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Session 1: Title

Session 4
D.C. potentiometer, A.C. potentiometer
Content
Introduction
Concept of a physical quantity
System International D units
Derived units
Measuring Standards
Dimensional Analysis

Introduction
Session one provides concept of physical quantity, Development of units,
Derived units, simple dimensional analysis and measuring standards. The
purpose of the session general approach is refresh your mind on use of units
and measuring standards. Simple dimensional analysis so that you would be
able to correctly use the units without ambiguity and be able to check the
dimensional relation of derived units.

4.1 D.C. potentiometer

Introduction
You would have learnt that the potentiometer is an instrument designed to
measure an unknown voltage by comparison with a known voltage. The
known voltage may be supplied by a standard cell or any other voltage
obtained from a reference source. You will also remember that one of the
basic advantages of a potentiometer is that it makes use of a balance
condition so that no power is consumed from the circuit when the
instrument is balanced. Thus the source resistance does not cause any errors
in the measurement.

Self Assessment Questions

Draw the circuit of the simple d. c potentiometer and explain briefly its
operation.

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Discussion
Figure 19.3 shows the circuit diagram of the basic slide wire potentiometer.

RHEOSATAT

SLIDE WIRE (2m)

SLIDING CONTACT

KEY
UNKNOWN a
E.M.F GALVANOMETER
G

b SWITCH (2 WAY)

STD CELL

Figure 4.1
The switch has two positions: the operating position and the calibrating
position.
Using the switch in position b the potentiometer is calibrated. The emf of
the standard cell has a value of around 1.0186V (this is normally specified
in the cell together with the temperature correction). Thus we keep the slide
wire contact at 101.86cm and we balance the voltage across this length
against the standard cell emf by varying the rheostat. Once balance has been
obtained, each cm length of the slide wire has a potential drop
corresponding to 0.01V. We now switch to position b and move the sliding
contact until balance is obtained. The length of the slide wire then gives us
the voltage across it and hence the unknown voltage.
The slide wire type of potentiometer we have just discussed is not wholly
satisfactory for practical application. The long slide wire is cumbersome and
even for a 2m length of slide wire the position of the sliding contact connote
be read to a very great accuracy.

4.2 Application of D.C. potentiometer

Using a potentiometer it is of course possible to calibrate only d. c
instruments or electrodynamometer instruments (as these are accurate on
both a. c and d. c). As mentioned earlier the function of a potentiometer is
to measure voltage. In addition to this, potentiometers are generally used for
calibration of voltmeters, ammeters and wattmeter.

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4.2.1 Calibration of voltmeter

We do it by a adjusting the applied voltage to a given division on the
voltmeter and then comparing this voltage (or a definite fraction of it if we
are using a volt ratio box) with the potentiometer. In order to adjust the
voltage precisely, a fine adjustment and a coarse adjustment are provided.
The calibration is repeated for each of the major divisions of the voltmeter.
If errors are detected, a calibration curve may be drawn with the aid of the
readings of the voltmeter and he potentiometer. Figure 4.2 shows the circuit
commonly used in the calibration of a voltmeter.

300
150
D. C. SUPPLY V
75
10 TO PONENTIOMETER
C
VOLT RATIO BOX

Figure 4.2

4.2.2 Calibration of an ammeter

We will first have to convert the current to be measured to a precisely,
defined voltage as potentiometer measures only voltages. We can do this by
passing the current through a known standard resistance. This standard
resistor is connected in series with the ammeter. In order to accurately adjust
the current through the ammeter to a major division on its scale, coarse and
fine adjustments are made using rheostats. The complete arrangement is
shown in fig 4.3.

