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Chapter 2

Review of Sensor / Transducers


Classification of Transducer
Selecting Transducer
Electrical Transducers
Mechanical Transducers

1. Introduction
A Sensor is a device that measures a physical
quantity and converts it into a signal which
can be read by an observer or by an
Transducer is defined as a device that receives
energy from one system and transmits it to
another, often in a different form.

Sensor and Transducer

In the general case, a sensor is the complete assembly required to detect and
communicate a particular event, while a transducer is the element within that
assembly which accomplishes only the detection of the event. At the risk of getting
too abstract, a transducer converts an input to an output that can be exploited to
accomplish the sensing mission.
For example, a pressure sensor may use a diaphragm and/or strain gage to
"detect" pressure differential across the diaphragm, but he complete sensor will
additionally consist of a display element and the electronics required to energize
and condition the output of the detecting transducer, as well as the elements
required to house and drive the display feature.
A compass is a simple sensor of magnetic north, wherein the magnetic element in
the compass is the transducer or "north detector" and the needle, housing and
compass face comprise the remainder of the "north sensor".
In special cases, a sensor and a transducer can be the same. For example, a bimetallic spring element can both detect temperature change, and may well be the
entire sensor if a pointer is attached to the bi-metallic spring.

Sensor and Transducer

The difference between sensors and transducers is :
Sensors are devices which mainly sense anything and give
output in any desired form; where as transducers are
devices that transform one form of energy in to another
form, yielding a detectable output.
For example; A thermal sensor is a device which senses heat energy and
a photo sensor is device which senses light.
An TV antenna is a transducer where electromagnetic
energy is transformed and reproduced in to electrical

2. Classification of Transducer
Once certain basic functions common to all instruments have been
identified, then we see if it is possible to make some generalization on
how these functions may be performed. One such generalization is
concerned with energy considerations.
Passive Transducers
A component whose output energy is supplied entirely or almost
entirely by its input signal.
The output and input signals may involve energy of the same form (eg.
both mechanical), or there may be an energy conversion from one
form to another (eg. Mechanical to electrical).

Active Transducers
A component that has an auxiliary source of power which supplies a
major part of the output power while the input signal supplies only an
insignificant portion.
There may be or may not be a conversion of energy from one form to

3. Selecting Transducer
The transducer or sensor has to be physically compatible with its
intended application. The following should be considered while
selecting a transducer.

Operating Range Chosen to maintain range requirements and good

Sensitivity Chosen to allow sufficient output.
Frequency response and resonant frequency Flat over the entire
desired range.
Environmental compatibility Temperature range, corrosive fluids,
pressure, shocks, interaction, size and mounting restrictions.
Minimum sensitivity To expected stimulus, other than the measured.
Accuracy Repeatability, both mechanical and electrical intensities
versus size and weight.
Electrical parameters Length and type of cable required, signal to noise
ratio when combined with amplifiers, and frequency response

SI Base Units
Base Quantity










Electric Current




Amount of Substance



Luminous intensity



Static Characteristics of Measurement

System Elements.
Concerned with static or steady-state
characteristic, which means the relationships
which may occur between the output, O and
input, I of an element when I is either at a
constant value or changing slowly.
Systematic Characteristics are those that can
be exactly quantified by mathematical or
graphical means.








A Device or mechanism used to determine the present value of the quantity under

The process of determining the amount, degree, or capacity by comparison (direct or

indirect) with the accepted standards of the system units being used.

The degree of exactness (closeness) of a measurement compared to the expected

(desired) value.

The smallest change in a measured variable to which an instrument will respond.


A measurement of the consistency or repeatability of measurement. Successive reading

do not differ.
Expected Value

The design value, the most probable value that calculations indicate one should expect to

The deviation of the true value from the desired value.


The ratio of the change in output (response) of the instrument to a change of input or
measure variable.

The input of an element is specified by the minimum and maximum values (IMIN to IMAX)

eg. A pressure transducer may have an input range of 0 to 104 Pa and an output range of 4 to 20mA.

The maximum variation in input or output.

Eg. The same pressure transducer has an input span of 104 Pa and an output span of 16mA.

An element is said to be linear if corresponding values of I and O lie on a straight line. The
ideal straight line connects the minimum point A (IMIN, OMIN) to maximum point B (IMAX, OMAX)
and therefore has the equation.


K = ideal straight-line slope

a = ideal straight-line intercept

Thus the ideal straight lint for the above pressure transducer is

Environmental Effects
Wear and Aging

Error In Measurement
Gross Errors human mistakes in reading or in using
instruments or errors in recording observations.
Systematic Errors
Instruments Errors
Environmental Errors
Observational Errors
Static Error caused by limitations of the measuring device
or the physical laws governing its behavior.
Dynamic Error caused by the instrument not responding
fast enough to follow the changes in a
measured variable.

Example 1.1
The expected value of the voltage across a
resistor is 80V. However, the measurement
gives a value of 79V. Calculate (i) absolute
error, (ii) % error, (iii) relative accuracy, and (iv)
% of accuracy.

