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Lecture 3

• Demos: capacitor separation with distance

• Introduce dielectrics (foam,glass) and see
the voltage decrease as the capacitance
Electrical Sensors

Employ electrical principles to detect

• May use changes in one or more of:

• Electric charges, fields and potential

• Capacitance

• Magnetism and inductance

Some elementary electrical



Variable Capacitor
Review of Electrostatics
• In order to understand how we can best
design electrical sensors, we need to
understand the physics behind their
• The essential physical property measured
by electrical sensors is the electric field.
Electric Charges, Fields and
Basics: Unlike sign charges attract, like sign charges repel
Coulombs’ Law: a force acts between two point
charges, according to:
 Q1Q2 rˆ
4 0 r 2
The electric field is the force per unit charge:

 F How do we calculate
Q1 the electric field?
Electric Field and Gauss’s Law
We calculate the electric field using Gauss’s Law.
It states that:   Q
S E  ds   0

Seems very abstract,

but is really useful
Point or Spherical charge
What is the field around a point charge (e.g. an electron)?
The electric field is everywhere perpendicular to a spherical
surface centred on the charge.
Electric field vectors
  Q
So  E  ds  E  4r 

Gaussian surface
4r 2
We recover Coulombs Law!
The same is true for any distribution of charge which is
spherically symmetric (e.g. a biased metal sphere).
Line of Charge
For a very long line of charge (eg a
wire), the cylindrical surface has electric
field perpendicular to a cylindrical
  Q
So  E  ds  E  2rL 
Q 
E 
2 0 rL 2 0 r
Where  = linear charge density
Plane of Charge
For a very large flat plane of charge
the electric field is perpendicular to a
box enclosing a segment of the sheet

  Q
So S E  ds  E  A   0
Q 
E 
A 0  0
Where  = Charge/Unit area on the surface
Electric Dipole
• An electric dipole is two equal
and opposite charges Q separated
by a distance d.
• The electric field a long way
from the pair is

1 Qd 1 p
E 
4 0 r 3
4 0 r 3

• p = Q d is the Electric Dipole moment

• p is a measure of the strength of the
field generated by the dipole.
• Works by measuring changes in electric
field as heart pumps
• Heart can be modeled as a rotating dipole

• Electrodes are placed at

several positions on the
body and the change in
voltage measured with
• Interior of Heart muscle cells negatively charged at rest
• Called “polarisation”
• K+ ions leak out, leaving interior –ve
• Depolarisation occurs just proir to contraction:
Na+ ions enter cells
Occurs in waves across the heart
Re-polarisation restores –ve charge in interior

-- ++++ ++ -----
-- ++
Polarisation Depolarisation
• Leads are arranged in pairs
• Monitor average current flow at specific time in a portion
of the heart
• 1 mV signal produces 10 mm deflection of recording pen
• 1 mm per second paper feed rate

A - A
- +

+ - C
B +
Electric Potential
 
The ECG measures E  V
differences in the
electric potential V:
The Electric Potential is the Potential ability to do
Alternatively: Work = Q  V
Where V = V1  V2
For uniform electric fields: | E |  V | E | d
Electric fields on conductors.
• Conductors in static electric fields are at uniform
electric potential.
• This includes wires, car bodies, etc.
• The electric field inside a solid conductor is zero.
Dielectric Materials
• Many molecules and crystals have a non-zero Electric
dipole moment.
• When placed in an external electric field these align with
external field.
• The effect is to reduce the
strength of the electric field within
the material.

• To incorporate this, we define a

new vector Field, the electric
displacement, 
Electric Displacement

D is independent
 of dielectric materials. Then the electric

field E is related to D by:  1  1 
E D D
 r 0 
r ,0 , Are the relative permittivity, the
permittivity of free space and the
absolute permittivity of the
As shown in the diagram, there is
torque applied to each molecule. This
results in energy being stored in the
material, U. This energy is stored in
every molecule of the dielectric:
 
U  pE
Remember that the electric field near a plane
of charge is:
Q 
E 
A 0  0
In the presence 
of a dielectric: E

V d
E  V 
d 
Q dQ
Since   , V 
A A
So the Potential difference is proportional
to the stored charge.
Cylindrical Capacitor

Can make a capacitor out of 2 cylindrical conductors

ln( )
Sensing using capacitance.
So the charge Q = CV
Where C = Capacitance, V = Potential difference.
For a parallel plate capacitor:

