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R olf H .

K uratle, A ndr Signer

K istler Instrum ente A G W interthur, Sw itzerland
The Basic of Piezoelectric Measurement Technology
Kistler Instrumente AG Winterthur
W interthur, Sw itzerland
Tel + 41 - 52 - 224 11 11, Fax 224 14 14
Kistler Instrumente GmbH
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Tel (07 11) 34 07-0, Fax (07 11) 34 07-159
Kistler SA
Les U lis C dex, France
Tel 01 69 18 81 81, Fax 01 69 18 81 89
Kistler Instruments Ltd.
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Kistler Italia s.r.l.
M ilano, Italy
Tel (02) 481 27 51, Fax (02) 481 28 21
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Kistler Instrument Corp.
A m herst, N Y, U SA
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Kistler Japan Co., Ltd.
Tokyo, Japan
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Piezoelectric sensors have
proven to be highly successful
for the measurement of fast
and cyclic processes. Force,
pressure or acceleration sen-
sors are used today for quality
assurance in the widest variety
of manufacturing processes,
particularly in production
plants for the automobile and
electronics industries. Appro-
priate process knowledge
combined with a suitable mea-
suring system allow zero
defect production.
The following paper discusses
a little known piezoelectric
measuring technique, and
shows recent innovations and
Piezoelectric sensors for measuring
force, pressure and vibration are used in
particular applications in industry, where
dynamic processes need to be reliably
measured over a long period of time.
Measurements are frequently used for
quality assurance and documentation.
The advantage of piezoelectric sensors
compared with other types of sensors are:
Long life without aging
High sensitivity
Low threshold
Large measuring range
Practically displacement-free mea-
High natural frequency
Wide temperature range
Some examples for the use of piezo-
electric sensors in industry are:
Measurement of mold cavity pres-
sure for injection molding of plastics
Cylinder pressure monitoring on
diesel and gas engines
Press force monitoring and control
Monitoring joining forces on auto-
matic assembly machines
Monitoring of vibrating machinery
Process monitoring during machining
The piezoelectric sensor
Piezoelectric sensors consist of a piezo-
electric material packaged in a suitable
housing. The term piezoelectric signi-
es that when loaded with a force, the
sensor produces an electric charge Q
strictly proportional to the force F with the
unit [pC] (1 Picocoulomb = 10
It is therefore an active measuring
element. With quartz (silicon dioxide
) nature has provided an ideal
material. Nowadays, quartz is syntheti-
cally grown under large pressure and
high temperature. Other piezoelectric
materials are also used for special
Different effects are achieved depending
to the alignment of the quartz elements
in the sensor package (Fig 1). These can
be produced by different cutting angles.
The Basic of Piezoelectric
Measurement Technology
Rolf H. Kuratle, Andr Signer
Kistler Instrumente AG Winterthur, Switzerland
Fig. 1: Piezoelectric effect schematic diagram of various sensors
a) b) c)
a) Transversal effect
The charge output occurs at right angles
to the force contact surfaces. The charge
is dependent on the geometry of the
quartz or more precisely on its thinness.
Quartz elements therefore often have a
bar shape. The charge output in the case
of a transversal element for the dimen-
sions shown in Fig. 1 amounts to:
Pressure sensors and highly sensitive
force sensors are typical sensors using
the transversal piezoelectric effect.
b) Longitudinal effect
The charge output occurs at the force
contact surfaces. In contrast to the
transverse quartz element, the charge
level is not dependent on the quartz
geometry but solely on the force applied
and amounts to
These quartz elements are frequently
disk-shaped. The only possibility of in-
creasing the charge yield is to connect
several quartz disks in series with
respect to the force. Electrically these
disks are wired in parallel. With n disks,
the charge then amounts to
Typical sensors applying the longitudinal
effect are force load washers.
c) Shear effect
With shear force, the charge output
occurs at the force contact surfaces. The
sensitivity amounts to
As with the longitudinal effect, the geo-
metry of the quartz does not affect its
sensitivity. Typical sensors with shear
effect are 3-component force sensors,
moment sensors and accelerometers.
