# Capacitive transducer

1. Mar 17, 2012

### phyky

i built a parallel plate capacitor with brass plates to make water level transducer. A= 12cmx2cm, d=2mm. but the capacitance i measure is μF which far more bigger then theory calculation when it immersed into water. anyone can help?pls

2. Mar 17, 2012

### vk6kro

Unless it is very pure, dissolved salts in water make it a reasonable conductor.

So, if your capacitor is touching the water, it will conduct current via the water and this will make measurement of capacitance very difficult.

You could still use it, though, as the resistance should vary according to the water level, so you can measure resistance with a multimeter (or some other way) and compare that reading with the height of the water.

3. Mar 17, 2012

### phyky

i use pipe water. n 1 more thing is the signal conditioning circuit i used is charge amp with 5Vdc. i used R2=1MΩ C2=4.7nF n RClowpass+buffer.but the ouput vlotage i get is increase for a long time n not stable if i increase water level.why?

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4. Mar 17, 2012

### vk6kro

You may be getting polarization of the water at the metal surfaces.

This can be seen as bubbles on the metal surface due to DC current passing through the solution.

You can avoid this by just applying power when you want to take a reading.

5. Mar 17, 2012

### phyky

it do has bubbles.applying power?u mean drive oscillator ac?

6. Mar 17, 2012

### vk6kro

I'm not sure what that means.

The bubbles on the surface of an electrode reduce the surface area for current to flow. So, this may be one reason that your reading is varying.

These bubbles do not form if you use AC and you can also reduce them if you use less DC current or use DC current in short bursts. Stirring tends to sweep the bubbles away too.

If you are familiar with microprocessors, you can use them to generate a DC voltage with one pin and take a voltage reading with another pin and store the value. Then remove the DC voltage.
So, you might take a reading in less than a second and display it for a minute or so, then take another reading.

This is extremely effective at avoiding polarization.

7. Mar 17, 2012

### Staff: Mentor

That means connecting the capacitor to its amplifier only for the time you are taking a new reading.

Could you apply a plastic coating to the surfaces that will be immersed? Is it for only short-term use, or how will you stop the gap becoming fouled with dirt or algae?

8. Mar 18, 2012

### phyky

vk6kro: so use ac supply or stiring away the bubbles will get stable voltage output? i want connect it to microcontroller to make it a water level sensor. so if the calibration is not stable, it is less precision
NascentOxygen : it use only for short term.

Last edited: Mar 18, 2012
9. Mar 18, 2012

### vk6kro

If you have a microcontroller, you don't need to worry about the bubbles.

Just put a resistor in series with the sensor and connect them between an output of the micro and ground.

Take a wire from the junction of the two and connect it to an Analog to Digital input of the micro.

So,
make the output pin high (ie 5 volts)
wait a second
read the A to D input
make the output pin low (0 volts)
Display the A to D value.
Wait a minute.
Do it again.

So, the electrode is only on for 1/60th of the time. This gives the bubbles little time to form and plenty of time to go away. So, you should get consistent readings.

10. Mar 18, 2012

### phyky

i used pic18f14k50.sorry, i m not very understand what u mean. i cannot imagine very well. can u show me the circuit diagram?

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11. Mar 18, 2012

### vk6kro

Like this:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4222062/Water%20sensor%20to%20uP.PNG [Broken]

Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
12. Mar 18, 2012

### phyky

no need charge amplifier anymore?

13. Mar 20, 2012

### phyky

if the dielectric permittivity change, is it take a long time for capacitor to change its capacitance?

14. Mar 20, 2012

### Staff: Mentor

The capacitance will change immediately, but if you have it fed from a very high impedance source then there will be an R-C time delay while the charge on the plates decays/changes/settles.

15. Mar 20, 2012

### vk6kro

In this case, the sensor is behaving like a resistor because of the conductivity of the water.

You may be able to make a waterproof layer of paint or epoxy by dipping the plates of the capacitor into the paint or epoxy.
If you did this 3 or 4 times and give the paint time to dry, or place it in a warm oven (45°C) to dry between coats.

It is important that there must be no conduction between the plates.

16. Mar 21, 2012

### Staff: Mentor

It might suffice to cover each plate with its own sandwich "baggie" before immersing in the water. Some of these are polythene (?) bags and are smooth; if open at the top the water will probably push the bag up against the plate surface. Their permittivity will change the calibration slightly, but this may fulfill OP's insulation needs. Not sure how "short term" the needs are; maybe just one day for a demonstration?

17. Mar 23, 2012

### phyky

thanks for advices. i did measure the resistance of sensor, and it decrease as the water level increase, and it take a bit time.
so if i use dc, charge amplifier will not amplify the voltage? bcoz most of book show A=-Cs/Cf, A=gain, Cs=capacitive capacitance, Cf=feedback capacitance.but wikipedia say it can only amplify unless exciting input voltage(which is ac?), or the circuit acts as a charge-to-voltage converter. is it true?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_amplifier

18. Mar 23, 2012

### vk6kro

Your capacitor is not working as a capacitor, because it is in water which has a relatively low resistance.

So, you can just accept this and use it as a variable resistor.

This means that you can just put it in a DC circuit and amplify with a conventional opamp if you like.

I notice in your first post that the spacing is only 2 mm so you don't have room to add paint or plastic bags.

I think you could get heat shrink tubing to squash down flat and fit over a 2 cm wide electrode.

If you did this, you could make it "U" shaped, so that it went from one electrode to the other under water and then you wouldn't have to worry about sealing it under water.
Heat it up with a hot air gun and it would be a tight fit on the electrodes.

19. Mar 23, 2012

### phyky

but the capacitace is also increase for my measurement, it cant be a capacitor?

20. Mar 23, 2012

### vk6kro

It is still a capacitor but with a low value of resistance in parallel with it.

So, you will have a lot of trouble trying to measure the capacitance while the resistance is there and varying.