I have to measure a certain current flowing through two 14V DC motors that are in parallel (identical ones). I know that depending on load and speed they can consume up to 20amps. My multimeter only goes up to 10 amp. How can I safely measure current under different scenarios (different speeds and loads/torques)?
Even better, is there a circuit that is easy to build that will allow me to log current consumption over time?
I don't know why, but I always had in mind that resistance should be a constant value. Isn't that true?
Well, if I'm mistaken in thinking that, then I suppose my calculations above are correct, right? And if so I still have two questions:
1-Is it save to measure voltage across the resistor even with very high amperages? (my instincts say yes, because the voltmeter would be in parallel, right? but I had to ask either way... better safe than with a damaged multimeter)
2-If I want to measure up to 50A with a current sensing resistor, then voltage across resistor would be 5V right? If so, don't I need a 250W!!! resistor? The maximum I found on mouser was a 0.1 Ohms - 5W... how's that?
When you're starting to measure currents this high a field sensor is probably better. Harder to make yourself, but if you're not going for extreme accuracy, works okay.
Basically you take one of the leads to the motor and wrap it around a torroid a few times. Stick a linear Hall effect sensor in the middle, and read that. For some sensors I did I cut out a small segment of the torroid and placed the Hall effect sensor in the gap. The more turns of the motor lead around the torroid, the higher the reading you'll get, but avoid lots of turns, or you'll just make yourself an extra inductor in your robot.
For my robot sensorial package, I just ordered an IC that I believe does exactly what you described (Allegra ACS750). But I wanted to take some measurements of my motor in order to dimension batteries. I guess I'll wait for the IC to arrive, as I don't have any resistor smaller than 5 ohms at home.
A clamp on amp meter might be one solution. If you have a digital multimeter and can actually measure a resistance value in one of the leads going between the battery and the motor, then you might could use it as the resistor in the E=IR formula. Connect the multimeter to the two points (no motor power applied) and measure the resistance at the lowest resistance setting. Then switch the meter to the lowest voltage setting and read the voltage across the section of wire. I haven't tried it, but might be worth looking into prior to adding extra gizmos in the circuit.. A simple data logger like below might do the data logging.
Not quite. A permanent magnet DC motor acts as a generator when it is spinning. You can see this by putting your voltmeter across it and spinning it by hand with no other power applied. When the motor is running off a constant DC voltage at a constant load, the generator action opposes the voltage supplied by your power source. The current flowing is the result of (your power supply voltage - the generated voltage) divided by the circuit resistance. As you increase the mechanical load, you slow down the motor. The reduced RPM generates less opposing voltage and so more current flows through your constant resistance. The "official" name for this phenomenon is "back EMF".
No, let's not forget that a d.c. motor acts as a generator and when allowed to spin, will generate a 'back-emf' voltage in series with this. This voltage (Eb) is proportional to the RPM (Eb= Kb*omega). Incidentally, if Kb is measured in volts.sec/rad then it can be shown to be equal to the torque constant Kt if measured in Nm/A (torque is proportional to current). So the total voltage is I*(Rm+Rsense) +Eb where Rm is the motor internal resistance. Rm and Rsense should stay pretty constant. You can measure Eb by measuring the generated voltage vs rpm. You could also measure Rm with an ohmmeter across the stationary motor if you are careful with flaky contact resistance.
Actually probably better there are no loops in the lead wires to your motor. It's best to minimize those. And with this "Allegra" it can help your robot overcome its allergies in addition to sensing current!
If all you're needing is to do a correlative test and are not looking for current sensing during run time, you can always operate the motor at a lower voltage and do your tests with more reasonably sized resistors. You can then factor the actual operating current at whatever voltage you'll be using.
Right, left the extra "0" out. Use 0.005 ohms. Also, for "practical" purposes, like in a robot, it probably doesn't matter a lot whether you use 1% or 3% or 5%. For a precision instrument, it will matter.
Not to disagree will Gordon at all, but I wanted to add that there are sensors that work similar to Hall Effect devices but are more sensitive. I use to work for a company as an applications engineer and since I was the only one who knew anything about electronics, I ended up in charge of all tech. support calls and design related to our piston position sensors. There is a type of device known as "magnetoresistive" and a newer device known as "giant magnetoresistive." These devices can respond to magnetic fields much lower that Hall Effect sensors, typically about 30 gauss over a distance of about 1/2 inch or less. Google "magnetoresistive" if you are interested.
Could these be implemented for current sensing, without being influenced too much by nearby fields (motors, metal frame, etc)? Would the Philips KMZ51, used in some electronic compass products, be of this ilk?
I've had no experience in using magnetoresistive devices as current sensors. However, since these devices are more sensitive to magnetic fields, then they would, of course, be more sensitive to magnetic fields produced by motors and other devices. Like all magnetic sensors, they can also be influenced by nearby magnetic conductive metals. In our case, the advantage of magnetoresistive devices and associated circuitry is that they can triggered by smaller magnets, an important consideration in the design of pneumatic and hydraulic cylinders to avoid a piston magnet ring too thick with a longer trigger zone and a longer cylinder per stroke travel. For the subject of this thread, I suspect that a Hall Effect device would be better, but a magnetoresistive device might be useful in some applications. Experimentation would, of course, be required.
I'm not familiar with the KZ51, but I did find info at:
Thanks everybody for all the illustrative answers. I really learned something new from all of this.
What I ended up doing was using an allegro acs750 to measure current and a couple (2) resistors set up as a voltage divider to measure voltage. Get these two values and sample it using the PIC adc to convert to some readable value.
Now I'm wondering, how can I estimate how much energy is left on a battery package? I know it is possible, because my handcam does it. Is is purely a function of voltage?
It varies with the battery chemistry. Alkalines for example have a steadily declining voltage as remaining capacity goes down, so you can get a fair indication of capacity from the voltage under load. Unfortunately most common rechargeable (NiMH, NiCad, Li-Ion) don't have the same convenient property. A NiMH for example will stay close to 1.2 volts till around 90% of its capacity is gone, then you get a pretty rapid decrease in voltage.
You can tell when a battery is almost empty by measuring the voltage and indeed you should to avoid over-discharging batteries, which can shorten their lives or even cause a fire in extreme circumstances (the big, unprotected, high-discharge Lithium battery packs used in RC flying can go up quite spectacularly).
You can also tell when a battery is fully charged /while it's being charged/ by measuring the voltage, peak-detect charging is one example
- used for NiCad and NiMH cells (but not Lithium!).
But back to your question, 'smart' battery chargers measure the current going in and out. If you start with a fully charged 700mAh cell and you've been drawing 300mA for an hour you have 400mAh left. On batteries for laptops, phones and camcorders the circuitry to do this is often in the battery itself. In other words, they don't actually measure the remaining capacity, they estimate it based on known parameters and the current going in and out. It's not easy to get it exactly right (I've missed out a lot of the complexities) and you need a periodic full charge/discharge cycle to keep the electronics in synch with the real battery.
I get by with a low battery alarm based on the voltage and know roughly how long my 'bot will go without a recharge from experience.