Amplifiers for piezoelectric
Functional principle
The very small electric charge Q must be
converted to a voltage U (5 V or 10 V) or
a current ! (4 20 mA) for evaluation,
e.g. in a PC or a PLC. The charge
amplier is appropriate for this purpose.
The designation charge amplier is in
general use in measuring technology
even though descriptively incorrect,
because the charge amplier does not
amplify a charge but rather converts it
into a proportionate voltage.
In principle, the charge amplier consists
of a high-gain voltage amplier with a
MOS or J-FET transistor at the input to
achieve the high insulation resistance. It
is connected in negative feedback via a
high-insulation range capacitor and thus
acts as an integrator for input currents
owing through the charge input. These
are generated by changes in charge
(or mechanical load changes) at the
sensor. The integral of the change in
charge from the piezoelectric sensor and
thus a voltage signal proportional to the
entire change in charge (or mechanical
load change) appears at the output.
The relationship (Fig. 2) between input
Q and output U
F Mechanical load on the sensor
(e.g. force)
Q Sensor output charge
(e.g. 4 pC/N)
Sensor capacitance
(e.g. 50 pF)
Cable capacitance
(approx. 100 pF/m)
Capacitance of the range capa-
Insulation resistance of the input
circuit (sensor, cable, amplifier
Resistance for time constant
(lower cut-off frequency)
Resistance of the low-pass input
Gain factor of the operational
amplier (approx. 100,000)
Voltage at the amplier input
Voltage at the amplier output
Reset Switch for short-circuiting the
range capacitor (zeroing the
As a result of the large gain of the ope-
rational amplifier (ideally " # !), the
capacitances of the sensor and the cable
are practically negligible, and the output
voltage is purely proportional to the
Fig. 2: Schematic diagram of a charge amplier
Charge amplier
y y = $ $ 2,3
Q F x x = $ , 2 3
Q n F x x = $ $ 2 3 ,
Q F = $ , 4 6
out =
1 1
* $ + $ + ( )
" "
+ (C
+ C
quotient of charge and range capaci-
Charge ampliers must be highly insu-
lating on the input side (R
of the order of
magnitude of 10
Ohm) the same goes
for the sensor and the cable including
plug connections since every nite re-
sistance will cause a current [pC/s = pA]
to ow allowing the output signal to drift.
As already mentioned, the high insula-
tion at the amplier input is achieved with
a MOSFET. The best MOSFETs current-
ly available have an input leakage
current of the order of magnitude of
several fA. For good charge ampliers,
this means a typical drift of 0.03 pC/s.
The small leakage current of the input
stage is responsible for the fact that no
purely static measurements can be
made over a long period of time with
piezoelectric systems.
The percentage drift of the measuring
signal per minute is calculated from:
Sensitivity of the sensor [E] = pC/N
Force to be measured in [F] = N
The limit for the quasistatic measure-
ment of piezoelectric signals is easily
determined by means of a practical
example with a quartz force sensor
(sensitivity 4 pC/N). With a measuring
range of 1000 N, there is a measuring
error of 0.045 % per minute or a
measuring time of 22 minutes without the
measuring error exceeding 1 %. This drift
is independent of the range capacitor
selected. Nevertheless, the higher the
sensitivity of the sensor and the greater
the force to be measured, the smaller
the error component due to drift.
The Reset switch, which is also highly
insulated, enables the output signal to be
reset to zero by short-circuiting the range
capacitor. In many applications, this type
of taring is desirable so that, for example,
the intrinsic weight of machine parts is
not included in the force measurement.
Normally a reset function will be carried
out before every measuring cycle with
the sensor mechanically unloaded. The
reset time is short at approx. 5 ... 100 ms
and is thus suitable for short cyclic
measuring or monitoring applications.
