylinder arrangement as shown in Fig. 13.2. The initial position
of the piston is shown by dotted line. At this time the pressure will be say P. Then moving
the piston towards right as shown in the figure increases the volume of the gas. Now, as
we said earlier, the pressure is the total force exerted by the gas molecules per unit area
at any instance. As the volume increases, the space available for gas molecules to move
freely also increases. In effect, the time gap between two successive collisions of molecules
on the wall increases. Therefore, at any instance, the total force acting per unit area
decreases. Thus, as volume increases, the pressure decreases. The reverse is also true and
I am confident that you can extend the idea.
As temperature increases, the pressure increases when the volume is kept constant.
What may be the reason? The temperature can be increases by supplying thermal energy
to it (just by heating it). In this process, each molecule gets more energy and moves much
faster. So, it hits the wall of the container with higher force. Also, the time gap between
two successive collisions of molecules on the wall decreases, as they move with higher
velocity. In effect, the total force exerted by the molecules per unit area increases at any
instant. Thus the pressure increases with increase in temperature. This is the case with
In case of liquid, the molecules are denser than the gases. Liquid can take the shape
of the container as in the case of gases. But the freedom to wonder is limited as compared
to the gases. As the molecules are bigger in number and in shape, the mass is considerable;
hence liquids occupy the lower most portion of the container. Also, we cannot reduce the
volume too much, as we did it for gases, as the molecules are relatively packed tightly.
Practically, the change in the volume for liquids is negligible at a given temperature and
can be assumed to be zero.
As for as the concept of pressure is concerned, the same definition holds good. When
we try to reduce the volume using same piston-cylinder arrangement, neither the volume
decreases appreciably nor the pressure increases. Instead, the force applied to reduce the
volume is transmitted in all directions equally. This one important property of the liquids,
250 Instrumentation and Control Systems

which makes it suitable for the application like hydraulic lift, hydraulic brake etc., when
we increase or decrease the liquids temperature, it behaves similar to the gases.
Next, consider a solid bar (not inside the piston-cylinder arrangement) . The molecules
are arranged in regular pattern and it does not have the freedom to wonder as in the case
of fluids (liquid and gas). As there is no movement of molecules there is no question of
pressure. So far we have been discussing the pressure of the fluid in rest. Well, if the fluid
is moving, what happens? The flow takes place only when there is a potential difference.
Here, the fluid flow takes place when the pressure difference exists. Due to the pressure
difference, the molecules from higher-pressure region tend to move towards lower pressure
region. This introduces an additional motion of molecules along with the random motion,
which already exists. This situation can be visualized easily with the help of the Fig. 13.3.
The pressure caused by the motion of the fluid is called as velocity pressure or Dynamic
pressure. The pressure at rest is termed as static pressure. Tube 2 in the figure will give
us the static pressure. The amount force per unit area required to bring the moving fluid
to rest is termed as stagnation pressure or total pressure. The center of the tube 2 and
the duct is made to coincide. Tube 2 in the figure will give us the total pressure. As the
total pressure is sum of Static pressure and dynamic pressure, the dynamic pressure is
calculated as follows,
Dynamic pressure = total pressure static pressure.
2 1

Dynamic Pr.

Fig. 13.3. Static Pressure and Dynamic Pressure


(a) Atmospheric Pressure

The pressure exerted by the envelope of air around the earths surface is called as
Atmospheric pressure. As the absolute zero pressure is not attainable, the atmospheric
pressure is treated as standard for pressure measurement.
Measurement of Pressure 251

(b) Gauge Pressure

The differential pressure between the atmospheric pressure and pressure measured, which
is above atmospheric pressure, is called as gauge pressure. As the gauge pressure is based
on atmospheric pressure, the absolute pressure can be obtained as follows. (refer Fig. 13.4).
Absolute pressure = Atmospheric pressure + Gauge pressure

Gauge pressure
Atmospheric pr.


absolute Pr.

Absolute zero Pr.

Fig. 13.4. Different Faces of Pressure An Illustration

(c) Vacuum Pressure

The differential pressure between the atmospheric pressure and pressure measured, which
is below atmospheric pressure, is called as vacuum pressure. As the gauge pressure is
also based on atmospheric pressure, the absolute pressure can be obtained as follows. (refer
Fig. 13.4).
Absolute pressure = Atmospheric pressure vacuum pressure



head = (h2 - h1)


Fig. 13.5. Head as a Measure of Pressure

As the pressure is given by the force exerted per unit area, the unit of pressure is
based on the units of force and the area like N/mm2, N/m2 etc., but you might have seen
that pressure is expressed in terms of mm of Hg, mm of water etc., What is the relation
between pressure and head? Why is that pressure is expressed in units of length?
252 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Let us try to establish the relation between pressure and head. Density (), as per
definition is given by mass per unit volume.
m m
= =
m Mass
A Area
L length
V Volume.
From the above equation, mass is given by
m = A L
According to Newtons second law, the force is given by:
F = a
Substituting the value of m, we get

F = a

F La
Pressure, P = = g
A c

a acceleration. It can be substituted with g acceleration due to gravity.
gc gravitational constant.
L length it can be substituted with height (h).
Therefore, the pressure, P = gh
For a given fluid, density is constant (assumed) and at a given place (point) g is
constant. Once these two quantities are fixed, then pressure is directly proportional to
height and pressure difference is proportional to height difference. This height difference
is called Head. From the above expression, once we know the head, fluid and location
then pressure can be calculated. In some pressure measurements such as manometers, it
is convenient to use the head rather than pressure and now, it became custom.
Measurement of Pressure 253


Base on the type of transducer used, the pressure gauges can be classified as follows.
1. Gravitational transducer
(a) Manometer
(b) Dead weight tester
2. Elastic transducer
(a) Bourdon tube pressure gauge
(b) Elastic diaphragm pressure gauge
(c) Bellows type pressure gauge
3. Electrical transducer
(a) Variable resistance type
(b) Strain gauge type
(c) Variable capacitance type
(d) LVDT type
4. Thermal transducer
(a) Thermocouple type
(b) Pirani gauge
5. Piezo-electric transducer
6. Miscellaneous
(a) McLeod vacuum gauge
(b) Ionisation gauge


There are lots of devices available for measurement of pressure. The accuracy and ease
depends mainly on the selection of the appropriate pressure gauge. The following are few
guidelines for this purpose.
Low vacuum and ultra high pressure
McLeod vacuum gauge.
Thermal conductivity gauge.
Ionisation gauge.
Low Pressure
Medium and High Pressure
Bourdon tube pressure gauges.
Diaphragm gauge.
254 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Bellows gauge.
Very high pressure
Bourdon tube pressure gauge.
Diaphragm gauge.
Bulk modulus pressure gauge.
Though the listing is in the order, the order of the discussion may vary to bring/
introduce the concepts one by one in order. First let us take the simplest device, manometer.


The most simplest and precise device to measure pressure is manometer. It consists of a
transparent tube in the form of U and partially filled with manometer fluid such as
mercury. Mercury is used because of its specific gravity at various temperature are known
exactly and does not stick to the tube. It is often accompanied by a scale, which is used
to measure the fluid level.
Equal limb
Unequal limb
Atmosphric pressure


Fig. 13. 6. U-tube Manometer

The level of the mercury column in U-tube manometer is same initially. To measure the
pressure of the fluid, which is less dense, and immiscible with manometer liquid, it is
applied to the top of one limb of the manometer while a reference fluid pressure (generally
atmospheric pressure) is applied to the other limb. Now there is a difference in level of the
mercury column. The difference between the pressures on the two limbs is a function of
h, the difference between the levels of a manometer fluid. This h is directly read from
the scale.
Measurement of Pressure 255

Let, P = Unknown pressure

Patm = Atmospheric pressure
1 = Density of the fluid whose pressure is to be measured.
2 = Density of manometric fluid.
The pressure at column 1, P1 = P + 1gh1
The pressure at column 2, P2 = Patm + 2gh2
At equilibrium condition, P1 = P2
P + 1gh1 = Patm + 2gh2
Therefore, the unknown pressure P1 = Patm (2gh2 1gh1)
Note that the unknown pressure thus obtained is absolute pressure.
1. Simple in construction and easy to fabricate.
2. Accurate result.
3. Many fluids are available such as mercury, water.
4. Maintenance is very less.
1. Leveling is needed.
2. Error is introduced if the diameter of the tube is less due to capillary action.
3. As the glass tube is fragile, may break during transport.
4. The accuracy of the reading depends on temperature, gravity.
5. Interfacing with electronic/computer systems is difficult.
6. Skilled persons are required to use, as the meniscus height has to be taken
1. Used in Venturi-meter and other flow meters.
2. Used as level devices to sense liquid heads.
3. Used as primary standards for the measurement of pressure.