Easily Measured Area of plate

Properties of Material
Distance between plates

We can sense change in A, ε, or d and

measure the change in capacitance.
Measurement of Capacitance
Capacitors have a complex resistance
V (t ) 1

i (t ) j C
We measure capacitance by probing with an AC
Directly measure current i(t) with known V(t) and
frequency ω.
For extreme accuracy, we can measure resonant
frequency with LC circuit.
Example: water level sensor

Measures the capacitance

between insulated conductors
in a water bath

Water has very different

dielectric properties to air (a
large )

As the bath fills the effective Ch 
 H  h(1   )
permittivity seen increases, and the ln( )
capacitance changes according to: a
Example: The rubbery Ruler
Invented by Physicists here to measure fruit growth.

Spiral of conductor embedded in a flexible “rubbery” compound

As the sensor expands, the
distance between the plates A
increases causing capacitance to
The rubbery ruler Spiral of conductor embedded in a
flexible “rubbery” compound

Invented by Physicists here to measure fruit growth.

As the sensor expands, the

distance between the plates A
increases causing capacitance to C
decrease. d
Lecture 4
• Piezoelectric demo (stove lighter and
Piezoelectric sensors
Mechanical stress on some crystal lattices results in a
potential difference across the solid.

This is an extremely useful effect. Reversible too!

• For quartz, stress in x-direction results in a potential
difference in the y-direction.
• This can be used as a traffic weighing and counting
• A piezoelectric sensor can be thought of as a capacitor,
with the piezoelectric material acting as the dielectric.
The dielectric acts a generator of electric charge resulting
in a potential V across the capacitor.
• The process is reversible. An electric field induces a
strain in the material. Thus a very small voltage can be
applied, resulting in a tiny change in the size of the
Characterisation of Piezoelectrics
We quantify the piezoelectric effect using a vector of Polarisation.
   
P  Pxx  Pyy  Pzz
Pxx  d11 xx  d12 yy  d13 zz
Pyy  d 21 xx  d 22 yy  d 23 zz
Pzz  d 31 xx  d 32 yy  d 33 zz

Where dmn are coefficients, i.e.

numbers that translate applied
force to generated charge and
are a characteristic of the
piezoelectric material.
Units are Coulomb/Newton.
Characterisation of Piezoelectrics
Piezo crystals are transducers;
They convert mechanical to electrical energy.
The conversion d mn Y
K mn 
efficiency is given by  0 mn
the coupling

Where Y is Young’s Modulus = Stress/strain

 F Force
Y ,   stress  
dl A Area
The charge generated is proportional to the applied force
The charge generated in
the X-direction from an Qx  d12 Fy
applied stress in y

Using our Q = CV, we get a generated voltage

Qx d12 Fy
V  Area of
C C electrodes
 r 0 A
The capacitance is: C
So the Voltage is V Thickness of
 0 r A crystal
Some piezoelectrics
Numerical Example.
What is the sensitivity of 1 mm thick, BaTiO3 sensor with an
electrode area of 1 square cm?


78  1 103 F 7.8  10 2 F
 r  0 A 1700  8.8 1012110 4 1.5  10 12
So  5.2 1010 Volts/Newton
This is a big number because the effective capacitance is
so small. In the real world the voltage is smaller.
1.5  10 12
C= 1 10 3
 1.5nF Very Small!
Atomic Scale Microscopy

Use Piezoelectric crystals as

transducers to do atomic scale
Piezoresistive Sensors
F Ydl
The stress on a material is  
A l
Strain = dl/l
A cylinder stretched by a Force F keeps constant volume
but l increases and A decreases.
A l l 2
Resitance R 
A vol
l dR 2 l
Sensitivity of the sensor is 
dl vol
Longer wires give more sensitivity
Characterizing Piezoresistors
Normalised resistance is a linear function of strain:  See
Where e is the strain, and

Se is the gauge factor or sensitivity of the strain.