COARSE
I

TO POTENTIOMETER
STANDARD
RESISTORS

Figure 4.3

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From the reading of the potentiometer V, and the value of the standard resistor S,
the current measured is computed.
V
I
S
As with the voltmeter, a calibration curve may be plotted.
4.2.3 Measurement of resistance
What we do is compare the unknown resistance with our standard resistance
by passing the current through both and compare resulting voltages using
the potentiometer. An ammeter is usually inserted in the circuit to ensure
that the current passed through the resistors does not exceed the current
rating of the resistors. A two pole double throw switch is used to apply the
two voltages across the potentiometer in turn. A rheostat is provide for the
control of current..
I

A
PHEOSTAT
¹
(UNKNOWN) R I I
TO POTENTIOMETER
D.C.SUPPLY 2 2¹
( STANDARD ) S

Figure 4.4
With the switch in position 1, the potential across the unknown resistor is
measured.
VR = I.R
Since we use a stabilized d.c. supply the current remains constant for both
cases. We then switch it to position 2 and again take a measurement.
Vs = I S
Since we use a stabilized d.c. supply the current remains constant for both
cases. From the two readings of the potentiometer we have,
VR
R .S
VS
which gives us the unknown resistance, since the standard resistance has a
known value.
The accuracy of the method depend on the stability of the d. c supply since
the two readings are taken different instances of time.
In order to obtain measurements near the maximum range of the
potentiometer for both resistors we must select a standard resistor of the
same order as that of the unknown resistor.

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4.2.4 Measurement of power

In the measurement of power, we take 2 measurements corresponding to
those of current and voltage using a two pole double throw switch. The
product of the voltage and the current thus obtained gives the power of the
load. Figure 4.5 gives the circuit diagram.

STANDARD 300
150
10 TO POTENTIOMETER
SUPPLY TO LOAD C

Figure 4.5
The standard resistor must be of low resistance so as not to change the
circuit conditions. We should thus be able to calibrate wattmeter also,
provided we have suitable stabilized supplies.

4.2.5 Calibration of Wattmeter

We can make use of a similar arrangement to that of section 4.2.4. However
in some instances this would involve dissipation of large amount of power.
In order to save the wastage of power, it is common practice to supply one
potential coil and the current coil from different supplies. Such methods are
known as “Phantom Loading” as the total amount of power indicated in the
wattmeter connections is not actually consumed in the circuit 4.6.

I
A

LOW VOLTAGE SUPPLY CURRENT COIL

( STANDARD ) S

POTENTIOL COIL

VOLT RATIO
BOX
TO POTENTIOMETER

Figure 4.6

Using the potentiometer the voltage and the current passing through the
wattmeter are measured and their product compared with the wattmeter

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Self-Assessment Question

Give five applications of the d. c potentiometer explaining how it is

used in each of the five cases.

4.3 A.C. potentiometer

At last we studied about the d.c. potentiometer. Now let us see
whether the potentiometer is accurate for alternating current as
well.
In direct current we could simply compare magnitudes of
voltages, whereas with alternating currents equalizing
magnitudes would not be sufficient to obtain balance. We would also have
to make sure that the phases are also equal. Thus the a.c. potentiometer
becomes a more complicated instrument. You will also realize that for
balance the frequency and waveform should also be the same in addition to
the magnitude and phase at the instant of measurement. A vibration
galvanometer is usually used to detect the balance point, with the
galvanometer being tuned to the supply frequency. One of the problems
with a.c. potentiometers is the absence of an a.c. reference source. Thus
although very accurate comparisons may be made with the a.c.
potentiometer, absolute measurements may not be made that accurately.
Since there is no reference source available to standardize the a. c.
potentiometer. Thus we have to make use of d.c. reference sources. To
ensure that the d.c. standardization valid with alternating currents we make
use of an accurate a.c./d.c. transfer instrument. The transfer instrument is
usually an electro dynamometer ammeter as these instruments can be
calibrated on d.c. then used on a.c. with very high accuracy.
During operation on alternating currents the rms value of the potetiometer
current is maintained at the same value as was calibrated with on d.c.

4.4 Application of A.C. potentiometer

Quadrature potentiometer was calibrated using a mutual inductance of
known value. In the circuit used for obtaining the quadrature supplies, one
supply was obtained by stepping down the single phase supply directly and
the other by stepping down through a phase shifting network.

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Session 1: Title

Analyses of the two above voltage by sketching the circuit of the phase
splitting and its phase diagram.