The dead weight tester is basically a source of static pressure and pressure measuring
device by means of plunger. It is used to calibrate the pressure gauge.
1. Oil Reservoir
The oil reservoir is provided to store the oil or the working fluid. It is useful especially
during the initial setup, removal of air bubbles from the chamber.
256 Instrumentation and Control Systems

2. Plunger Arrangement
The plunger is used to compress/expand the fluid in order to develop required pressure for
testing. It is used to high pressure for pressure gauges and low pressure for vacuum gauges.
3. Oil Chamber
This is also used to store oil, but its primary function is to transmit pressure from plunger
arrangement to all other parts.
4. Weight and Plat Form
The purpose of the platform is to support the weight and transmit the same to the fluid
through its other end. The known weights are used here and are called dead weights for
the simple reason that there is no dynamic action.
5. Control Valve
It is used to control the flow of the oil/fluid to test gauge and to the oil reservoir. It can
be closed when required.
Working Principle
The test gauge is subjected to accurately known pressure and the reading shown by the
gauge is observed. The known pressure acts over plunger on a known area, which balances
the pressure by dead weight. Now, we know weight and area, so unknown pressure can be

1 3



Fig. 13.7. Dead Weight Pressure Gauge

1. Test gauge 2. Control valve 3. Weight 4. Platform 5. Oil reservoir 6. Oil chamber
7. Plunger 8. Handle 9. Control valve.
The following steps are followed to calibrate a pressure gauge.
Close the control valve 2 (as shown in Fig. 13.7) and open valve 1. Now, push the
oil to oil reservoir with the help of plunger (by rotating handle). This is done to remove the
Measurement of Pressure 257

air bubbles in the oil. If air bubbles present, due to pressure it gets compressed and we will
not get the correct pressure. As all the oil is in the reservoir, the air bubbles will escape
to atmosphere automatically.
Close the valve 9. Fit the gauge to be calibrated to the set-up. Note that valve 2 is
still closed. Put some known weight on the platform. Using plunger apply pressure through
oil. The platform will raise and reach an equilibrium position. Now, the dead weight will
be equal to the force acting on the known area, (due to pressure).
PA = mg
P = mg/A
P = unknown Pressure.
m = Mass.
g = Acceleration due to gravity.
A = Known area (area of other end of platform)
After calculating P, Now valve 2 is opened and the known pressure P is transferred
to gauge. Gauge reading and input pressure should be equal. If not adjust the gauge, so that
it reads a value equal to P. Thus the pressure gauge is calibrated.
Simple in construction and easy to use.
Calibrates wide range of pressure gauges.
Fluid pressure can be easily varied by adding weights (or) by changing the
piston-cylinder arrangements.
Accuracy is affected due to the friction between the piston and cylinder. This is due to the
uncertainty of the valve of gravitational constant g.
To calibrate all kinds of pressure gauge such as industrial pressure gauge, engine indicator
and Piezo-electric transducer.


The stem is the in let to the gauge, which has a threaded end to facilitate the connection
to the system.
Bourdon Tube
It is the main sensing element in the gauge. It a metallic tube which has good elastic
property. The cross section of the tube is oval. The materials used for different pressure
ranges are given follow:
258 Instrumentation and Control Systems

0.1 to 7 N/mm2 Phosphor bronze

7 to 600 N/mm2 Alloy steel, stainless steel etc.,
The tubes are drawn, machined, heat treated and coated (if corrosion is a problem).


Fig. 13.8. Bourdon Tube Pressure Gauge

1. Scale 2. Bourdon tube 3. Sector 4. Light spring 5. Stem 6. Pinion

The linkage connects the closed end of the bourdon tube to the sector and transmits the
motion. It is capable of adjusting the length and the motion can be amplified. The adjustment
is done before calibration.
Sector is provided to convert linear motion of link to rotary motion of the pointer through
pinion. Its one end is connected to linkage. The other end is in the form of sector and has
teeth in the outer periphery. It is connected to the pinion (small gear). The sector is hinged
(type of joint) with the casing.
Pinion and Pointer
Pinion is a small gear, which connects the pointer with the sector. As pinion rotates, the
pointer also rotates. The pointer is the only part, which is visible for the user. The pointer
shows the reading directly on the scale provided which is in the circular form.
Light Spring
The light spring is provided to get the steady reading from the gauge. It basically reduces
the oscillation of the pointer and improves readability.
Working Principle
The pressure is to be measured, is connected to the stem. so, the system pressure acts till
closed end of the bourdon tube. Due to pressure, the oval shape tends to become circular
cross-section and in effect moves the closed end of the bourdon tube outwards. This linear
movement is transmitted to the sector by linkage. The sector converts this linear motion
to circular motion, and the pointer is moved on the scale, through pinion. The scale is
calibrated with respect to atmospheric pressure and we directly get the gauge pressure from
the scale. The bourdon gauge can be used to get the absolute pressure directly by evacuating
Measurement of Pressure 259

the gauge casing (inside) so that is measures pressure with respect to the vacuum.
Cost is low.
Simple in construction.
Accurate results, Accuracy is high at high pressures.
Can be modified to give electrical output.
Calibration is easy.
It is capable of measuring gauge pressure, absolute pressure and differential
They respond slowly to change in pressure.
Hystersis is more.
Sensitive to shock and vibrations and hence readability is poor.
As the closed end displacement is small, greater amplification is needed for
better accuracy.
When the pressure is connected to the bourdon, how the linear movement is obtained
at the closed end?
Initially the cross-section of the bourdon tube is elliptical/oval. Since the pressure is
acting equally in all sides and the bourdon tube is made up of elastic material, the oval
shape will tend to become circular cross-section. The inner radius of curvature (refer
Fig. 13.9) of the tube has to decrease and the outer radius of curvature of the tube has to
increase, if the radius of curvature of the center line is fixed. But it is fixed only on one
side and it can move freely on the closed end side. Now, both inner and outer radius of
curvature of the tube will tend to increase. As the radius of curvature increases, the tube
tends to move outward.
Section x-x

Rci 2

Fig. 13.9. Bourdon Tube Operation An Illustration

1. Fixed end 2. Free end. Rco Outer radius of curvature,
Rcc - radius of curvature of centerline, Rci Inner radius of curvature.
260 Instrumentation and Control Systems


Diaphragm is a thin film, which has good elastic property. It can be metallic, non-metallic,
animal membranes, and synthetic materials like polythene, Teflon etc. When the elastic
property of the material is less, then a spring is used. The metallic diaphragms like nickel,
chromium, alloy steels are cold rolled and can be used up to 2750 KN/m2, whereas the non-
metallic type can be used up to 100 KN/m2. The diaphragm is of circular shape and the
area is larger for non-metallic diaphragm compared to metallic one in order to get sufficient
force for deflection.
The seal is provided to constraint the motion of the link only in one direction.
The spring is an optional element. It is used only when the diaphragm lacks the elastic
property. In that case, the deflection is determined by the stiffness of the spring.
Sector is provided to convert linear motion of link to rotary motion of the pointer through
pinion. Its one end is connected to linkage. The other end is in the form of sector and has
teeth in the outer periphery. It is connected to the pinion (small gear). The sector is hinged
(type of joint) with the casing.
Pinion and Pointer
Pinion is a small gear, which connects the pointer with the sector. As pinion rotates, the
pointer also rotates. The pointer is the only part, which is visible for the user. The pointer
shows the reading directly on the scale provided which is in the circular form
Working Principle
When an elastic member is subjected to the differential pressure on both side, the member
deflects towards the low pressure side. This deflection is proportional to the pressure.



Fig. 13.10. Diaphragm Type Pressure Gauge
1. Pointer 2. Sector 3. & 6. inlet for pressure 4. Seal 5. Diaphragm 7. Spring.
Measurement of Pressure 261

The pressure to be measure is connected to the bottom inlet of the diaphragm gauge.
The other end is normally subjected to atmospheric pressure. (If the differential pressure
is required, then the second inlet is also used.)
There is a pressure difference between two sides of the diaphragm. The diaphragm
deflects and tends to move towards lower pressure side. The deflection is transmitted to
the sector and the sector converts this linear motion to circular motion. The pointer is
moved on the scale, through pinion. As the scale is calibrated, we get the gauge pressure
or the differential pressure from the scale directly.
Diaphragm type gauges are used to measure medium pressure and pressure including
vacuum. In industries, they are widely used to measure drafts in chimneys of boilers.
Less cost and Linearity is good.
No permanent zero shift and less Hystersis compared to bourdon gauge.
Within elastic limit, it can withstand over pressure and hence safe to use.
It can measure both gauge pressure and differential pressure.
When used for high-pressure measurement, the diaphragm may undergo
permanent deformation.
Hence not suitable for high-pressure measurements.
These are use and through type and difficult to repair.
Shock and vibrations affect their performance and hence they are to be protected.


Bellows is in the form of cylinder with thin corrugated walls. It has good elastic property
and hence it can expand and collapse in longitudinal direction. The materials used are
phosphor bronze, stainless steel, copper alloy and brass alloy. The bellows can be
manufactured by welding/brazing, rolling and deep drawing process. One end of the bellows
is opened to atmosphere and the other end is closed and subjected to system pressure.
The seal is provided to constraint the motion of the link only in one direction.
It is compression spring and the deflection of the pointer is determined by the stiffness of
the spring.
262 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Sector is provided to convert linear motion of link to rotary motion of the pointer through
pinion. Its one end is connected to linkage. The other end is in the form of sector and has
teeth in the outer periphery. It is connected to the pinion (small gear). The sector is hinged
(type of joint) with the casing.
Pinion and Pointer
Pinion is a small gear, which connects the pointer with the sector. As pinion rotates, the
pointer also rotates. The pointer shows the reading directly on the scale provided which
is in the circular form.
Working Principle
When bellows is subjected to the differential pressure on both sides, the member deflects
towards the low-pressure side. This deflection is proportional to the pressure.
The pressure to be measure is connected to the bottom inlet of the bellows gauge. The
other end is normally subjected to atmospheric pressure.