Depending on the charge amplifier
design, the reset switch is operated
either manually or via an external digital
input signal. Semiconductor switches or
reed relays are used as high insulation
reset switches. They are normally closed
when no current is flowing to prevent
damage to the high insulation input from
static charges.
Measuring ranges
Most charge amplifiers have multiple
measuring ranges. The choice of mea-
suring range is made by switching the
relevant range capacitors C
. Subse-
quent amplier stages provide a scaled
10 V output voltage signal, thus allowing
the use of a single charge amplier for
sensors with the widest selection of
sensitivities and measuring ranges.
The accuracy of the charge amplier is
mainly determined by the tolerance of
the range capacitors C
. The linearity of
0.05 % FS is excellent. The charge
amplifier error is thus negligible in its
effect on the calibration of the entire
measuring chain or when tuning the
amplier to the sensor involved.
Within specic limits, charge ampliers
are overload-proof. The determining
overload parameters are the signal slew
rate and the magnitude of the charge.
J-FET ampliers are more insensitive to
static discharge in the event of improper
connection of the sensor as a MOS-FET
amplier, but have a considerably larger
drift and temperature dependence.
Low-pass input lter
Due to mass oscillation additional forces
are generated while measuring vibrating
machines. These forces are either of no
interest or do not represent disturbances
to the control or monitoring of the
These disturbances can be excluded
through the use of a suitable low-pass
input lter. For most applications, lters
covering the range 10 ... 100 Hz have
proven most successful and take the
form of an RC network at the amplier
input. If the cable and sensor capaci-
tance is used for C, then a low pass lter
is produced with an additional integral
resistor RTP in series with the cable.
Time constants (high pass lters)
Atime constant acts like an AC coupling
device, similar to that familiar from os-
cilloscopes. The static signal component
is ltered out and only the dynamic signal
oscillates about zero according to the
waveform. Time constants are produced
with a resistor R
in parallel with the
range capacitor. The insulation resis-
tance is artificially reduced. This is of
course only appropriate for rapid mea-
suring processes.
In the AC mode, the charge amplifier
behaves like a high pass lter. The low-
er cut-off frequency is calculated from
the value of the range capacitor in the
circuit and the time constant resistance
as follows:
Lower cut-off frequency [f
] = Hz
Time constant [t] = s
Time constants are included in the
charge amplier only when the dynamic
signal component is of interest in rapid
processes. A reset before each cycle is
in the many cases unnecessary for
measurements with time constants.
Industrial charge amplier ver-
sus laboratory charge amplier
The following overview sets out the most
important features of industrial and labo-
ratory charge ampliers respectively.

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0 03 60 100
+ C
Application specic
In previous years, Kistler developed
charge amplifiers tailored to specific
requirements. The main emphasis was
to develop specic ampliers suitable for
industrial applications.
Hybrid technology has made it possible
to greatly miniaturize the actual charge
amplifier. Charge amplifiers have also
become more rugged. They can be
located signicantly closer to the mea-
suring location, e.g. directly on moving
parts of machinery, thereby minimizing
distance between the sensor and the
amplier. Hybrid ampliers have a xed
measuring range. Nevertheless, various
measuring ranges can be congured by
means of integral voltage ampliers. The
currently smallest In-Line charge
amplifier Type 5027 (Fig. 4) with an
enclosure of only 45 x 16 mm is available
with 3 different measuring ranges. Preci-
sion calibration is carried out in each
range using an integral potentiometer.
Immunity to electrical interference
In industrial production plants, the elec-
trical ambient conditions are often less
than ideal. Ground loops, resulting from
different chassis potentials on the
machinery together with electromagnetic
elds, can interfere or distort an original-
ly excellent measuring signal. The caus-
es are certain to be found in the system
(machine/measuring chain/cables/envi-
ronment). However, charge amplifiers
are available which are practically
immune to interference.
Basically, all Kistler charge amplifiers
and the standard sensors and cables
are tested with respect to electromag-
netic compatibility EN 50081-1/2 (interfe-
rence emission) and EN 50082-1/2 (inter-
ference immunity). Safety requirements
according to EN 61010-1 are also met.
