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6/10/2017 The Inductance bridge construction project - Part 2

Part 2 - Owens Bridge Inductance Measurement Device


Last time we talked about the basics of an Owens bridge inductance bridge. In this installment, we will describe
a real instrument that you can build. It is self contained, except that it does require an external AC voltmeter as
the null indication device. This version places a fixed AC voltage across the inductor; namely, the "mains" or
"line" frequency through a step down transformer. Also, no DC is inserted into the inductor, but provisions are
made to be able to add this feature in part 3.

The Circuit:


The circuit is very much like the idealized bridge as described in part 1. R1 of the idealized bridge is the S1/R1-
R3 portion of the circuit. This serves as the L*0.1, L*1, L*10 selector in the instrument. C2 of the idealized
bridge is C14 in the instrument. That is why C14 should be selected close to the proper value. (See the
Calibration section below). R3 of the idealized bridge is SW2, SW3, S3 and R4-R27 in the instrument. C3 of the
idealized instrument is SW1 and C1-C12 of the instrument.

The inductance measurement consists of looking for a NULL (minimum reading) on the AC meter by turning
S1, SW2, SW3 and S3 (to find the inductance) and also SW1. The SW1 gives you an indication of the resistance
of your inductor, but is not intended to be an accurate resistance measurement. Rather, adjust SW1 for a null to
help you get a better null of the other switches. Then, the inductance value is read from the switches.

Since Lx=R1*R3*C2 of the idealized bridge, if "R1" is set for 100 ohms, and "R3" is set for 10k, and "C3" is
1uF, the inductance would be 1Hy. Thus, the inductance switch positions are calibrated so that SW2 (1k ohms
per step) represents 100s of mH when S1 is set to the 100 ohm position. Similarly, SW3 (10k ohms per step)
represents 1Hy per step, and S3 represents 10Hy per step. 1/5
6/10/2017 The Inductance bridge construction project - Part 2

The resistance portion simply allows better nulls. In the L*0.1 position, the resistance range to provide complete
null is therefore 1 to 147 ohms. In the L*1 position, this would be 10 to 1470 ohms and in the L*10 position,
this would be 100 to 14.7k. The capacitors associated with this part of the circuit are not needed to be highly
accurate. An ohmmeter will provide a better indication of the resistance of your unknown inductor without a lot
more (expensive) accurate capacitors.

In part 3, we'll add DC capability to the unit. When we do this, a fair ammount of power is dissipated in
R1/R2/R3 of the schematic. That's why the parts list calls out for power resistors there. If you don't need to
measure inductance as a function of DC current, then 1/4 watt resistors will work fine, saving some expense.
Similarly, in part 4, we'll be placing larger AC across the inductor, and that translates to more AC signal across
R4-R25. That's why those are called out as power resistors. If you won't be doing that upgrade, additional
expense can be saved by using 1/4 watt resistors there too. The parts list shown below spells that out.


Operation is easy. Set S2 to the "null" position (S2 serves no important purpose until part 4). Hook up an AC
voltmeter and the unknown inductor to the appropriate binding posts. Adjust SW1 for minimum voltmeter
reading. Adjust S1, SW1, SW2, S3 for minimum AC voltmeter reading. The unknown inductance is the value
indicated by SW2, SW3 and S3 multiplied by the multiplication factor marked on S1.

You can see the voltage across the inductor by flipping S2 to "voltage across ind" position. Note that S2 has to
be in the "null" position in order to find the inductance of your unknown inductor.

Parts List

I've listed two alternates for some of the parts (marked with an asterisk). The first alternate assumes you will be
building the unit do that it will ultimately be upgraded to add DC and perhaps variable AC capability later. The
second alternative is slightly lower in cost for those who want to build the basic bridge but do not need the
added features. I have not included chassis, line cord and hardware items. I'll let these up to your imagination.
Source part numbers were from recent catalogs (July 2001) and may have changed by the time you read this. For
the capacitors listed, they are actually 250 volt parts. The basic unit can probably be built for less than
$100USD, and considerably less with appropriate surplus shopping. In the table below, all part numbers refer to
the Mouser catalog (

RefDesig Qty Value Mfgr Part# Est.Cost(USD) Notes

0.068uF 5989-
C1 1 CDE 00.24
200V 250V.068
0.1uF 5989-
C2 1 CDE 00.26
200V 250V.1
0.22uF 5989-
C3 1 CDE 00.30
200V 250V.22
0.33uF 5989-
C4 1 CDE 00.35
200V 250V.33
0.47uF 5989-
C5 1 CDE 00.42
200V 250V.47
0.68uF 5989-
C6 1 CDE 00.50
200V 250V.68
1.0uF 5989-
C7,13,14 3 CDE 01.77 C14 needs to be selected for 1%
200V 250V1.0
2.2uF 5989-
C8 1 CDE 00.99
200V 250V2.2 2/5
6/10/2017 The Inductance bridge construction project - Part 2