Fig. 13.11. Bellows Type Pressure Gauge
1. Pointer 2. Sector 3. seal 4. Bellows 5. casing 6. Spring 7. Inlet
There is a pressure difference between two sides of the bellows. The diaphragm
deflects and tends to move towards lower pressure side. The deflection is transmitted to
the sector and the sector converts this linear motion to circular motion. The pointer is
moved on the scale, through pinion. As the scale is calibrated, we get the gauge pressure
or the differential pressure from the scale directly.
If the differential pressure is to be measured, then two bellows are used as shown in
Fig. 13.12. An extra arm is used, which is hinged at the center. The arm is free to rotate
and due the pressure difference, the arm may move up or down. This movement is
transmitted to the pointer as discussed above.
When the pressures are equal the gauge reads zero. When there is a pressure difference,
the difference in pressure is shown. Note that this is not the gauge pressure but, differential
Measurement of Pressure 263

2 P1


Fig. 13.12. Bellows Type Differential Pressure Gauge
1. Pointer 2. Sector 3. Link 4. Arm 5. Bellows 6. Hinge joint

The gauge is robust and simple in construction and cost is less.
It can be used for measurement of both gauge pressure and differential pressure.
When used for high-pressure measurement, the diaphragm may undergo permanent
deformation. Hence not suitable for high-pressure measurements zero shift
problems exist.
It is widely used for low-pressure measurement and medium pressure measurement.


The housing is made up of either polymer (or) metal depends on range of pressure. The
housing split into two by a diaphragm. Diaphragm is firmly fixed in the housing as shown
in figure. The bass is stuck on diaphragm and is used to transfer motion between diaphragm
and moving plate of capacitor. The housing has a vent so that one side of the diaphragm
is subjected to atmospheric pressure and the other side is subjected to the pressure to be

Deflection of Change in Change in

Pressure Display
diaphargm Capacitance voltage

Fig. 13.13. Basic Principle of Capacitive Pressure Sensor

264 Instrumentation and Control Systems

The pressure to be measured makes the diaphragm deflect (expansion in +ve or ve
direction). The boss transfers this movement as linear displacement to movable plate
capacitor. When the gap between parallel plates changes, the capacitance changes. This
change is directly proportional to applied pressure. Note that the pressure is gauge pressure,
as the other side is subjected to atmospheric pressure. The change in capacitance is converted
into change in voltage and displaced in display unit. To use this instrument for measuring
differential pressure, connect one pressure line to inlet and other to rent hole. Now the
diaphragm will deflect proportional to the pressure difference. The maximum deflection
ymax is given by,

3 Pmax (1 2 )r 4
ymax =
16 Et 3
DP Differential pressure (P1 P2)
g Poissons ratio for diaphragm material
r Radius
E Bulk modulus
T thickness of diaphragm
The maximum deflection is at the centre. The diaphragm is supported about its
circumference and pressure causes uniform loading. Design criteria id ymax t/3 for
anticipated pressure range.
It has good linearity for wide range
Low cost
The instruments are robust and can take little overload
It can be used for both gauge pressure and differential pressure
No appreciable zero drift
Housing Movable Diaphragm
Fixed plate plate


Pr. to be

C1 Vent

High gain
amplifier e0

Fig. 13.14. Capacitive Pressure Sensor

Measurement of Pressure 265

The diaphragm starts vibrating under vibratory environment and introduces
It is difficult to fluid good material for diaphragm for very high pressures
Due to overload, if diaphragm undergoes permanent deformation, then it cannot
be repaired.
Application example
Draft in chimneys of boilers.


At low pressure, a linear relation exists between the pressure and the thermal conductivity
according to kinetic theory of gases. At high pressure, the thermal conductivity is
independent of pressure. Now, the issue to be addressed is how low the pressure should
be? The pressure value is designed such that the mean free path of molecules are greater
compared to the dimension of the apparatus, in our case the space between hot and cold
surfaces. Typical range of pressure is 0.1 Pa to 100 Pa.
When current flows through a conductor, it gets heated up. The heat is dissipated by
conduction, convection and radiation. The heat dissipated by conduction is constant and
can be compensated. By using low emissivity conductor, the heat dissipated by radiation
also minimized. Then the heat dissipation mainly depends on the conductivity of the
surrounding medium and in turn the density of the medium. Density of a gas is function
of gas composition and gas pressure. For a given gas composition is constant. If the pressure
is low, the conductivity also will be low and allow the conductor to become hotter for a
given current. So, by measuring the temperature, we can measure the low pressure inside
the chamber.
P input

Cold surface


Hot surface

Fig. 13.15. Thermocouple Gauge

266 Instrumentation and Control Systems


Thermal conductivity


0.133 1.33 10.3 100

Pressure (Pa)

Fig. 13.16. Pressure Vs Thermal Conductivity

There is a chamber, which encloses the conductor and hot junction of Thermocouple with
a low-pressure gas inlet. A conductor made up of constantan of diameter 0.025 mm is
placed inside the chamber with provision for electrical connection. A rheostat is used to
very resistance to control temperature of conductor series, which is capable of measuring
in the range of mA. A thermocouples hot junction is welded to the conductor (heating
element) to measure temperature. Thermocouple leads are connected to amplifier units for
proper amplification and sent to voltmeter, which can measure normally in the range of
A constant current is made to pass through the heating element with the help of ammeter
and a rheostat. The current increases heating element temperature. This temperature can
be sensed by thermocouple. When the pressure to be measured is connected, the conductivity
of surrounding medium changes and so the temperature of the heating element. This
change in temperature becomes a measure of pressure when calibrated. The sensitivity can
be improved by using two or more pairs of heating element thermocouple in series.
The gauge is rugged except heating element
It has good linearity in operating region
It has wide measuring rage 10-3 to 1000 torr.
Calibration is needed frequently for different gases
Narrow operating range
Radiation and conduction causes problems
Specifications (typical)
1. Sensor specification
Output: 10 mV at 1 mtorr (Non-linear)
Measurement of Pressure 267

Repeatability: 2% at 1 mtorr
Operating temperature: 10 to 100C
2. Meter specification
Read rate: 2 per second
Response time: 1.5 s
Gas calibration: Air
Operating temperature: 10 to 50C
Display: LED digit type


In thermocouple gauge discussion, we have seen that at low pressures, the temperature of
heating element is proportional to pressure of the surrounding medium. At low pressure,
the heat dissipation is low, so, the temperature will increase. When temperature increases,
the electrical resistance changes. As pressure increases, more heat is dissipated from heating
element, less temperature less change in resistance. If we connect the heating element
whose resistance changes due to pressure, to a wheatstone bridge and measure the change
in resistance, it becomes a measure of pressure on calibration:
There are two chambers, one evacuated and sealed which is used for compensation and
the other, measuring chamber to which the low pressure is connected. Both the chambers
have a heating element and connected to wheatstone bridge as shown in figure. The
heating element is in the form of four coiled wires connected in parallel and supported
inside the chamber.

P input Evacuvated chamber

Measuring chamber


Wheatstone bridge

Fig. 13.17. Pirani Gauge

268 Instrumentation and Control Systems

A constant current passes through heating element in pirani gauge and heating element gets
heated up. At that temperature, the heating element will have some resistance value. By
adjusting resistances in bridge, null deflection is achieved. This is called zero setting.
Pressure to be measured is connected to pirani gauge chamber. Due to pressure, the
temperature and resistance changes. This unbalances the bridge. The change in resistance
of pirani gauge becomes a measure of applied pressure when calibrated.


When a stream of electrons hit the gas molecules they will remove electrons from molecules
with a definite probability leaving positively charged ions. As number of molecules increases
inside the chamber the number positive ions also increases proportionally. The current due
to positive ions will be a measure of pressure. As this happens only at low pressures (below
atmospheric pressure), its phenomenon can be used for measuring low pressures.
There is a chamber with inlet provision for pressure to be measured. Inside the chamber,
there are three electrodes namely, cathode, anode and grid. Cathode is an electron gun with
its own heating circuit. Anode is positively charged with respect to cathode and grid is
negatively changed with respect to cathode. (See the battery connection) Ammeters are
connected in both grid circuit and anode circuit to measure current due to positive ions
and electrons respectively.
P input


Fig. 13.18. Ionisation Gauge

When pressure (low pressure) to be measured is applied at inlet and cathode is energized
with heating current, then a beam of electron comes out and hits the gas molecules and
removes electrons leaving positive and negatively changed particles. The positively charged
particles are directly proportional pressure. The grid attracts the positively charged particles
and a charge current flow s through grid circuit. This becomes a measure of low pressure.
The negatively charged particles are attracted by anode and an anode current flows in
Measurement of Pressure 269

anode circuit. We are interested in only grid current as it is a good measure of pressure.
The grid current in the order of mA. When an Ammeter in this range is calibrated in terms
of pressure, we can directly read pressure from meter. These gauges can be used to measure
very high vacuum in the range of 1.33 x 10-13 bar.
Commercial units come with two thermocouple gauges. One thermocouple gauge is
used to sense appropriate time to open a valve to the high-pressure chamber. A second
thermocouple gauge is placed inside chamber along with ionisation gauge. Second
thermocouple gauge performs two functions: first, it senses when to shut down ion gauge
during weak vacuum conditions and secondly, it measures pressure from 10-3 torr to
atmospheric conditions. Ion gauge acts as primary sensor up to 10-10 torr. Both ion gauge
and thermocouple gauges are connected to a controller.
Operating Parameters Gauge
For most of the commercially available gauges, the emission is controlled by microprocessor
automatically. The gas factor should be adjusted for gasses other than air/nitrogen to match
the ionisation probability.
Process Control Set Points
Process control relays are provided for each thermocouple gauge and ionisation gauge with
its own set point. User can easily set the set point using panel controls. Apart from set
points, some manufacturers provide RS-232 serial interface to read pressure and set different
values for set points through computer.
Ion Gauge Sensitivity Rating.
Adj. 5 to 16 mA/mA/torr.
Ion Gauge Degas: Resistive heating, auto shut off after 5 min.
Filament Emission: 10 mA to 1 mA , internally controlled.
Ion Gauge Gas Factor: Adj.0.50 to 1.60 relative to N2.
Ion Gauge Operating Range: 10-10 to 1 torr.
Pressure Units: torr
Display: Ion gauge : 5 digits, 14 mm high red LED; thermocouple gauge: 2 bar
graphs 30.
Elements, 75 mm long.
Thermocouple Operating Range: 10-3 to atmosphere.
RS-232: 1200 to 9600 baud rate, selectable allows remote operation of controller,
Female connector (requires mating connector).
Analog Output Tracks Ion Gauge: logarithmic, 0.5 V/decade, BNC female (requires
mating connector).
Relays: 4 SPDT 3 A @ 250 Vac relays; 1 Relay assigned to each thermocouple
gauge, 2 relays assigned to ion gauge.
270 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Power: 100130 Vac, 200260 Vac @ 50/50 Hz (100VA), selectable.