Furthermore, the new amplifier Type
5034, for example,
is being offered with
complete electrical
isolation. This means
that the chassis
potentials of the
supply and measur-
ing signal inputs
and outputs are
separated by opto-
couplers, so that no
interference (e.g.
power line hum)
caused by ground
loops can occur.
External range switching
One of the distinguishing features of
piezoelectric sensors is their very wide
measuring range. For this to be utilized,
charge ampliers with switchable mea-
suring ranges are required. These will
allow, for example, the force characteris-
tic in a machine to be measured both in
the low range of a few N and in the range
of high kN with high resolution. The
amplifier types 5034 and 5039 allow
externally controlled switching of the
measuring ranges. The measuring range
is switched during measurement by
means of switching signals.
Multi-channel charge ampliers
For measurements with a number of
sensors, modular multi-channel ampli-
ers with up to 3 channels are available.
Piezoelectric sensors can also be
connected electrically in parallel without
problem. A typical application is repre-
sented by so-called force plates, e.g. to
determine forces in mechanical proces-
sing. The force plate is supported on four
sensor feet. The charge signals of the
individual sensors can be merged, i.e.
added together and fed to a single
amplier channel.
Industrial Laboratory
Construction Rugged metal or impact- Bench-mounted case or
resistant plastic case 19rack-System according
Suitable for mounting on to DIN 41494
a machine
Small dimensions
Shock and vibration proof
structure of the electronic system
IP protective class (min. IP64)
Various input connections
Measuring channels Single or multi-channel Single or multi-channel
Measuring ranges Internal adjustable In-/External adjustable
Sensor-specic calibration Numeric display of set values
Functions Semiconductor reset Adjustable low-pass lter
Electrical isolation Time constant (High pass lter)
Differential input adjustable
Overload monitoring
Zero monitoring
Output signal 5 V / 10 V 10 V
0 20 mA / 4 20 mA
Supply 10 36 V DC 115/230 V AC
Connections Various input connections BNC
Interfaces none serial RS-232C
parallel IEEE-488
Fig. 4: The smallest Kistler charge amplier Type 5027
Fig. 3: Characteristics of industrial and laboratory charge ampliers
Fig. 5: Charge amplier
in a rugged and sealed
Type 5034/5038
Fig. 6: Modular design
with plug-in cards
Type 5058
Fig. 7: Latest Control
Monitor CoMo II-S
Type 5859
Rack mounting
The charge amplifier Type 5058 is
designed in the Euro card format. It can
be mounted in racks or switchgear cabi-
nets. This allows customized measuring
systems to be designed (Fig. 6).
External actuation
The control inputs for Reset/Operate or
range switching can be directly connect-
ed to any machine control system. All
industrial ampliers can be operated with
TTL signals or via optocouplers. In
several cases, non-electrically isolated
actuation is also possible using a simple
switch. The power supply for industrial
charge ampliers is normally 24 V DC.
Current consumption is low at less than
100 mA.
Control monitors
Production processes nowadays must
be constantly monitored for quality
assurance purposes. For this reason,
the measuring signals can either be
evaluated by a PLC or condensed
directly on site to provide informative
parameters. Programmable Kistler con-
trol monitors are able to distinguish
conforming or nonconforming parts
directly by means of the measuring
signal (Fig. 7). This relieves the PLC of
computer-intensive work. Charge ampli-
ers are integrated in the control moni-
tors. Moreover, signals can also be
connected from sensors with other
measuring principles (e.g. displacement
sensors) and displayed as a function of
the rst measurand.
[1] Dipl.-Ing. R. Kail und Dipl.-Ing.
W. Mahr; Piezoelectric Measu-
ring Instruments and their Appli-
cations; Kistler Reprint 20.116e
[2] R. Kuratle; Motorenmesstechnik;
Vogel Buchverlag; Wrzburg
[3] J. Tichi, G. Gautschi; Piezoelek-
trische Messtechnik; Springer-