Metals 2  Se  6
Semiconductors 40  S e  200

Semiconductor strain gauges are 10 to 100 times more

sensitive, but are also more temperature dependent.
Usually have to compensate with other types of sensors.
Piezoresistive Heat Sensors.
Resistive Temperature Detectors: on demand “RTD”s

RTD’s used at Belle

Thin platinum wire deposited on a substrate.
Other piezoresistive issues
• Artificial piezoelectric sensors are made by poling; apply
a voltage across material as it is heated above the Curie
point (at which internal domians realign).
• The effect is to align natural dipoles in the crystal. This
makes the crystal a Piezoelectric.
• PVDF is of moderate sensitivity but very resistant to
depolarization when subject to high AC fields.
• PVDF is 100 times more resistant to electric field than the
ceramic PZT [Pd(Ze,Ti)O3] and useful for strains 10 times
Example: acceleration Sensor.
• Piezoelectric cable with an inner copper core.
• The piezoelectric acts as an insulator, clad by an outer metal
sheath and flexible plastic and rubber coating.
• Other configurations exist: see

Inner copper core

Outer metal sheath or braid

Plan view of cable Remember that F=ma , so if the sensor

mass is known, then the force measured
can be converted into an acceleration.
Applications for piezoelectric
• Vibration monitor in compressor blades in turboshaft aircraft.
• Detection of insects in silos
• Automobile traffic analysis (buried in highway):
traffic counting and weighing.
• Force and pressure sensors (say, monitoring jolts to
• Tactile films: thin silicone rubber film (40 m)
sandwiched between two thin PVDF films.
Lecture 5
Pyroelectric Effect.

Generation of electric change by a crystalline material when

subjected to a heat flow.
Closely related to

BaTiO3, PZT and

PVDF all exhibit
Pyroelectric effects
Primary Pyroelectricity.
Temperature changes shortens or elongates individual dipoles.
This affects randomness of dipole orientations due to thermal
Secondary Pyroelectricity
Quantitative Pyroelectricity.
Pyroelectric crystals are transducers: they convert thermal to
electrical energy.
The Dipole moment of the bulk
pyroelectric is:

Where  is the dipole moment per unit volume, A is the

sensor area and h is the thickness

From standard dielectrics, charge on electrodes, Q =  A

The dipole moment, , varies with temperature.

PQ  Is the pyroelectric charge coefficient, and Ps is
the “spontaneous polarisation”

The generated charge is Q = PQ A T

Pv = is the pyroelectric voltage coefficient and E is
the dT electric Field.

The generated voltage is QV = Pv h T (h is the thickness)

The relation between charge and voltage PQ dPS

   r 0
coefficients follows directly from Q = CV PV dE
Seebeck and Peltier Effects.
Seebeck effect: Thermally induced electric currents in circuits
of dissimilar material.

Peltier effect: absorption of heat when an electric current

cross a junction two dissimilar materials
The dissimilar materials can be different species, or the the
same species in different strain states.

The Peltier effect can be

thought of as the reverse of
the Seebeck effect
Seebeck effect
Free electrons act as a gas. If a metal rod is hot at one end
and cold at the other, electrons flow from hot to cold.
So a temperature gradient leads to a voltage gradient:

dV dT Where  is the absolute

 Seebeck coefficient of the
dx dx material.

When two materials with different  coefficients are

joined in a loop, then there is a mis-match between the
temperature-induced voltage drops.

The differential Seebeck coefficient is: AB = A - B

The net voltage at the junction is dVAB   AB dT
So the differential Seebeck dVAB
 AB 
coefficient is also dT
This is the basis of the thermocouple sensor

Thermocouples are not necessarily linear in response.

E.g. the T – type thermocouple has characteristics
V  a0  a1T  a2T 2

Where the a’s are material properties:

V  0.0543  4.094  10 2 T  2.874  105 T 2

The sensitivity is the differential Seebeck coefficient
 AB   a1  2a2T  4.094 10  2  5.748 10 5 T
Independent of geometry, manufacture etc. Only a function of
materials and temperature.
Seebeck effect is a transducer which converts thermal to
electrical energy.

Can be used as solid state thermal to electrical energy

converter (i.e. engine)as well as an accurate temperature
Seebeck engines are currently not very efficient but are
much more reliable than heat engines. They are used by
NASA for nuclear powered deep-space probes.
Peltier Effect.
If electric current is passed through a dissimilar material
junction, then the heat may be generated or absorbed.