Weight: 4.5 Kg (10 lb).
It has good sensitivity
Fast response
Gives electrical output.
At moderate pressure and high pressure, the filament burns quickly and requires
controlled temperature for its functions.
It has to be calibrated for different gauges.
Due to filament heat, some gases may it decomposed.

5 1 3
10 10 Pressure (torr) 10

Fig. 13.19. Current Vs Pressure


Consider two discs are placed at a distance smaller than the mean free path of molecules.
If one disc is rotated at very high constant speed, the other shaft will deflect (rotate)
proportional to the viscosity of the medium between the discs.
Viscosity is a measure of resistance force to shear force on one layer with respect to
adjacent layers. At low pressures, the viscosity is proportional to pressure. As pressure
increases the number of molecules increases and shear force required to make unit velocity
gradient will increase (i.e) viscosity increases.
Measurement of Pressure 271

mirror P input


Staionary disc

d < mean free Rotating disc

path of molecules

Fig. 13.20. Viscous Friction Vacuum Gauge

There are two discs The gap between then should be less than mean free path of molecules
one of them is rotated by motor with very high speed (in the order of 10000 rpm) The
other disc is free to rotate and connected to a friction less bearing through a shaft. This
shaft motion can be used to very the resistance and thus voltage and can be used to display
output reading. The contact point friction loads the system. So, an alternate design is used
as decried below. In the shaft, a mirror is fixed. A light source, which is directed towards
the mirror and light rays are reflected to a graduated scale. As the mirror rotates, the light
is reflected to different point proportionately. The whole set up is put up in a chamber with
a inlet to pressure to be measured. There is a proper sealing between the motor and the
The motor rotates the rotating disc at about 12000 rpm. The gas, whose pressure to be
measured is connected. The stationary disc makes small rotation proportional to the viscosity
and thus proportional to the pressure of the gas. Using optical (or) electrical scheme, this
motion is measured. When calibrated, we can directly measure pressure from the gauge.


Relation between pressure and specific weight.

F 1 ma
P = =
A gc A
F is force = m.a
272 Instrumentation and Control Systems

gc gravitational contend
A area over which force is acting
m mass
a acceleration
lAhg m m
P = l= =
gc A V Ah
(m = leAh)
P = (a = g)
( = )
p = .h
specific weight.
Boyles Law
At constant temperature, the pressure of the gas is inversely proportional to volume.
p = P1V1 = P2V2
P1, P2 pressure of the gas
V1, V2 volume of the gas
A known volume of gas at unknown low pressure is trapped and then isothermally
compressed by a rising mercury column. The low pressure is amplified to an extend so that
it can be measured using manometer principle.
McLeod gauge consists of a measuring capillary tube and a reference a capillary tube with
a graduated scale. Measuring capillary tube is connected to mercury reservoir through a
bulb. Mercury reservoir has a piston arrangement to rise or lower the mercury level.
Reference capillary is connected between the bulb and reservoir.
P input

Threaded rod


Fig. 13.21 Mecleod Gauge
Measurement of Pressure 273

Piston is withdrawn and level of the mercury is lowered below cutoff point. The low-
pressure tube measured is connected as shown in figure and act over capillary tubes and
bulb. Let Vo be the volume of the gas admitted into measuring column above cutoff point.
Piston is pushed in and mercury level gases up. We keep raising the mercury level,
until the mercury level in reference capillary reaches zero reference point. Due to this
action, gas trapped above cutoff points is compressed. Let h be a measure of compressed
gas volume sealed in to measuring capillary as shown in Fig. 13.21. It also represents the
rise in gas pressure in terms of height of mercury column. From Boyles law,
P0V0 = P1V1
P0 Unknown Pressure
V0 Volume of gas after compression
P1 Pressure of gas after compression
P1 = P1 + h and V1 = a h, where a is the cross-section area of the measuring
capillary tube.
Substituting in the Boyles law,
P0V0 = (P0 + h) (ah)
P0V0 = (P0 + h) (ah2)
P0 (V0 ah) = ah

ah2 ah2
P0 = (ah << V0 )
V0 ah V0
From the above expression, we observe that except h, other parameters are physical
dimensions of the gauge. This aspect makes McLeod gauge an absolute instrument suitable
for calibrating other low-pressure gauges.
P input


Threaded rod



Fig. 13.22. McLeod Gauge

274 Instrumentation and Control Systems

While we understand the function of McLeod gauge, two questions rises in our mind.
What is the purpose of bulb?
What is the need for reference capillary while inlet tube itself can be used to measure
mercury level?
For manometeric measurement, the low pressure is to be amplified. For given unknown
pressure P0 if the amplification is to be high, then the ratio V0/a is to be high. This can
be achieved in two ways.
By increasing initial volume of gas V0
By decreasing cross-section area of measuring capillary tube a
Initial volume of gas trapped can be increased by increasing capillary tube length. But
the gauge will be bulky. To accommodate large volume in shorter length, the cross-section
area of measuring capillary tube is increased and it looks like a bulb. This answers the first
question. The purpose of bulb is to increase V0 in short tube length. Note that while doing
so, the quantity of mercury required also increase.
Reducing the cross-section area of measuring capillary tube to increase V0/a ratio,
works well up to certain extend. Further reduction, typically below 1 mm causes the
following problems.
Mercury tends to be sticky.
Capillary effect is considerably high.
The liquid level in capillary tube rises above the general level of liquid. This effect
is called as capillary effect. When diameter of tube decreases capillary effect increases.
Error due to capillary effect can be nullified by using the same diameter capillary tube
called reference capillary tube used for zero reference. As we are interested in level
difference h see figure, the rise in level due to capillary effect is same and the error is
eliminated to a greater extend. This answers the second question.


Piezoelectric crystals are widely used as secondary transducer in modern pressure gauges
to measure dynamic pressure. Pressure is made to act over a known area of diaphragm.
Diaphragm acts as primary transducer and converts pressure in to equalent force. This
force acts on piezoelectric crystal and develop a surface q which is proportional to the
force. The charge developed is given by:
Q = SqPA
Sq Crystal charge sensitivity
Cq denotes quartz crystal
P Pressure
A area over which pressure acts.
Measurement of Pressure 275

The voltage developed across electrodes is given by E0 =
0 r A
C capacitance of crystal electrode combination C =
Sv voltage sensitivity, a function of Sq, 0r.
Dynamic pressure with rise time up to 1 ms and frequency up to few hundreds KHz
can be measured using Piezoelectric pressure transducer.
Constant current diode
Quartz crystal

Bipolar transistor Coupling capacitor


R1 R2

Sensor Power unit

Fig. 13.23. Piezo-electric Crystal with Circuit Diagram

There is a diaphragm, usually made up of stainless steel. Welded across the tubular housing
to convert pressure into equalent force. There is an end piece with a cavity, which allows
diaphragm to deflect and transfers the force to piezoelectric crystal. Piezoelectric element
is comprised of two quartz crystals in the form of disc-preloaded together between a base
and end piece. Piezoelectric crystals will respond to force due to vibration, which is
unwanted signal (noise) in our case. To eliminate this error, another piezoelectric crystal
and seismic mass combination is used to act as accelerometer, whose sensitivity is scaled
exactly cancel noise due to vibration. There is a miniature MOSFET, bipolar transistor unlit
gain amplifier to amplify current and gives low impedance voltage signal. This circuit is
to be externally powered and constant current source (of 2 mA typical) is essential. Except
power supply unit, all other elements described above are packed inside a tubular housing.
276 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Force Piezoelectric Charges Charge
Pressure deflection crystal amplifier



Fig. 13.24. Block Diagram of Piezo-electric Transducer

When transducer is subjected to pressure to be measured, Diaphragm deflects
proportional to pressure, and converts pressure in to equalent force. End piece transfers
this force and applied on to piezoelectric crystal. Piezoelectric crystal develops charges on
the surface proportional to force and charges are collected and then amplified by charge
amplifier to a measurable voltage. This voltage is processed and displayed to read pressure
Frequency Response and Installation Precaution
Piezoelectric transducer approximates a second order system without damping. A typical
frequency response curve is shown in figure. While using piezoelectric transducers in
tubular passage in front of diaphragm, the frequency response and rise time are inferior,
because the column of fluid itself will form a second order system with its own resonant
frequency. Since we are using this column to couple the event to the transducer, its
frequency response is very important.