I1

SUPPLY
INPUT V

I2

R SUPPLY 2
C

(a)

r1 L1
I1

r2 L2 R C

(b)

Figure 4.7
Figure 4.7 (a) shows the phase splitting circuit and (b) shows its equivalent
circuit when connected to the potentiometer. In the equivalent circuit, r and
re represent the equivalent resistance of the inphase and quadrature
potentiometer and L1 and L2 represent the equivalent inductance.
If we select the voltage as the reference, the phase diagram may be drawn as
shown in figure 4.8.

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I (R+ r )

I (1/C - L )

?1

I1 L
1

I1 r1

I1

Figure 4.8
The current I1 is seen to lag the supplied voltage by an angle 1 and the
current I2 leads the supplied voltage by an angle 2.
We need the two currents to be displaced in phase by an angle of 900 so that
1 + 2 must be 900. Also we need the magnitudes of I1 and I2 to be equal.
This means that the phase diagram of figure 4.8 becomes a rectangle with
opposite sides thus becoming equal.
 I2 (R + r2) = I1  L1
 1 
and I 2   ωL 2   I1 r1
 ωc 
also since I1 = I2 we may write
 + r2 = L1
and -L2 = r1
which gives us R = L1-r2
and = r1 + L2
Thus the values of R and C are adjusted corresponding to these expressions
and we could obtain the currents I1 and I2 equal in magnitude and quadrature
to each other.

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Session 1: Title

4.4.1 Calibration of voltmeters

Low voltage up to about 1.5 V can be measured directly on the a. c
potentiometer. In calibrating a voltmeter we are of course not interested in
the cause angle of the measured voltage and only the magnitude is of
interest. For measurement of voltage higher than 1.5V a volt ration or a
capacitive divider is used. The reading of the meter is compared with the
measured value on the potentiometer and error curves are plotted. Fig. 4.9
shows a circuit that could be used in the voltmeter calibration.

A .C .SUPPLY V

VARIAC VOLTMETWR

Figure 4.9

4.4.2 Ammeter calibration

For measuring current with an a.c. Potentiometer, we must of course pass
the current through a standard resistor (of power value) to obtain a
proportional, voltage which is measure. The standard resistor must of course
be non-inductive so that frequency errors would not arise. A typical circuit
that may be used is shown in figure 4.10.

TO POTENTIOMETER
A .C .SUPPLY V R

VOLTMETWR

Figure 4.10

4.4.3 Wattmeter testing

For measuring power both the current through the load and the voltage
across it must be taken into account. We must also of course take the power
factor and hence the phase angle difference between the voltage and the
current into account. The applied voltage to the potential coil of the

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wattmeter and the current through current cc' are each measured by the a. c.
potentiometer. The phase angle between the voltage and the current is set by
using a phase shifting transformer. Fig. 22.5 shows the typical correction for
the testing of a wattmeter.

A .C . PHASE SHIFTING V
SUPPLY TRANSFORMER
TO POTENTIOMETER

WATT
METER
R

Figure 22.5
In the circuit shown, we see that the current cc'' of the wattmeter is supplied
directly from the a.c. supply through the transformer whereas the potential
coil of the wattmeter is fed through a phase shifting transformer and a
transformer. Thus the phase shift indicated on the phase shifting transformer
infact indicates the phase difference between the supplied voltages to the
two circuits. Since the current coil circuit is purely resistive the current is
inphase with the supply voltage. Hence the phase angle indicated infact
corresponds to the power factor angle We may thus test the wattmeter at any
given current, voltage and power factor. The power factor Is of course
varied by rotation of the rotor of the phase shifter.

22.1.4 Testing of current transformers

An important use of a.c. potentiometers is for testing of current transformers.
By the use of suitable values of non inductive resistors in series with the
primary and the secondary, we are able to measure the primary current and
the secondary current for comparison. This can be more accurately done if
we select the values of the standard resistors chosen to be inversely
proportional to the nominal currents of the primary and secondary. Consider
fig. 22.6.