3.3uF 5989-
C9 1 CDE 01.36
200V 250V3.3
4.7uF 5989-
C10 1 CDE 02.43
200V 250V4.7
6.8uF 5989-
C11 1 CDE 03.35
200V 250V6.8
10uF 5989-
C12 1 CDE 04.62
200V 250V10.0
1A fuse
1 Bussmann 1 00.26
F1 Fuse
1 Bussmann 441- 01.39
"5 way"
J2-7 6 DGS 164-11102 09.36 All "black". You can use red/blk.
10 1% 3W 10
Vishay 00.62
R1 1
10 1% 71-
Vishay 00.21*
0.25W RN60D-F-
100 1%
5W Vishay 01.08
R2 1 71-
100 1% Vishay 00.21*
1k 1%
Vishay 1.0K 02.70
R3 1
Vishay 71-RS2B- 00.62*
1k 1% 3W
R4-14 11 1k 1% 3W Vishay 06.82
10k 1% 71-RS2B-
R15-25 11 Vishay 10.56
3W 10K
100k 1%
R26,27 2 Vishay RN60D-F- 00.42
1M 1%
R28 1 Vishay RN60D-F- 00.21
The part spec'd is multiple section. The
S1,3 2 Mountain 10WW033 03.08 other sections of S1 will be used in later
S2 1 NKK 633-S2A 03.50
12pos 3/5
6/10/2017 The Inductance bridge construction project - Part 2
SW1-3 3 rotary Mountain 10WW112 04.62
mains- 553-FP24-
T1 1 Magnetek 11.99
24V,0.25A 250

Totals: 73.20 USDor 69.84*USD

Setup / Calibration

S1 is marked Lx0.1 (the switch is in that position on the schematic), Lx1, and Lx10. SW2 is marked 0, .1 .2 .3 ...
1.1Hy. SW3 is marked 0, 1 2 3 ... 11Hy. SW3 is marked 0 10 20Hy. SW1 is uncalibrated and may be marked
"also set for minimum AC reading".

The unit essentially does not require any calibration. Standard 1% resistors are used throughout, and this
determines the basic accuracy of the instrument. Probably the largest source of error is the one capacitor that
also plays a part in determining the inductance value (C14).

Since is difficult to obtain precision 1uF capacitors, there are two ways to ensure the accuracy of the unit. If you
have access to a capacitance meter of good accuracy, you can select capacitors until you find one that measures
within 1% of 1.0uF. You can also do this by paralleling values until you obtain this. For instance, you can use 2 -
0.47uF capacitors in parallel. Chances are the combination will be slightly less than 1.0uF. You can then start
adding smaller values until you get to exactly 1.0uF. As an example, if you measured 0.93uF, you could try a
0.068uF to get close, then perhaps an 0.001uF or 0.002uF to get exactly the right value.

However, if you do not have access to a capacitance meter, you can also try another method. At 60Hz, the
reactance of a 1.0uF capacitor is 2653 ohms. (At 50Hz it is 3183 ohms). The closest standard 1% resistor values
to those are 2.67k or 3.16k. Simply connect that resistor and your capacitor to be calibrated in series and to the
24 volt AC source (T1). Now, with your AC voltmeter, measure the voltage across the resistor and then the
capacitor. Adjust the capacitor as described in the previous paragraph until the voltage measured across the
resistor and the voltage measured across the capacitor are the same. Note that these voltages will NOT add up to
24 volts (actually, they will add up to about 34 volts).

One additional note affecting the accuracy/calibration of the unit. Notice that the Lx0.1 range resistor is 10
ohms. This means that the wiring resistance of that path needs to be less than about 0.1 ohms. Keep the leads
short and direct, using relatively heavy wire.


Inductance measured:
0 to 3.21Hy in 10 mH steps 0 to 32.1Hy in 100mH steps 0 to 321Hy in 1Hy steps

Inductance is measured at about 5V, 60 (or 50Hz) AC level. [This will be altered in part 4 of this series]. The
actual AC across the inductor can be read by flipping S2 to the "AC across ind" position.

0 DC applied in this version, part 3 will add DC capability of about 0 to 400mA on the 3.21Hy range, 0 to
200mA on the 0 to 32.1Hy scale, and 0 to 100mA on the 0 to 321Hy scale.

What's Next

In part 3, we'll add a DC current source which will allow measurement of inductance as a function of DC current
flowing through the inductor. This allows you the ability to judge how much DC current you can pass through
an audio transformer without severely degrading its inductance.

In part 4, we'll add variable AC level and frequency. This allows you the ability of determining how the
inductance changes with signal level or with signal frequency. 4/5
6/10/2017 The Inductance bridge construction project - Part 2

-Steve 5/5