Log f fn

Fig. 13.25. Frequency Response of Piezoelectric Transducer


1. Define pressure and how does it vary from stress?
2. What is atmospheric pressure?
3. Define gauge pressure.
4. Define vacuum pressure.
Measurement of Pressure 277

5. What is pressure head? Derive its mathematical expression.

6. Classify various pressure gauges.
7. How do we select pressure gauge?
8. Explain simplest type of pressure transducer.
9. Explain about the pressure gauge used for calibration.
10. Explain along with construction about bourdon tube pressure gauge.
11. Explain along with construction about elastic diaphragm pressure gauge.
12. Describe bellows type pressure gauge.
13. What is capacitive pressure sensor, explain?
14. Explain about thermocouple gauge.
15. Explain pirani gauge and ionization gauge and compare them.
16. Describe viscous friction vacuum gauge.
17. State Boyles law and explain Mcleod gauge.
18. State piezoelectric effect and explain piezoelectric pressure transducer.


This chapter will consider the different displacement measurement devices. After reading
this chapter, you should be able to:
Answer what is displacement and its classification
Say why an Engineer needs to learn displacement measurement
Describe different displacement measuring instruments
Select a displacement transducer for a given engineering application.

Flow Measurement 279


Once a person went to Mr. George Bernard Shaw, a well-known public speaker, and asked
him, How do you speak very fluently without any fear, when thousands of people are in
front of you? There may be people in the crowd who are more knowledgeable than you;
dont you feel afraid of them? What is the secret behind it? The speaker said, When I
come to the stage, I look at the audience once and say to myself that thousands of fools
are waiting to hear your speech and they dont know anything about what I am going to
talk. The moment I believe my statement the words starts flowing and there is no big
secret behind it. Yes! It is true not only in case public speaking, but also in other engineering
flow phenomenon. In case of public speaking, the speaker things that he knows better than
the audience thus creating a potential difference (higher knowledge lower knowledge)
and delivers a discourse. Flow is a natural phenomenon. All we can do is creating a
potential difference. The flow takes place naturally.

Flow will take place if and only if there exists a energy difference.

What about the engineering flow phenomenon? The same rule applies. Consider
electric charge flow (current). The current flows from higher potential to lower potential.
The current will flow only if there is a voltage difference (potential difference) between
terminals. Heat flows from higher temperature to lower temperature. The heat will flow
only if there is a temperature difference (potential difference). Similarly, fluid will flow
from higher pressure to lower pressure. The fluid will flow only if there is a pressure
difference (potential difference).

The definition of Flow: The continuous deformation of the fluid, when subjected to
shear stress.

Although the word flow has a precise definition, it seems to be vague in the statement
flow measurement. By the Flow measurement, we actually mean the measurement of
flow characteristics such as volumetric flow rate, mass flow rate, velocity of flow. Let us
first define these terms.
12 1

Volumetric Flow Rate

10 3
9 4
8 5
7 6

The volume of fluid past a given section per unit time at

given temperature and pressure or normalised to some
standard temperature and pressure. The SI unit of
volumetric flow rate is m3/s.
Fig. 14.1. Volumetric Flow Rate
Mass Flow Rate
The mass of the fluid past a given section per unit time is called as mass flow rate. The
SI unit of mass flow rate is kg/s. It can be calculated as follows:

m = AV
280 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Where, 12 1
11 2

Density of the fluid

10 3
9 4
8 5
7 6

A Cross-section area
V Velocity of the fluid
Velocity of flow
It is the velocity with which the fluid is moving past a Fig. 14.2. Mass Flow Rate
given point. The SI unit of velocity is m/s. Note that the
velocity is not same across the cross section of the pipe/duct. Due to frictional effect, the
velocity will be less near the wall of the pipe and it gradually reaches the maximum at
the center of the pipe, in case of laminar flow as shown in figure. The gradient colour in
the figure is used to show the velocity gradient and the corresponding velocity profile is
also shown across the cross-section.
Laminar flow
Pipe wall
Velocity Profile

V=0 Vmax
Fig. 14.3. Laminar Flow
At higher velocity, the frictional resistance becomes negligible and the profile is as
shown in figure. We have used two terms laminar flow and turbulent flow. We will discuss
these terms under the classification of flow.
Turbulent flow
Piple wall
Velocity Profile

V=0 Vmax
Fig. 14.4. Turbulent Flow


Based on medium
Liquid flow
Gas flow
Flow Measurement 281

Slurry flow
Granular flow
In case of liquid flow, the liquid is assumed to be incompressible. The change in
density is negligible, so the analysis become easy. This class of flow finds application in
petrolium industries, oil refineries, food processing industries, hydraulic power equipments
Gas flow is compressible fluid flow. It needs allowance for compressibility and
correction for pressure and temperature. Since many factors affects the flow, the complexity
of the analysis is more. The gas flow finds application in aerodynamics, automobile design,
pneumatic power equipments etc.
Slurry is basically a mixture of solid and liquid. The solid particle may vary from
small suspended particle to big solid particles in liquid.
Granular solid is small solid particles. Although the definition of flow cannot be
applied strictly, it verymuch resembles fluid flow. This finds application in cement
industries, coalmines, granular plastic raw material to injection moulding machine etc.
Amoung the above, we restrict our discussion to liquid flow and to some extend gas flow.
Based on nature of flow
Laminar flow
Turbulent flow
If the motions of individual particles are parallel to pipe surface, then the flow is
described as laminar flow. Note that the direction of particles needs to be same, but not
the magnitude of the flow velocity. This happens when fluid with high viscosity flows
through a smooth pipe at low velocity.
If the motion of individual particles are not parallel due to violent mixing of eddies
and swirl, then the flow is described as turbulent flow. This normally happens with low
viscus fluids when flowing with high velocity.
How to find the nature of the flow (laminar/turbulent)?
Flow is movement of fluid under differential energy levels. For any movement, the force
acting should be more than the inertia force. The fluid flow takesplace in layers, one over
the other. Hence, viscus force (force between layers) comes in to the picture. These to
parameters are more critical to decide the nature of the flow. So, if we can take ratio, it
becomes dimension less (as both quantities are force) and we get a number. It is found that
this number is sufficient to predict the nature of flow. As this work is done by a scientist
Reynold, we honour him by calling this number as reynolds number. Now, let us derive
an expression for the Reynolds number.
Reynold'd number =
Inertia force = mass flow rate * velocity = (*A* v) *v = *A* v2
= *l2* v2 [Area = (length)2]
282 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Viscus force = shear force *area = [shear force = m*v/l]
= *v*l [A = l2]
substituting in Renolds number equation, we get
Re =

Here l is charateristic parameter. In case of open channel flow it is length of the
channel and in case of pipe flow it is diameter of the pipe.
Another classification of flow may be
Steady Flow
When the velocity at each location is constant, the velocity field is invariant with time and
the flow is said to be steady.
Uniform Flow
Uniform flow occurs when the magnitude and direction of velocity do not change from
point to point in the fluid.
Flow of liquids through long pipelines of constant diameter is uniform whether
flow is steady or unsteady.
Non-uniform flow occurs when velocity, pressure etc., change from point to point in
the fluid.
Steady, Uniform Flow
Conditions do not change with position or time. e.g., Flow of liquid through a pipe of
uniform bore running completely full at constant velocity.
Steady, Non-Uniform Flow
Conditions change from point to point but do not with time. e.g., Flow of a liquid at
constant flow rate through a tapering pipe running completely full.
Unsteady, Uniform Flow
e.g., when a pump starts-up.
Unsteady, non-uniform Flow: e.g., Conditions of liquid during pipetting out of liquid.


Fluids like Petrolium, natural gas, osygen, milk, and beverages are supplied to
the container on continious basis and we need to do on-line measurement of
these fluids precisely. This is very much necessary for the payment purposes in
commercial point of view.
In chemical industries and dieing industries the ingredients in the form of fluid
is to be proportionately added to get desired result. This helps in optimizing the
of the outcome, may be in the form of waste minimization and maximization
of production, quality etc.
Flow Measurement 283

Flow control system require the flow signal is to be converted to electrical

signal. It is necessary, because the reference will be in the form of electrical
signal in most cases.
As the flow conditions differ drastically from laminar flow to turbulent flow,
compressible to incompressible flow etc. many devices are designed to meet specific
requirement. Few are very common and many of them are rarely used. The data is provided
to give you a rough idea of the proportion the types of devices used. In real time it may
vary from industry to industry depends on the type of industry.

Device type Percentage of use

Differential pressure devices 65%
Electromagnetic devices 10%
Variable area meters 10%
Positive displacement meters 5%
Turbine meters 5%
Miscellaneous 5%

From the above table, it is evident that differntial pressure devices are used widely
in the industry. Hence, understanding of such devices with necessay backgroung is essential.
Let us derive the energy equation which is going to be the governing equation for few of
the flow measurement techniques.


Section 1

Section 2
P1, v1 P2,v2

Z1 Z2

Fig. 14.5. Flow Through a Duct

Law of Conservation of Energy

Energy can neither be created nor be destoyed. It can be transfromed from one form
to another.

We will use this principle to measure flow. First let us derive an expression for
velocity and volume flow rate. Consider, a flow through a converging section as shown in
figure. The energy at any section per unit mass mainly comprises of internal energy (U),
Kinetic energy (V2/2), Potential energy (gz) and flow work (P/). In addition, There may be
284 Instrumentation and Control Systems

heat input(q) and mechanical shaft work (Ws). Assuming the effect heat and shaft work in
the system is zero, the energy at any section is given by:

P v2
= m U + + + gz

Applying the energy equation to section 1 and 2.

