Before going into depth about this transducer, it is important that you know about the theory of eddy currents.
Eddy currents, also known as “Focault Currents”, are currents induced in a conductor due to the magnetic field produced by the active coil. The conductor is placed in a changing magnetic field and the current is produced according to the change of magnetic field with time. The amount of eddy current produced will be more if the field strength is greater. When there is high field strength, the conductivity of the metal conductor increases, causing faster reversals of the field and hence more flow of eddy currents. Eddy currents will be produced in both conditions where either the conductor moves through a magnetic field or a magnetic field changes around a stationary conductor. Even a small amount of the current will be produced in cases where a small change in magnetic field intensity is experienced on a conductor.
Like other currents in a conductor, eddy currents can also generate heat, EMF, and all types of losses. Its biggest disadvantage can be seen in a transformer, where power loss due to this, affects the device’s efficiency. This can be reduced by reducing the area of the conductor, or by laminating it. Since the insulator in the lamination area stops the electrons from moving forward, they will not be able to flow on wide arcs. Thus, they accumulate at the insulated ends and resist further accumulation of charges. This, in turn will reduce the flow of eddy currents. The amount of currents produced can also be reduced by using conductors having less electrical conductivity.
Eddy Current Transducer
This type of transducer is comparatively low in the measurement field and depends mostly on the quality of a high alternating source which is fed to a set of coils. One coil is called the active coil and the other provides temperature compensation (Compensating coil) by being the adjacent arm of a bridge circuit. A conducting material is kept close to the active coil so as to make it influenced by its absence or presence, or, by being any closer or away. Magnetic flux is induced in the active coil and is passed through the conductor producing eddy currents. The density of this current will be maximum at the surface and will lessen as the depth increases. This penetration depth can be calculated using the equation given below.
δ-Penetration Depth (m)
σ-Electrical Conductivity (S/m)
The circuit diagram of an eddy current transducer/sensor is shown below.
The active coil is kept closer to the conducting material and both of them are placed inside a probe. The compensating coil is kept further away from the conducting material. The high frequency source acts as the bridge circuit and feeds the coil across the two capacitors. The amount of eddy current produced becomes more as the distance between the conducting material and the active coil becomes less. This causes a change in the impedance of the active coil and thus unbalances the bridge circuit. The bridge circuit produces an output proportional to the amount of closeness between the conducting material and the active coil. The output of the bridge circuit is given to a low pass filter (LPF) and then its dc output is calculated. The high frequency allows a thin target to be used and also with this, the frequency response becomes good up to a target frequency 1/10th the supply frequency.
It should be noted that the diameter of the conducting material should be larger or at least same as that of a probe. If not, the output is prone to reduce linearity. If shafts are used as conducting materials, they should have a bigger diameter so that their curved surfaces effectively behaves as flat surfaces.
Since it is a non-contact device, it is suitable for higher resolution measurement applications. The device is used for finding out the position of an object that is conductive in nature.
- Position Measurement
Since the output of an eddy current transducer represents the size of the distance between the probe and the conductor, the device can be calibrated to measure the position or displacement of the target. Thus, it can be applicable in monitoring or sensing the precise location of an object such as a machine tool. It can also be used to locate the final position of precise equipments such as a disk drive.
- Vibrating Motion Measurement
The device is also suitable for finding the alternate positions of a vibrating conductor. Since a contact device is impracticable for this application, a non-contact device such as eddy current transducer is highly recommended. Thus, it can be applicable in measuring the distance of a shaft from a reference point or the to-and-fro movement of vibrating instruments.
- Measurement of distance can be carried out even in rough or mixed environments.
- The device is insensitive to material in the gap between the probe and the conductor.
- The device is less expensive and has higher frequency response than a capacitive transducer.
- The result will be precise only if the gap between the probe and the conductor is small.
- The device cannot be used for finding the position of non-conductive materials. Another way is to connect a thick conductor onto the non-conductive material.
- There always occurs a non-linear relationship between the distance and impedance of the active coil of the device. This problem can be overcome only by calibrating the device at fixed intervals.
- The device is highly temperature sensitive. This can be overcome by adding a suitable balance coil to the circuit.