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A Review of Current Electrostatic Measurement Techniques

A Review of Current Electrostatic Measurement Techniques



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Published by Jan Posvic
A review of current electrostatic measurement techniques and their limitations.
A review of current electrostatic measurement techniques and their limitations.

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Published by: Jan Posvic on Mar 20, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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LT-19 586WEVrca
website: www.monroe-electronics.com e-mail: electrostatics@monroe-electronics.comAPNE-0011-(LT-19)-11/17/2000-WEVrca Page 2 of 7
In electrostatic measurements, as in any otherscientific measurements, there are two areas oflimitations.1.
The limitation of the methods orinstrumentation used to gather the data.2.The researcher’s understanding of thesubject under investigation.In this paper I will attempt to review somebasic electrostatic principles in order to givethe reader a necessary understanding to makeaccurate electrostatic measurements. Then I’llreview the current state of the art in ofelectrostatic voltmeters and field-meters andtheir limitations.It is well known that all matter is made up ofpositively and negatively charged electricalparticles. Whenever there is an abundance ofone polarity in a certain area, an electricfield E is produced. An electric field is saidto exist at a point if a force of electricalorigin is exerted on a test charge at thatpoint.Please note that electric field is a vectorquantity with force and direction for which theunits are Newtons per coulomb or volts permeter. This is the definition of electricfield.When we move one coulomb of charge from onepoint to another in an electric field, we aredoing work on that charge. The term we use forthis is electric potential or voltage.Again, a volt is the amount of work it takes tomove one coulomb of charge a certain distancethrough an electrical field E.This now leads us to capacitance. A capacitoris normally viewed as any two conductorsseparated by an insulator but can be moregenerally defined as follows:The capacitance C of a capacitor is the ratio ofthe magnitude of the charge Q on two bodies tothe potential difference between the bodies.C in Farads,
in coulombs, V in volts.The energy stored in a capacitor is:2W (work)= 1/2 CVI feel these are the most important concepts tograsp in order to make scientific electrostaticmeasurements. I will give two examples to showhow these laws are important in electrostaticmeasurement.The first example I will use is where acontinuous sheet (“web”) of plastic or othernon-conductor runs over rollers as in a usualprocessing situation. It is very common to havesignificant charge build-up in this type ofsituation. First let us assume that the “web” isuniformly “charged”. The capacitance (C) of anysmall area of the web is proportional to itsarea (A) divided by the distance
the web isfrom any grounded object.If the web is in close contact with the rollers,
is very small and C is maximum. As the webmoves off the roller into free space,
increases dramatically from almost 0, thethickness of the material to tens ofcentimeters. The capacitance C changes inverselyproportional as noted above.From this we can see that changes of capacitancein order of 100 to 1000 is not unusual.
website: www.monroe-electronics.com e-mail: electrostatics@monroe-electronics.comAPNE-0011-(LT-19)-11/17/2000-WEVrca Page 3 of 7
The web being uniformly charged changes inpotential or voltage proportionally to thecapacitance of the web.Variations can be seen in voltage measurementsin factors of hundreds in this type ofsituation. Over the rollers voltage measurementswould be very low at maybe 100 volts. Away fromthe roller voltages can exceed 10kV.If a ground referenced fieldmeter is used inthis situation, the capacitance of the field-meter probe can be significant and alter thevoltage measurements. In general this is not aproblem because we are most concerned withrelative measurements and as long as the probeconfiguration is consistent in relation to theweb, reproducible results can be obtained.The second example is a variation of the first.Today we commonly hear of the need to keep thevoltage levels on printed circuit boards belowsome set number because of the sensitivity ofthe components. Let’s say we have a circuitboard sitting 1.00 mm above a bench top and wemeasure 50 volts on that board. If we now liftthat board to 10 cm without discharging theoriginal charge the voltage will then rise to5000 volts because the capacitance drop isinversely proportional to the distance of theprinted circuit to the bench.The point here is that the voltage isn’t thewhole story. If there is one equation that mustalways be kept in mind during electrostaticmeasurements, it is
CV.THE ELECTROSTATIC FIELDMETER:The ideal electrostatic fieldmeter would exhibitthe following characteristics:1.It would be very very small2.It would be capable of orientation todetermine the direction as well asthe magnitude of the field.3.It would be capable of assuming thepotential in space of the point wherefield intensity measurements aredesired.4.It must telemeter data to ground asany interconnecting wire wouldgrossly distort the field in thevicinity of the probe.In general the ideal fieldmeter would have thecapability of measuring the field withoutdistorting that field in any way. Clearly suchan instrument is quite impractical for everydayuse.The practical fieldmeter used today is a groundreferenced measuring device in which readingsare proportionally related to the distance fromthe probe to the surface or object under test.This trait is one of the limiting factors of allfieldmeters and if accurate readings are to beobtained, the distance from the field-meterprobe to the surface under test must beprecisely known.Another common characteristic of fieldmeters isthe field of view of the probe. Figure 1 showsus a graph in which a square target or surfaceunder test with side S is positioned one unit ofdistance away from the probe. We can see fromthis curve that for accuracy, the target sizeshould be three to four times this distance fromthe probe to the surface under test. Thisdictates that the field-meter probe should be asclose as possible to the test surface unless theneed is to measure over a large area. Rememberas spacing gets smaller, the variations inspacing becomes much more critical to theaccuracy of the readings. For example: at 5.0 cmspacing a variation of 0.1 cm yields a change of2%, at 1.0 cm spacing the same variation of 0.1cm yields a change of 10%.Range:The range of sensitivity of electrostaticfieldmeters currently on the market is from0.1voltsper centimeter to 20KVolts percentimeter. The upper limit offieldmetermeasurement is usually dictated by the breakdownof air, which is around 20kV per centimeter.Calibration:Commercially available electrostatic field-meters, although responsive to electric fieldintensity, are often calibrated to read voltagewhen held at a fixed spacing with respect to aplane surface at constant voltage. The moresophisticated instruments are calibrated to readfield intensity directly, usually in volts percentimeter or volts per meter.A common calibration technique is to establish auniform electric field by using two largeparallel conductors separated by a smaller fixedknown spacing across which is applied a knownvoltage. The electric field established in thecenter of the plates is then simply V/

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