P1 v12 P2 v 22
m1 1 + + + gz1 = m U
2 2 + + + gz2
1 2 2 2
Assume mass flow rate is constant at section 1 and section 2. i.e., m1 = m2.
Assuming frictional losses are negligible, the inernal energy at both sections will be
U1 = U2.

P1 v 12 P2 v 22
+ + gz1 = + + gz2
1 2 2 2

The above equation is called Bernoullis equation. Please remember it.(It is worth
remembering). More important task is to understand it. Dont just look at the symbols like
P1, v1, z1 etc. the first term refers to the potential energy. In that term (p/), P is more
predominant in case of liquids, as change in density is negligible. The second term (v2/2)
refers to Kinetic energy. The Velocity is the only variable responsible, when unit mass
is considered. The third term refers to Datum energy. The sum of energies at any section
is constant.
Assume fluid is incompressible, and at the same datum, then 1 = 2. and z2 = z2.

P1 v12 P2 v22
= + 2

V22 V12 P P2
= 1

2( P1 P2 )
(V22 V12 ) =

Now, we know how to measure differential pressure (P1P2), if we can find some
relation by which, we can relate one velocity term to other known quantity, then other
velocity term may be easily found out. We know the continuity equation for section
1 & 2.

m = 1A1V1 = 2A2V2
A1V1 = A2V2

V1 = * V2
Flow Measurement 285

Substituting in above equation,

A22 2 2 (P1 P2 )
V22 . V2 =

V22 1 22 = 2 (P1 P2 )

2 (P1 P2 )
V22 =
A 2
1 2

1 2 ( P1 P2 )
V2 = .
1 A


Now, Consider a liquid is flowing through a pipe. All we have to do is change the cross-
section area, and measure the pressure difference to find the velocity at section 2. So, we
put a small hole (just smaller than the pipe diameter) in a plate and insert it inside the
pipe. This device is named as Orifice plate.
Note that, in the expression, A2 refers to the minimum cross-section area and A1
refers to the pipe diameter. If we use a transparant pipe and observe the flow, the minimum
cross-section area occurs not on the orifice edge, but after certain distance on the down
stream side. Here, the minimum cross-section area is called Vena Contracta. This can be
foundout by using a co-efficient called Co-efficient of Contraction.

Area of fluid jet at vena contracta

Cc =
Orifice Area
Vena contracta area (actual A2) = A2* Cc
Once we know, A1, A2 and pressure difference, we can find out down stream velocity
V2 under ideal conditions using the equation. The actual down stream velocity can be
obtained by incorporating co-efficient of velocity, which is defined as:

Actual velocity
Cv =
Ideal velocity
286 Instrumentation and Control Systems

So, the actual down stream velocity = Cv* Ideal velocity

1 2( P1 P2 )
= Cv *
A 2
1 2
A 1

Volume flow rate (discharge), Q = Area * Velocity

1 2 ( P1 P2 )
= A2 * Cv .
1 22

Substituting the actual A2 in the equation, the (Theoretical) actual volume flowrate
will be

1 2 ( P1 P2 )
= Cc . A2 * Cv .
(C A )2
1 c 22

A2 2 ( P1 P2 )
= Cd .
1 22

where, Cd co-efficient of discharge, depends on Cc and Cv.


Low pressure losses by the measuring instrument
No moving parts and no flow disturbing insert
No entry and development length for flow
High accuracy and ability to calibrate
Wide measuring range
Ability to integrate flow fluctuations
Linear instrument response to flow rate
Low cost
Low sensitivity to dirt particles in the flow
Easiness on incorporation into pipe system (low weight, small size, etc.)
Erosion and corrosion or other fluid effects on walls and inserts should not
affect materials
Flow Measurement 287


Now let us start with a crude devices for measurement then we move on to better ones.


The orifice meter consists of a thin circular plate with a hole in it. The maximum thickness
of the plate is one tenth of pipe diameter. The plate is held in pipeline between two flanges
called Orifice flanges. The upstream edge of the plate must have a sharp edge. That
means, orifice plate has upstream and down stream faces which must be identified. The
sharp edges may suffer from the abrasive action due to desired/undesired particles carried
by the fluid flow. In those circumstances, the orifice should be made of abrasion resistance
material like stainless steel.
50 mm

D 0.3 to 0.8 D


Fig. 14.6. Orifice Meter

A small hole must be drilled in the plate. The purpose of the hole is to bleed the gas
in case of liquid flow and to drain the liquid in case of gas flow. Obviously, to bleed the
gas the hole must be at the top as shown in figure for liquid flow and to drain liquid, the
hole must be at the bottom in case of gas flow as shown in figure.
Now, is all the problem solved? No, This hole may introduce error in pressure reading.
To avoid error, the pressure tappings must be at least 90 from the hole position.

Pressure loss

Fig. 14.7. Pressure Loss in Orifice Meter

288 Instrumentation and Control Systems

14.8.1 Installation Precaution

We know, any bend in the pipe creates a back pressure or pressure loss (similar to people
running in road which has many bends create backpressure on the people following them
or loss their energy faster). To avoid this effect, we need to install the orifice meter at least
for ten times pipe diameter away from the bend. In case it is not possible due to space
constraint, then straightening vanes must be used to reduce back pressure effect.
Another point to note during installation is the control valve in the fluid flow path.
Control valve will disturb the flow pattern, so we need to install the orifice before the
control valve to avoid error caused by it.
How to tap the pressure difference:
There are many ways to tap the pressure difference. The most widely used ones are
discussed below.
1. Radius Tap/Throat tap
This is very commonly used tapping. It is also called D-D/2 tapping. It is shown in figure.
2. Flange Taps
Typically, the tappings are done 25 mm from orifice on both upstream and downstream
side. It is shown in figure.
When to go for flange type tapping?
When flow to be measured is taking place in big pipes with big flanges and drilling of hole
for tapping on the pipe is difficult.
3. Vena Contracta Taps
In this type of tapping, the upstream tapping is taken diameter of the pipe distance from
orifice. (i.e., distance from tapping to orifice is D). The downstream tapping distance
varies based on the vena contracta calculation. The advantage of this type of tapping is
standard flanges may be used and we will get the maximum differential pressure for a
given orificemeter.
When to go for Vena contracta taps?
When you know fluid, pipe diameter and other parameter affecting the vena contracta in
advance then we can go for this type of tapping compared to flange type as it will give the
maximum differential pressure for a given orifice meter.

14.8.2 Special Orifice Plate Bores

Bore and Bevel type orifice meter

Fig. 14.8. Bore and Bevel Type Orifice Meter

Flow Measurement 289

The Bore and Bevel is the standard method of limiting the plate edge thickness. The
bevel is machined on a 45 angle to the desired edge thickness. Unless otherwise specified,
plates will be bevelled to 1/50 of the line I.D. or 1/8 of the orifice bore, minimum governing.
Bore and Counter Bore Type Orifice Meter
The Bore and Counter bore is a special method to limit the plate edge thickness. Instead
of bevelling at the normal 45 degrees, the plate is counter bored to the desired edge

Fig. 14.9. Bore and Counter Bore Type Orifice Meter

Segmental Type Orifice Meter

Segment type orifice plates are provided for measurements where solids are entrained in
a gas or liquid flow stream. The circular portion of the bore is inscribed within a circle,
which is normally 98% of the pipe diameter. The segmental opening may be placed at the
top or the bottom of the pipe. Industries using these bores include, sewage treatment,
steel, chemical, water conditioning, paper and petrochemical.

Fig. 14.10. Segmental Type Orifice Meter

Eccentric Type Orifice Meter

Eccentrically bored plates are plates with the orifice off centre, or eccentric, as opposed to
concentric. The bore of the eccentric orifice normally is inscribed in a circle that is 98% of the
pipe diameter, so the solids or slurries may pass through. Eccentric orifice plates are used in
many industries including heavy and light chemicals, steel, paper, atomic, and petrochemicals.

Fig. 14.11. Eccentric Type Orifice Meter

290 Instrumentation and Control Systems

Quarter-Round Type Orifice Meter

The Quarter-Round, or Quadrant bore, is an orifice with the inlet edge rounded. The radius
of the quarter-circle bore is a function of the orifice-to-pipe ratio (d/D). Thickness at the
throat is equal to the radius. Overall plate thickness is frequently greater than for standard
plates. This bore is specifically designed for fluids of high viscosity, such as heavy crudes,
syrups, and slurries. Quarter-Round bores are recommended for viscous flows having
Reynolds Numbers below 4,000.