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NON INDUCTIVE
RESISTANCE
I

R
1

I TO POTENTIOMETER
2

A
R
2
TO POTENTIOMETER

Figure 22.6
R1 I2
If 
R 2 I1
Then I R 1  I 2 R 2
Thus if the current transformer ideally, there would be no different between
the two measure voltages. Thus the difference between these voltages would
give the current Transformer error directly. If the potentiometer in phase
circuit has the same phase as I1 then the magnitude of the measured
difference would give an indication of the ratio error and the phase angle of
the measured difference would give the phase angle error. Thus the circuit

CURRENT TRANSFORMER

TO POTENTIOMETER

Figure 22.7
that is used is given in fig. 22.7

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22.1.5 Testing of potential transformers

A. c. potentiometer can also be used to test potential transformers. The
method adopted is similar to that for resting current transformers, except
that standard resistors are not used. In this case we make use of two
potential dividers to tap a suitable fraction of voltage from the primary and
the secondary for measurement on the potentiometer. If the ratios of the
potential dividers are suitably chosen, the same voltage could be obtained
for the normal values of the primary and secondary voltage. This is shown
in fig. 22.8.

TO POTENTIOMETER

POTENTIAL TRANSFOMER

Figure 22.8

22.1.6 Measurement of impedance

in order to measure impedance, a standard resistor is connected in series
with the unknown impedance. Fig. 28.9 shows a typical circuit.
If the two measurement with the potentiometer are V1 < 1 across the
standard resistor and V2 < 1 across the unknown impedance Z.

1 1

STD RESISTOR
TO POTENTIOMETER
Z

2 2

Figure 22.9
Since the same current flows through both, we may write,

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Session 1: Title

Z V2  θ 2

s V1  θ1
V2  θ 2
So that Z  s.  θ1
V1
From this the resistive component and the reactive component may be
written as,
SV2
R  ZCos(θ 2  θ1 )  Cos(θ 2  θ1 )
V1
and
S.V2
9  ZCos(θ 2  θ1 )  Cos(θ 2  θ1 )
V1

1. State ate some of the common applications of the a.c. potentiometer.

2. Describe how meters are calibrated using the a.c. potentiometer.
3. Describe the testing of wattcmeters and instrument transformers
using the a.c. potentiometer.
4. A co-ordinate type potentiometer is used measurement of an
impedance. The following are obtained from the conditions. Voltage
ac standard resistor of 1 is
0.238V on the inphase dial and –0.085 V on the quadrature dial. The
across the impedance is through a 10:1 volt ratio gave the readings
0.3375 Von the inphase dial and 0.23 V quadrature dial. Calculate
resistance and reactance coil.
5. In the measurement of power, a polar type potentiometer is used and
gave the following readings when a 0.1 standard resistor is used in
series with the load, the voltage measured is 0.73 < 120 V The
voltage measured across a 200:1 potential divider across the load is
l.37 < 360V. Calculate the power factor and the power of the load.

1. See section 22.1
2. See section (22.1.1 and 22.1.2.
3. See section 22.3 and 22.l.5.
4. I = 0.238 - j 0.085
V 3.375  j2.32
Z 
I 0.238  j0.085
= 9.62 + j 13.3

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Summary
Engineering is the creative application of science, mathematical methods
and empirical evidence of the innovation. Most of the time it’s based on
measurement of physical quantities. Certain physical quantities have been
chosen as fundamental or base quantities. The units for the fundamental or
base quantities are called fundamental or base units. IS based seven base
units is at present internationally accepted unit system and is widely used
throughout the world. The dimensions of base quantities and combination of
these dimensions describe the nature of physical quantities. Dimensional
analysis can be used to check the dimensional consistency of equations,
deducing relations among the physical quantities, etc. A dimensionally
consistent equation need not be actually an exact (correct) equation, but a
dimensionally wrong or inconsistent equation must be wrong.

Learning Outcomes
 Describe the historical development of electrical measuring units as
an approach to the standardization of measurements
 Explain the standards of basic electrical quantities
 Identify the SI units of electrical quantities used in measurements
 Describe the derivation of units in terms of dimension analysis.

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