The change in heat dQ =p I dt

(where p is the Peltier constant (unit of voltage))
Can be used to produce heat or cold as required.
Eg. Cooling high performance Microprocessors.
Lecture 6
The density of a magnetic
field (number of magnetic  
field lines passing through a  B   B  dS
given surface) is the
magnetic flux:

Units of flux are Webers.

Photos of flux gate
magnetometers, used for
sensing magnetic fields
down to a few microtesla,
which is about the size of
the earth’s magnetic field.
Sources of Magnetism

A solenoid produces lines of flux as shown (in blue).

Note that the magnetic field lines are continuous with no

source or sink
Inside the solenoid the magnetic flux density is:

B  n I
Where n = number of turns of wire.
= permeability of the core material.
I = current through the core.
Active solenoids have many uses in sensor technologies.

Solenoids make inductive sensors which can be used to detect

motion, displacement, position, and magnetic quantities.

There are permanent magnets (ferromagnets) too; these are

very useful for small compact sensors…..
Magnetic fields increase The magnetic field inside
inside a permanent a magnetic material is
magnet. usually denoted H.

  
B  0 ( H  M )
Magnetisation (M) is the average
magnetic moment of the magnet. It is a
measure of how much all the domains
are pointing in the same direction.
inductance in
Gauss – how
Characteristics of
strong the permanent magnets
magnet is. Also B
remanence or

Coercive force in
Oersteds -Resistance to
We can also plot magnetisation instead of flux
density to get a similar hysteresis curve.
Some other
Maximum Energy Product (MEP),
figures of merit
(B x H) in gauss-oersteds times 106. for permanent
The overall figure of merit for a magnets- these
are commonly
listed in data
Temperature coefficient %/°C,
how much the magnetic field
decreases with temperature.
Some common permanent magnets.
Typical Magnetic and Physical Properties of Rare Earth
Magnet Materials
Maximu Intrinsi
m Coerciv c
Energy e Coerci Curie
Density Induct Normal* Maximum Operating Temp.
Product Force ve Temp.
Magnetic ion
BH Hc Force
Material Br
(max) Hci

Gaus Oersted Oerste

lbs/in g/cm MGO F° C° F° C°
s s ds

SmCo 18 0.296 8.2 18.0 8700 8000 20000 482 250 1382 750

SmCo 20 0.296 8.2 20.0 9000 8500 15000 482 250 1382 750

SmCo 24 0.304 8.4 24.0 10200 9200 18000 572 300 1517 825

SmCo 26 0.304 8.4 26.0 10500 9000 11000 572 300 1517 825
m 0.267 7.4 27.0 10800 9300 11000 176 80 536 280
0.267 7.4 27.0 10800 9800 17000 212 100 572 300
m 27H
m 0.267 7.4 30.0 11000 10000 18000 176 80 536 280
m 0.267 7.4 30.0 11000 10500 17000 212 100 572 300
m 0.267 7.4 35.0 12300 10500 12000 176 80 536 280
Some rare earth magnets-
notice how the small
spheres are strong enough
magnets to support the
weight of the heavy tools.
These structures
were created by
the action of rare
earth magnets on
a suspension of
magnetic particles
(a ferrofluid).
A movie of ferrofluid reacting to a magnetic field
from a rare earth magnet.
Hard disk reading heads
use permanent magnets.
Note that the hysteresis curves
for magnetisation (J or M) and
flux density (B) are slightly

The maximum energy product is

the maximum energy that can be
obtained from the magnet. In
practice, it is the ‘strength’ of a
permanent magnet.
Magnetic Induction
Time varying fluxes induce electromotive force (emf, i.e. a
voltage difference) in the circuit enclosing the flux Φ=BS

d B
emf  

The sign of the voltage

is such as to make a
current flow whose
magnetic field would
oppose the change in
the flux.
Induced currents also happen for solid
conductors- they are called eddy

Small current loops are set up in the

material to create a magnetic field that
opposes the applied field.
We can add a second
solenoid to intercept the
flux from the first

Assuming the same cross section

d B
area and no flux leakage, a voltage V  N
is induced in the second coil: dt

N= number of turns in the

solenoid coil
Assuming B is constant over d ( BA)
area A gives a more useful V  N
relation :
This second coil is called the pickup circuit. We get a signal
in this circuit if the magnitude of the magnetic field (B)
changes or if the area of the circuit (A) changes.