14.8.3 Typical Manufacturers Dimensions

C 1/2

Diameter of bore

A Dia

Fig. 14.12. Dimensions of Orifice Meter

14.8.4 Design Specifications

Typical specific tolerances that apply to orifice plates are as follows:
Edges: Square and sharp, will not reflect a beam of light when viewed without
Finish: 1530 micro-inch roughness.
Flatness: Flat within 0.010 inches, per inch of dam height.
(Dam height = pipe diameter minus orifice diameter, divided by 2.)
Bore: Orifice bore tolerance in strict accordance with A.P.I. Chapter 14, Section 3,
A.G.A. Gas Measurement Committee Report No. 3, A.S.M.E., I.S.O., I.S.A., and wit1h other
societies recommendations.
Material: Stainless Steel, Monel and Hastelloy.
Design: Normal stocked items will be the standard design used in all industries.
Special designs can be availed on request.
Sizes: Orifice Plates have been furnished in line sizes (pipe diameter) from inch
to 60 inches.
Flow Measurement 291

14.8.5 How Do We Specify While Ordering an Orifice Meter?

1. Size (Bore diameter)
2. Flange ANSI rating
3. Dimension A if not as listed in manufacturers catalogue
4. Material
5. Required orifice size
1. It has low initial cost
2. It is easy to install
3. Maintenance is easy
4. The characteristics of orifices of different sizes and configurations are standardized
and the behaviour is predictable and results are reproducable.
5. It occupies less space as compared to venturimeters.
6. It can be used in wide range of pipe sizes (1.25 cm to 150 cm)
1. It has discharge co-efficient of about 0.6, which is a measure of sensitivity. It is
very low as compared to venturimeter.
2. The loss of head is much higher 60% to 70% in case of orificemeter as compared
to 10% in venturimeter.
3. The inaccuracies that result from erosion, corrosion and sealing.
4. Lower physical strength of orificies possibility of damage.
5. As slurries tend to clog, the flat orifices cannot be used for flow measurement
of slurries.


Are we happy with the orifice meter always? No, look at the pressure drop across the
device. In many applications it is not tolerable. What can be done about it? How to reduce
the losses, while maintaining the differential pressure. The reason for pressure loss is due
to sharp corners, abdrupt change in cross-section (pipe diameter to orifice diameter).
To reduce losses due to sharp corner, provide a smooth corner with an elliptical
radius (R= 0.2* orifice diameter). So, one problem is solved. The radius provided at the
corner of the orifice itself will form a shape of nozzle and change in the cross-section will
be smoother. To smoothen the flow further, we provide the reduced cross-section area for
a distance of 0.3 times pipe diameter. The resulting device is called Nozzle meter or Flow

14.9.1 Constructional Details

Flow nozzles consists of a plate with a nozzle attached. The nozzle cross-section gradually
reduces to a throat and then the fluid is left free. The reduction in cross-section area of
292 Instrumentation and Control Systems

nozzle is elliptical in nature. For a low ratio flow nozzle, the profile may be found as
follows. Knowing D1 and D2,
Major axis of ellipse = D1
Minor axis of ellipse = D1 D2
The elliptical curvature is taken upto D1/2 and then 0.6 D2 distance same diameter is
maintained. Similar proposions for high ratio nozzles are shown in figure.
D D/2

Fig. 14.13. Flow Nozzle

D/2 d



Fig. 14.14. Proportions of Flow Nozzle


Pressure loss

Fig. 14.15. Pressure Loss in Flow Nozzle

14.9.2 Types of Flow Nozzles

1. Flange type flow nozzle
2. Flange type nozzle with tap flow nozzle
Flow Measurement 293

3. Flange type throat tap nozzle

4. Weld-in type flow nozzle
5. Weld-ring type flow nozzle
1. Flange Type Flow Nozzle
Flange type flow nozzle for insertion between flanges is shown in figure. This type is
commonly used with pipe wall taps located at one diameter (of pipe) on upstream side and
half the diameter (of the pipe) on down stream. Nozzle is centered in pipeline with
required accuracy by shoulder behind the nozzle flange.

Fig. 14.16. Flange Type Flow Nozzle

2. Flange Type Nozzle with Tap Flow Nozzle

Flange type flow nozzle with down stream tap in nozzle flange for insertion between
flanges is shown in figure. Except for tap location, this type is same as flange type. It is
used mostly in small sizes where the down stream pipe wall tap locates in an undesirable
place such as on or too close to pipe weld, etc.
3. Flange Type Throat Tap Nozzle
Flange type throat tap nozzle for insertion between flanges. It is used when extreme
accuracy and repeatability are required. This type of nozzle is purchased with a complete
flow section (with flow straightner) and is laboratory flow calibrated.
4. Weld in Flow Nozzle
Weld-in type flow nozzle for welding directly into flow section is shown in figure. This
type is used where flanges are readily acceptable such as high temperature and pressure
applications. These are used more frequently in power plant installations, feed water etc.

Fig. 14.17. Welded in Flow Nozzle

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5. Weld-Ring Type Nozzle Flow Nozzle

Weld-ring flow nozzle for welding and pining into flow section is shown in figure. Except
the way it is secured in pipe it is same as weld-in type nozzle. The pinning process
eliminates welding or dissimilar materials as the ring, pins and pipe are of compatible

14.9.3 How Do We Specify Nozzles?

1. Co-efficient of discharge: 0.85 to 0.90
2. Type
3. Line size
4. Throat Internal diameter
5. Area ratio
Area of inlet to throat area is called as throat area. It is typically between
1 : 2 to 1 : 4
6. Type of fluid
It can be used for both gas and liquid. Depending upon the nature of the fluid
such as corrosion, material of device has to be chosen.
7. Loading factor
It denotes the amount of pressure drop occur in fluid flow.
8. Range of flow
It will tell the maximum amount of fluid that can be paased through the device.
9. Maximum pressure and temperature
It tells the range of temperature and pressure within which the device works
10. Maximum viscosity
It tells the maximum viscosity of the fluid that can be allowed through the
11. Material
Flow nozzles are made up of stainless steel (304, 316), Carbon steel, monel
metal and gun metal.
Installation and pressure tapping discussed in orifice section holds good here too. Please
note that D-D/2 tapping gives better results.
1. Sustains accuracy over longer period of time than an orifice plate.
2. It has same flow capacity as venturi tube at less cost.
3. Flow capacity is approximately 60% greater than an orifice plate with the same
beta ratio.
4. It has less damming effect of solids or foreign matter than the orifice plate.
Flow Measurement 295

5. Provides a smaller beta ratio than an orifice meter for the same flow and the
differential flow requirements. This permits the use of shorter lengths of upstream
and down stream pipe for an approved installation.
6. It has better wear qualities than orifice plate
7. It can be used where the flanges in the piping system are not desired or not
8. It has more accuracy in high velocity flows than orifice meters.
9. Very compact and has high co-efficient of discharge when compared to venturi
10. They are useful for measurement of flow of fluids containing solids that settle
and are also widely used for high temperature/pressure steam flow.
1. Pressure recovery is low compared to venturi meter
2. Maintenance is high.
3. It cannot be used if a high percentage of the total flow is solid.
1. Flow standards for calibration of other meters with all gases (air N2, O2, He, H2,
etc.) in the range of 0.05 pounds per minute (0.66 SCFM) to no upper limit.
2. Working meters in Development, Qualification and Inspection tests.
3. Flow Capacity and pressure drop tests on valves, ducts, electronic package
cooling, and heat exchangers.
4. Wind tunnel calibration.
5. Flow Limiting venturis for control of gaseous flows.
6. Test stands and OEM products.
7. Measurement of airplane cabin leakage flows.
Are we satisfiied with performance of flow nozzles. No! Still the losses are high. As
the fluid is left free in the pipe suddenly in the case of nozzles, the pressure is not
recovered fully and eddies are formed leading to greater pressure lose (loading the system/
disturbing the flow pattern). Let us gradually reduce the cross-section to the minimum
diameter (throat). This will reduce the pressure drop due to sudden change in cross-
section. Then keep that throat diameter for some lenth (for small distance). Why? Then
increase the diameter gradually to pipe diameter. The slope of increasing side is less than
the slope of decreasing side. Now, we get a device something like figure. The decreasing
section is called Converging cone and increasing section is called Diverging cone. The
small portion where the cross-section is small and diameter is constant is called Throat.
This device is called Venturi meter. Venturi is the name of the person who designed
296 Instrumentation and Control Systems


Cylindrical Convergent
Divergent outlet
inlet entrance Throat

21 7 to 15

Fig. 14.18. Venturi Meter

Working Principle
It works based on continuity equation and energy equation. Continuity equation is: A1V1
= A2V2. As we reduce area, velocity increases and vice versa. Energy equation is :
P1 v12 P2 v 22
+ 2 = + 2 ; As velocity increases (and so Kinetic Energy), the pressure decreases
and vice versa.
Venturi meter has four distinguishable parts
1. Cylindrical entrance
2. Converging Cone
3. Throat
4. Diverging Cone
For all four parts the inner surface is made as smooth as possible to reduce losses due
to friction.
1. Cylindrical Entrance
It has the same diameter as the pipe to be fitted. It serves two purposes
(a) To enable the venturi meter to be fitted in the pipe.
(b) To enable pressure tapping of pipe diameter without disturbing the pipe.
Otherwise, the drilling needs to be done which may cause inconvenience.
2. Converging Cone
The cross-section decreases from pipe diameter to throat diameter gradually. The converging
takes place typically at an angle of 21 2. We know, as cross-section decreases the
velocity will increase and the pressure will decrease.
3. Throat
Immediately after the converging cone there is a short pipe of minimum diameter. This
pipe is called Throat. As the cross-section area is minimum in this pipe, the static
Flow Measurement 297

pressure will be minimum. The diameter of the throat is usually between 0.25 D to 0.5 D,
where, D pipe diameter. The length of the throat is just enough to accommodate pressure
tap. Note that we want maximum differential pressure, so one pressure tapping is from
pipe itself (where pressure is maximum) and the other one is in throat (where pressure is
4. Diverging Cone
The cross-section increases gradually to the pipe diameter. The diverging has to take place
very slowly to avoid separation. Separation is the movement of fuid away from the wall.
If the diverging angle is very small, the pressure recovery will be maximum. i.e., the losses
will be minimum. But the length of the diverging cone will increase. The diverging angle
has to be decided based on the following factors:
Importance of pressure recovery
Space availability for diverging cone
The typical value of diverging angle is 5 to 7. It can go upto 15 based on the
pressure recovery requirement.
Brass or bronze is used for small venturimeter for pipe diameter of 5 cm and cast iron is
used for bigger venturimeters.
How do we specify venturi meter?
1. Fluid (Kinematic viscosity)
2. Flow Range
3. Pressure Range
4. Temperature Range
5. Line Size Tube O.D. and wall thickness Pipe size and schedule
6. Material
7. End Fittings
8. Pressure Port Connections
9. Calibrated or Uncalibrated
10. Accuracy
11. Head loss
1. The head loss is less (about 10% of differntial pressure head)
2. Venturimeter is used extensively and the characteritics are well established and
the behaviour is predictable
3. It has very high co-efficient of discharge (0.95 to 0.97)
4. It can be used even in larger pipe diameters.
298 Instrumentation and Control Systems

