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Dynamic Measurement (Calibration): System Response

For all measurement systems, there is always a delay between

cause (input) and effect (output) due to the natural inertia of the
system and is known as measurement lag.
An important dynamic characteristic used in assessing the
performance of measurement systems is the response of the system
when subjected to a sudden change in input signal (step input). The
resulting system response will depend on the type of the system
Two types of measurement systems are discussed in the following
Lecture 6
First Order Systems
Many measurement elements or systems can be represented by a
first order differential equation in which the highest derivative is of
the first order i.e. dx/dt, dy/dx etc.
Examples of first order transducers are mercury in glass
thermometers, thermocouples, and thermistors used in temperature
Considering a thermometer that is suddenly dipped in a beaker of
hot water (a step change in input temperature is applied to the
transducer). The response of the thermometer to this step input
change is exponential in form and can be shown as figure 1.
Figure 1 Response of a Mercury in Glass Thermometer to a
Step Change in Temperature.
The actual thermometer response
approaches the step value
exponentially according to the relationship
(1 - e
) where t is
the time elapsed after immersion of the thermometer and T is the
time constant of the instrument, which is a measure of the speed of
the response.
For the system response in figure 1, the time constant can be shown
to be the time taken for the thermometer response to reach 63.2% of
the step change.
First order systems can be shown to respond to the full step change
after approximately five time constants.
Second Order Systems
Almost all instruments with a moving element controlled by a spring,
and probably fitted with some damping device are of the second
order type. These systems are represented by a second order
differential equation (d
, d
If there is no damping, the natural frequency of the system is,
= 1/2[K/m]

where, f
= Undamped natural frequency
K = Spring stiffness
m = Mass
Figure 2 A second Order Mechanical System.
c = Damping Force/Velocity [Ns/m]
If damping is increased, frequency of the response decreases.
The amount of damping in a system can be specified by damping
ratio (pronounced zeta) = c/c
, where c is the actual value of
damping and c
is the critical damping coefficient. (A second order
system is said to be critically damped when a step input is applied
and there is just no overshoot and no oscillation.)
The magnitude of the damping ratio effects the transient response of
the system to a step input change.
In practice sufficient damping is required to prevent excessive
oscillation but an increase in the damping ratio also increases the
response time of the system.
An optimum damping ratio is therefore required that will produce a
fast speed of response with a small number of oscillations.
A damping ratio of about 0.6 is found to be satisfactory with a
number of second order instruments.
Figure 3 Response of a Second Order System to a Step Input.
Effects of changing damping ratio on transient response have been
included as under.
Magnitude of Damping Ratio Transient Response
= 0 Undamped simple harmonic motion
> 1 Overdamped motion
= 1 Critical damping
< 1 Underdamped, oscillatory motion
Reference/Further Reading
C. V. Collet, A. D. Hope, Engineering Measurements, Pitman, London,