Example 1.2
Table below gives the set of 10 measurement
that were recorded in the laboratory. Calculate
the precision of the 6th measurement.
Measuring Number

Measurement Value, Xn












Example 1.3
A voltmeter having a sensitivity of 1 k/V is
connected across an unknown resistance in
series with a milliammeter reading 80V on
150V scale. When the milliammeter reads
10mA, calculate the (i) Apparent resistance of
the unknown resistance, (ii) Actual resistance
of the unknown resistance, and (iii) Error due
to the loading effect of the voltmeter.

Example 1.4
For the following given data, calculate (i)
Arithmetic mean, (ii) Deviation of each value,
(iii) Algebraic sum of the deviations
Given X1 = 49.7
X2 = 50.1
X3 = 50.2
X4 = 49.6
X5 = 49.7

Sources of Error
The sources of errors, other than the inability of a piece
of hardware to provide a true measurement, are
1. Insufficient knowledge of process parameters and
design conditions
2. Poor design
3. Change in process parameter, irregularities, upsets,
4. Errors caused by person operating the instrument or
5. Certain design limitations

4. Electrical Transducers
The transducers that convert the mechanical input signals into
electrical output signals are called as electrical transducers. The output
obtained from the electrical transducers can be read by the humans or
it can given as input to the controllers.
What are Electrical Transducers?
The transducers that convert the mechanical input signals of the
physical quantity into electrical output signals are called as
electrical transducers. The input given to the electrical transducers
can be in the form of the displacement, strain, velocity,
temperature, flow etc and the output obtained from them can be in
the form of current, voltage and change in resistance, inductance
and capacitance. The output can be measured easily and it is
calibrated against the input, thus enabling the measurement of the
value of the input.

Here are some of commonly used electrical transducers:

1) Potentiometers: They convert the change in displacement into change in the resistance, which can
be measured easily.
2) Bridge circuits: These convert the physical quantity to be measured into the voltage.
3) Wheatstone bridge: It converts the displacement produced by the physical quantity to the current in
the circuit.
4) Capacitive sensors or Variable Capacitance Transducers: These comprise of the two parallel plates
between which there is dielectric material like air. The change in distance between the two plates
produced by the displacement results in change in capacitance, which can be easily measured.
5) Resistive sensors or Variable Resistance Transducers: There is change in the resistance of these
sensors when certain physical quantity is applied to it. It is most commonly used in resistance
thermometers or thermistors for measurement of temperature.
6) Magnetic sensors: The input given to these sensors is in the form of displacement and the output
obtained is in the form of change in inductance or reluctance and production of the eddy currents.
7) Piezoelectric transducers: When force is applied to these transducers, they produce voltage that can
be measured easily. They are used for measurement of pressure, acceleration and force.
8) Strain gauges: When strain gauges are strained or stretched there is change in their resistance. They
consist of the long wire and are able to detect very small displacements produced by the applied
force or pressure.
9) Photo electric transducers: When the light is applied to these transducers they produce voltage.
10) Linear variable differential transformer (LVDT): LVDT is the transformer consisting of the primary
and the secondary coil. It converts the displacement into the change in resistance.
11) Ultrasonic Transducers: These transducers use the ultrasonic or ultrasound waves to measure
parameters like fluid level, flow rate etc.
Apart from these there are some more electrical type of transducers like moving coil type, changing
dielectric type, changing core positions type etc.

5. Mechanical Transducers
The mechanical transducers are the mechanical elements that are
used for converting one form of energy into other form that can be
1) Bellows: These are the elastic elements that convert the air
pressure into displacement, and it is commonly used for the
measurement of pressure.
2) Bourdon tube: This elastic tube converts air pressure to the rotary
motion of the pointer used to indicate the pressure.
3) Spring: The spring tend to expand when force is applied to them,
thus they are used for the measurement of force.
4) Proving rings: Like the springs the proving rings also convert
applied force to the displacement.
5) Diaphragm: It converts applied pressure to the displacement.

6) Manometer: The manometer converts the applied pressure into variable

displacement of the liquid within it enabling to measure the pressure.
7) Thermocouple: Thermocouple is the devise that produces electric current
when one of its end is heated. The current produce by the devise can be
measured, which can be calibrated against the temperature enabling us to
measure the temperature of the body.
8) Bimetals: These are the bimetallic strips comprising of two different
metals having different coefficient of thermal expansion, joint together.
When the strip is heated one metal expands lesser while the other metal
expands more leading to the deflection of the bimetallic strip, which is
converted into the rotary motion of the pointer that indicates the
9) Hydro-pneumatic transducers: These include devices like orifice, venturi,
pitot tube, vanes and turbines that are used for measurement of pressure,
velocity, flow rate and force of water.
Apart from the mechanical transducers mentioned above there are many
others like seismic mass, pendulum scale, float etc. Most of the mechanical
transducers are used as the primary transducers, meaning the initial input is
applied to them, while the output obtained from them can be used directly to
measure the quantity or it can be given as input to the secondary transducer,
which are mostly of electrical type.