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Using a Schering A.C. Bridge at low frequency to determine condenser properties

Using a Schering A.C. Bridge at low frequency to determine condenser properties

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Published by David.R.Gilson
"This experiment was an exercise in balancing a standard Schering A.C. bridge circuit to determine
unknown impedances. These circuits are very sensitive to noise and care had to be taken to earth out any
noise. This was done by using Co-axial leads for the transmission lines and utilising the lead screens as a
path for the noise current to go to earth. The exercise consisted of measuring four capacitances (and loss
factors) and then similarly analysing a butterfly capacitor with two different dielectrics, Air and
Medicinal Paraffin. The data from the Medicinal Paraffin was used to calculate the dielectric constant of
the Paraffin. The calculated value was found to be 1.93±0.01. Which is close to the published value of
2.2."

David.R.Gilson 1998
"This experiment was an exercise in balancing a standard Schering A.C. bridge circuit to determine
unknown impedances. These circuits are very sensitive to noise and care had to be taken to earth out any
noise. This was done by using Co-axial leads for the transmission lines and utilising the lead screens as a
path for the noise current to go to earth. The exercise consisted of measuring four capacitances (and loss
factors) and then similarly analysing a butterfly capacitor with two different dielectrics, Air and
Medicinal Paraffin. The data from the Medicinal Paraffin was used to calculate the dielectric constant of
the Paraffin. The calculated value was found to be 1.93±0.01. Which is close to the published value of
2.2."

David.R.Gilson 1998

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Published by: David.R.Gilson on Sep 10, 2008
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05/09/2014

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Using a Schering A.C. Bridge atlow frequency to determinecondenser properties.David.R.Gilson16th November 1998
Abstract
This experiment was an exercise in balancing a standard Schering A.C. bridge circuit to determineunknown impedances. These circuits are very sensitive to noise and care had to be taken to
earth out 
anynoise. This was done by using Co-axial leads for the transmission lines and utilising the lead screens as a path for the noise current to go to earth. The exercise consisted of measuring four capacitances (and lossfactors) and then similarly analysing a butterfly capacitor with two different dielectrics, Air andMedicinal Paraffin. The data from the Medicinal Paraffin was used to calculate the dielectric constant of the Paraffin. The calculated value was found to be 1.93±0.01. Which is close to the published value of 2.2.
 
1) Introduction
[1] Usually, the most precise means of measuring a complex impedance with an alternating current (A.C.)is to use some type of A.C. bridge. A generalised A.C. (Wheatstone) bridge is shown is figure one.
 Figure 1. A generalised A.C. (Wheatstone) bridge.
For an unknown impedance to be determined, the bridge has to be balanced, the voltage across thedetector has to be zero. This means that not only the voltages at both sides should have the sameamplitude, but the same phase too. Once this is achieved, two separate conditions are satisfied, whichrespectively involve the real and imaginary parts of a complex impedance. It is now clear that there aretwo balancing conditions which must be satisfied simultaneously. Such a property means that the two balancing conditions must be independent of each other. This is an important influence in the design of  bridge circuits for such use. For this, one would choose a bridge which had two variable impedanceswhich were independent and exclusive of each other in both of the balancing conditions. With such a bridge one of the impedances can be varied until a minimum reading on the detector is reached and thesecond variable impedance can be varied with until a new minimum is observed, then finer control can beachieved by returning to and varying the first impedance again. This process would be repeated asrequired.It is also highly advantageous for the balancing conditions to be independent of frequency. This is because it is almost certain that no power supply could give a perfectly sinusoidal output, and it istherefore equally certain that there would be additional harmonics. This becomes a problem when one isobserving and attempting to minimise very small signals. The harmonic voltages would make such asmall signal (which is obviously of comparable amplitude) indiscernible.Resistances and capacitances are the variable impedances used to reach the balanced state. This is because variable inductances use a movable contact which introduces a large intrinsic resistance. Since ageneral rule in these matters are that the impedances of all the "arms" should be of the same order of magnitude for the best performance, variable inductances are quite undesirable and are hence not used.The balance condition for the A.C. bridge shown in Figure One is similar to that of it's D.C. counter part,
 Z 
1
 Z 
2
=
 Z 
3
 Z 
4
(1)Both of the balance conditions are contained in this complex equation. This makes sense when youconsider that the real and imaginary conditions must be satisfied simultaneously. The A.C. Schering bridge is particularly used to measure capacitance and the same general principals outlined above alsoapply to this circuit.
 
 Figure Two. A circuit diagram of an A.C. Schering bridge.
A diagram of a general Schering bridge is shown in Fig. Two. The unknown capacitor (or condenser) isrepresented by the series grouping of C and R on the same arm of the bridge. C
1
is a good standardcondenser, whose magnitude should be of the same order as that of the condenser under test (
 Note
, thisrequirement may not be a possible if the condenser under test is unknown!). R 
1
is a fixed (non-reactive)resistance, and R 
2
is a variable resistor shunted by a variable condenser C
2
. The balance condition cannow be expanded to the following,
 j
1
 R
1
 j
=
 R
1
1
 R
2
 j
2
(2)Separating the real and imaginary parts gives both of the balance conditions,
=
1
 R
2
 R1
(3)
 R
=
 R
1
2
1
(4)These conditions fulfil the
 A.C. bridge prescription
that has been discussed so far. Only one of thevariable components appears in each equation and there is no frequency dependency either. Also, theunknown capacitance is obtained in terms of a standard capacitor and the ratio of two resistances. C
2
isonly used in the determination of R, the unknown resistance. With a good condenser R will be small and ahigh degree of accuracy in the calculation of R is uncommon.To find the values of C and R in the circuit, equations 3 and 4 can be rearranged to linear functions, wherethe unknowns (C & R) are the gradients of each function respectively. By changing the value of R 
1
in thecircuit shown in Fig. 2 different balance values of C
2
and R 
2
will be found. So eq. 3 and 4 respectively become,
C R
1
=
 R
2
1
(5)
 R
1
2
=
 R
1
(6) Now the unknown values can be determined by taking the gradient from experimental values of theknown impedances.There is a particular piece of apparatus that can be used in this type of investigation. The apparatusreferred to is the Butterfly Capacitor (BC). The technical aspects of this are discussed in more detail in thesecond section. The BC however can be considered as a series of parallel plate capacitors in parallelwhich is held inside of a brass container . The container can be filled with different substances. Thismeans that dielectric properties of different materials (liquids and/or gases) can be investigated.

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