We get an induced voltage if we:

• Move the source of the magnetic field (magnet, coil etc.)
• Vary the current in the coil or wire which produces the
magnetic field
• Change the orientation of the magnetic field in the source
• Change the geometry of the pickup circuit, (eg. stretching or
Example: recording tape
Self Induction.
The magnetic field generated by a
d (n B )
coil also induces an emf in itself. V 
This voltage is given by: dt

Note that the voltage is only

induced for a changing flux.

The number in parenthesis is called the flux

linkage, and is proportional to the current in
the coil.
n B  Li
The constant of proportionality is labeled
the inductance, L.
d ( n B ) di
V  L
dt dt

Most induction sensors

measure the change in L; e.g.
as a result of motion.
We can therefore define the inductance dt
Induction notes.
The defining V
equation is: di
Induced voltage is proportional to current change

Voltage is zero for DC (inductors look like short circuit to DC)

Voltage increases linearly with rate of change of coil current
Voltage polarity different for increased and decreased current in
same direction

Induced Voltage in direction which acts to oppose change in

Calculating inductance
Inductance can be calculated from geometry
n B
For a closely packed coil it is L
If n is the number of turns per unit
length, the number of flux N B  (nl )  ( BA)
linkages in a length l is

N B
Plugging in the expression B L   0 n lA

for a solenoid gives: i

Note that lA is the volume of the solenoid, so keeping n

constant and changing the geometry changes L
Inductors and complex resistance

In an electronic circuit, V
inductance can be represented as  jL
complex resistance, like i

i(t) is a sinusoidal current having a frequency =2f

Two coils brought near each

other one coil induces an emf in V2   M 21
the other dt

Where M21 is the coefficient of mutual inductance between

the coils.
Mutual inductance.

For a coil placed

around a long cylinder:
M   0R nN 2

 0 N1 N 2 h b
For a coil placed around a torus, M ln( )
mutual inductance is 2 a
Example: Motion Sensor.

Pickup coil with N turns, moves into the gap of a permanent magnet
Flux enclosed by the loop is:  b  Blx
The induced d B d dx
V    N ( BLx)  nBl  nBlv
voltage is: dt dt dt
Cross-section of a magnetic position sensor
Flux gate magetometer
• Works by driving the
ferromagnetic core of a coil to
saturation with currents in
both directions.
• If an external field exists, the
asymmetry tells the magnitude
and sign in the direction of the
coil axis
• Use three coils to get all
directions and total magnitude
The Hall Effect.
When an electron moves
through a magnetic field it
experiences a sideways

F  qvB

q is electron charge
v is the electron velocity
B is the magnetic field
This gives rise to an potential
difference across an appropriate
Qualitative Hall effect
The direction of the current and magnetic fields is vital in
determining size of the potential difference.

The deflecting force

shifts the electrons in
the diagram to the right

This deflection produces the transverse Hall potential VH

Quantitative hall effect
At fixed temperature, VH= h I B sin()

I is the current, B is the magnetic field,  is the angle between the

magnetic field and the Hall plate, h is the Hall coefficient.

h depends on the 1
properties of the material h
and is given by: Ncq

• N is the number of free charges per unit volume

• c is the speed of light
• q is the charge on the carrier (+ve if holes).
• A Cu strip of cross sectional area 5.0 x 0.02
cm carries a current of 20A in a magnetic
field of 1.5T. What is the Hall voltage?
• Ans = 11 V, so a small effect!
Control current flows through
the control terminals

Ri is the control
Ro is the differential resistance
output resistance

Output is measured
across the
differential output
Hall effect sensors are almost always Semiconductor devices.
Parameters of a Typical sensor.
Control Current 3 mA
Control Resistance, Ri 2.2 k Ohms
Control Resistance, Ri vs Temperature 0.8%/C
Differential Output Resistance, Ro 4.4 K Ohms
Output offset Voltage 5.0 mV (at B=0 Gauss)
Sensitivity 60 micro-Volts/Gauss
Sensitivity vs Temperature 0.1%/C
Overall Sensitivity 20 V/Ohm-kGauss
Maximum B Unlimited

Note the significant temperature Piezoresistance of silicon

sensitivity. should be remembered; makes
Also note need to use a constant semiconductor sensors very
current source for control. sensitive to shocks.
End of Electrical sensors

Summary: • Magnetism essentials

• Permanent Magnets
• Inductance
• Hall effect