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How do Pressure Transducers Work?

Posted on March 30, 2022 Michael Rodriguez Electronics

Pressure transducers convert pressure into an electrical output signal that is either digital or analog. This signal can be used by other devices, such as controllers, alarms, and other similar closed-loop systems. They find use in a wide range of residential and commercial applications like HVAC, pumps, vehicles, and aircraft, where a pressure measurement is necessitated.

Often referred to as a pressure sensor or pressure transmitter, a pressure transducer consists of a pressure-sensitive element like a diaphragm that deflects with fluid pressure. Additionally, it also consists of a transduction element that converts the deflection sensed by the diaphragm into an electrical output signal. This signal will either increase or decrease proportionally to the change in pressure.

It is important to note that the pressure should stay within a specified range, and this can be achieved through careful calibration. More than that, pressure transducers require a consistent power supply to generate electrical signals. Typically, the signal is 4-20 mA or 0-10 V DC. Some systems may use a combination of AC and DC power. While a 4-20 mA signal is standard when using a 2-wire configuration, DC voltage output utilizes a 3-wire configuration. However, a 4-20 mA signal can be used over long distances and is not susceptible to interference like a DC signal.

Keep in mind that pressure transducers and pressure switches are not the same. Though they may be conflated with one another, a pressure switch is a device that operates an electrical contact when a predetermined fluid pressure is reached. Now that we have outlined how pressure transducers function, the next section will cover the most common types, all of which are distinguished by their measurement technology.

Strain Gauge Pressure Transducer

Strain gauge pressure transducers find use in applications that require the measurement of extremely high and low pressures, as well as differential pressures. Differential pressure is defined as the difference in pressure between any two given points. They are equipped with a diaphragm that must be routinely checked for deformations. Any deformation can change the resistance of these transducers.

Capacitance Pressure Transducer

Capacitance pressure transducers measure pressure by detecting changes in electrical capacitance as a result of the diaphragm’s movement. It consists of two capacitor plates, a diaphragm, and an electrode that is fixed to an unpressurized surface. These plates are positioned at a certain distance from each other, and the change in pressure either widens or narrows the gap between them. This change in capacitance can be converted into a signal. This type of transducer is used to measure absolute, gauge, or differential pressure.

Potentiometric Pressure Transducer

Potentiometric pressure transducers consist of a precision potentiometer that has a wiper affixed to a pressure-sensitive element like a diaphragm. The deflection on this element changes the position of the wiper. Moreover, the resistance value changes between the wiper and one end of the potentiometer. 

Resonant Wire Pressure Transducer

Resonant wire pressure transducers contain an electronic oscillator to keep the wire in a diaphragm vibrating. As the pressure changes in the diaphragm, the tension of the wire is affected and the resonant frequency changes. This frequency is sensed by digital counter circuits and converted into an electrical signal.

Conclusion

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