1. The large size occupies more space and it cannot be used where space is limited.
2. The cost is very high.




40 Float

30 Equilibrium


Fig. 14.19. Rotameter

Let us simplify the basic equation for volumetric flow rate as:

Q = kA gh
Q Volumetric flow rate
K A constant
A Annular area between the float and the tube wall
g Force of gravity
h Head loss across the float (pressure drop)
Earlier we have kept area constant and changed the head, now let us keep head
constant and change the area proportional to flow rate. With h being constant in a variable
area meter, we have area (A) as a direct function of flow rate (Q). Thus, the rotameter tube
taper is designed such that the height of the float in the tube is a measure of flow rate.

Can I change area

of cross-section ?!!

Fig. 14.20. Rotameter Design Idea

Flow Measurement 299

The term rotameter is derived from early versions of floats with slots which caused
them to rotate. Now, the falling and rising of float in a tapered tube is used as a measure
of flow rate. It is also called gravity type flow meter, beause it is based on the opposition
between the gravity force and force due to fluid flow. When the fluid flow is constant, the
float stays in a position. The position is related to volumetric flow rate using a vertical
graduated scale. It can be used to measure flow rates of most liquids, gases and steam.

14.11.1 Design Variations

14.11.2 Glass Tube Rotameters

With a tapered metering tube made of borosilicate glass, this was the original rotameter.
Because the float is normally visible in the tube, the meter shows flow rate readings
directly on scale graduations on the glass surface. Low-capacity glass tube meters are used
extensively in purge systems, where they are called purge meters.
Glass tube rotameters are typically used for simple but reliable indication of flow rate
with a high level of repeatability. Alarm contacts can be easily added to provide high-, and/
or low-flow signals, in which the contact is activated as the flow rate either drops below
or rises above the set point.
Linear scale graduations can be an arbitrary 0%100% for the meter range. Calibration
can be direct reading in terms of a specific gas or liquid, or a graph that plots meter
readings vs. flow rates in terms of the fluid being measured. Such graphs make it easy to
adapt a meter to handle fluids other than those for which it was bought; changeover is
simply a matter of having a different conversion chart designed for the new fluid.
The meter assemblys metal body is rigidly constructed to maintain tube alignment.
The various types of end fittings provide process pipe connections; either threaded female
or flanged. O-rings or packing glands at either end of the tube seal it to the end fittings.
Some designs provide for easy removal of the glass tube for cleaning or range change
without pulling the meter from the pipeline.

14.11.3 Metal Tube Rotameters

These devices, also known as armored meters, are designed for applications where the
temperature or pressure exceeds the limits of glass tubes. Flow rate is indicated by a
pointer on an indicating scale by means of a magnet inside the float, magnetically linked
to the pointer. Designed for indication only, metal tube meters require no external source
of electric power. They may also be specified in applications requiring remote transmission
of the measured flow rate, a feature not generally available with glass tube meters.
Available in a variety of tube and float combinations, metal tube meters are generally
made of corrosion-resistant type 316 stainless steel. They are well suited to measuring
steam flow where conditions or regulations prevent the use of glass, and useful as well
where the nature of the fluid would preclude reading a float position. The meter shown
here is constructed of all 316-Ti stainless steel. The equally corrosion-resistant float is
magnetically coupled to the scale pointer and can also be coupled to high- and/or low-
flow alarms or to an electronic converter that generates a 420 mA signal for transmission
over a 2-wire cable to a remote indicator, recorder, or controller.
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A low-capacity design is available for low flow measurements at high pressure and
temperature, or where the use of glass is restricted for safety reasons. Its integral needle
valve and constant-flow, differential pressure (dp) regulator is useful when it is used as a
purge meter. This small armored meter can also incorporate contacts for maximum and/
or minimum alarms and a 420 mA analog output.

14.11.4 Plastic Tube Rotameter

Plastic tube rotameters can be an entirely suitable, very cost-effective alternative to glass
or metal meters for a wide variety of fluid measurements. One popular model is made of
a single piece of clear acrylic that is practically unbreakable in most industrial process
applications. Often used as a purge meter, this type is a low-cost, reliable solution for
many Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) applications.
Float Designs
The float in small purge meters is usually a ball made of black glass, stainless steel,
sapphire, Carboloy, or tantalum. For larger sizes in both glass and metal tubes the float is
generally machined from corrosion-resistant materials with variations to suit the application.
Floats are available in a variety of shapes and materials, with varying densities that can
be used to change the meters range and to resist corrosion from the measured fluid. While
Type 316 stainless steel is common, floats are also available in tantalum, Hastelloy C,
Monel, Teflon, and PVC.

14.11.5 Typical Design Specification of Rotameter

Service. Measuring volumetric flow rates of many liquids and gases, including steam
Flow range. Measuring liquid (water) flow rates from 0.65 cc/min. to 530 gpm in pipe
from 1/8 to 4 in. dia. and gases (air) from 47 sccm to 860 scfm.
Design pressure (typical). Metal tube, to 1500 psig; glass tube, to 300 psig; plastic
tube, to 100psig
Design temperature (typical). Metal tube, to 900F; glass tube, to 250F; plastic tube,
to 150F
Scale. Linear.
Signal. Visual and/or electronic.
Accuracy. Typical accuracy 2% to 10% F.S., depending on type, size, and calibration.
Repeatability. 0.5% to 1% F.S.
Viscosity. Liquids up to 200 cP.
Rangeability. 5:112:1.
Sizes. Up to 4 in.; also used as a bypass meter around a main line orifice for larger
pipe sizes.
End Connections. Flanged or threaded.
While ordering, you should know the following data.
Fluid type: The more information on the nature of the fluid, the better. Is it
liquid, gas, or steam? If it is highly corrosive, give its chemical name, e.g.,
sulphuric acid, and its concentration. Are there entrained solids? And so on.
Flow Measurement 301

Fluid density: Give specific units, such as grams per cubic centimetre, at a
specified operating temperature. Alternatively, you can specify fluid-specific
gravity, which is the ratio of the fluid density to the density of water (in the case
of a liquid) or to that of air (in the case of a gas), at a specified temperature.
Fluid viscosity: Again, use specific units such as centipoises or centistokes at
a specified operating temperature.
Operating and maximum temperature and pressure: This information is a
must for gas applications.
Flow rates: What are the minimum and maximum?
Required functions: What tasks will your system be expected to do? Will you
need to incorporate indicators, control devices, alarms, or remote transmission
Indicating scale type: Do you want your readout in percent, direct reading, or
some other format?
Materials of construction: Dont forget system components such as end fittings,
O-rings, regulators, and valves.
Valve requirements: Will you need, for example, a needle valve on the flow
inlet or outlet?
Advantages of Rotameter
Easily maintained readability: With a glass tube meter, the principal metering elements
(float and tube) as well as the fluid being metered are clearly visible. You can immediately
see any accumulation of dirt or other foreign matter deposited on the float or tube walls.
A glass tube rotameter, kept clean, can therefore be used as a backup to check the
performance of some other type of remote-reading flow meter.
Sustained high repeatability: The float moves freely in the metering tube, without friction
or hysteresis. The rotameter thus attains the ideal design goal of having high repeatability
and maintaining it over years of service.
Wide rangeability: Rotameters offer a widerange of flow measurement, referred to as
rangeability. A ratio of 10 : 1 from maximum to minimum flow rate is typical. This means
that a minimum flow rate as low as 1/10 of the maximum flow rate can be measured
without impairing the repeatability.
Linear scale: Because area variation is the measure of flow rate (rather than head or
differential pressure), the calibration curve is practically a straight line. This means the
meter can have an indicating scale whose divisions are essentially spaced evenly (i.e., a
linear scale). Compare this for readability with any differential pressure flow meter.
Rotameter scale readings are not compressed (and harder to read) at low flow rates. You
can therefore read flow rate with the same degree of accuracy throughout the entire range.
Low pressure loss: Because the area between the float and tapered tube increases with
flow rate, pressure loss (pressure drop) across the float is low and relatively constant. This
reduces pumping costs. Furthermore, a meter can be selected to provide a lower drop by
using an oversize tube with a light float.
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Compensation for viscosity changes: The float can be designed to compensate for normal
variations in viscosity and density so that certain viscous oils and chemicals, such as
sulfuric acid, can be measured accurately in spite of wide temperature changes.
Increasable readability: The float travels vertically some 5 in. and can be as long as 24 in.
The meter designer can shorten the flow range and lengthen the float travel to increase
measurement accuracy