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You are on page 1of 5

**com/devzone/cda/ph/p/id/12
**

1 oI 5 23/05/2008 08:39 a.m.

Overview

This tutorial is part of the National Instruments Measurement Fundamentals series. Each tutorial in this series will teach

you a specific topic of common measurement applications by explaining theoretical concepts and providing practical

examples. There are several physical processes that can be used to develop a sensor to measure acceleration. In

applications that involve flight, such as aircraft and satellites, accelerometers are based on properties of rotating masses.

In the industrial world, however, the most common design is based on a combination of Newton's law of mass

acceleration and Hooke's law of spring action.

Table of Contents

Spring-Mass System 1.

Natural Frequency and Damping 2.

Vibration Effects 3.

Relevant NI Products 4.

Buy the Book 5.

Spring-Mass System

Newton's law simply states that if a mass, m, is undergoing an acceleration, a, then there must be a force F acting on the

mass and given by F = ma. Hooke's law states that if a spring of spring constant k is stretched (extended) from its

equilibrium position for a distance Dx, then there must be a force acting on the spring given by F = kDx.

FIGURE 5.23 The basic spring-mass system accelerometer.

In Figure 5.23a we have a mass that is free to slide on a base. The mass is connected to the base by a spring that is in its

unextended state and exerts no force on the mass. In Figure 5.23b, the whole assembly is accelerated to the left, as

shown. Now the spring extends in order to provide the force necessary to accelerate the mass. This condition is described

by equating Newton's and Hooke's laws:

ma = kDx (5.25)

where k = spring constant in N/m

Dx = spring extension in m

m = mass in kg

a = acceleration in m/s

2

Equation (5.25) allows the measurement of acceleration to be reduced to a measurement of spring extension (linear

displacement) because

Accelerometer Principles

Document Type: Prentice Hall

Author: Curtis D. Johnson

Book: Process Control Instrumentation Technology

Copyright: 1997

ISBN: 0-13-441305-9

NI Supported: No

Publish Date: Sep 6, 2006

Improve your ni.com experience. Login or Create a user profile.

Accelerometer Principles- Developer Zone - National Instruments http://zone.ni.com/devzone/cda/ph/p/id/12

2 oI 5 23/05/2008 08:39 a.m.

If the acceleration is reversed, the same physical argument would apply, except that the spring is compressed instead of

extended. Equation (5.26) still describes the relationship between spring displacement and acceleration.

The spring-mass principle applies to many common accelerometer designs. The mass that converts the acceleration to

spring displacement is referred to as the test mass or seismic mass. We see, then, that acceleration measurement reduces

to linear displacement measurement; most designs differ in how this displacement measurement is made.

Natural Frequency and Damping

On closer examination of the simple principle just described, we find another characteristic of spring-mass systems that

complicates the analysis. In particular, a system consisting of a spring and attached mass always exhibits oscillations at

some characteristic natural frequency. Experience tells us that if we pull a mass back and then release it (in the absence of

acceleration), it will be pulled back by the spring, overshoot the equilibrium, and oscillate back and forth. Only friction

associated with the mass and base eventually brings the mass to rest. Any displacement measuring system will respond to

this oscillation as if an actual acceleration occurs. This natural frequency is given by

where f

N

= natural frequency in Hz

k = spring constant in N/m

m = seismic mass in kg

The friction that eventually brings the mass to rest is defined by a damping coefficient , which has the units of s

-1

. In

general, the effect of oscillation is called transient response, described by a periodic damped signal, as shown in Figure

5.24, whose equation is

X

T

(t) = X

o

e

-µt

sin(2pf

N

t) (5.28)

where Xr(t) = transient mass position

X

o

= peak position, initially

µ = damping coefficient

f

N

= natural frequency

The parameters, natural frequency, and damping coefficient in Equation (5.28) have a profound effect on the application of

accelerometers.

Vibration Effects

The effect of natural frequency and damping on the behavior of spring-mass accelerometers is best described in terms of

an applied vibration. If the spring-mass system is exposed to a vibration, then the resultant acceleration of the base is given

by Equation (5.23)

a(t) = -w

2

x

o

sin wt

If this is used in Equation (5.25), we can show that the mass motion is given by

where all terms were previously denned and w = 2pf, with/the applied frequency.

FIGURE 5.24 A spring-mass system exhibits a natural oscillation with damping as response to an impulse input.

Accelerometer Principles- Developer Zone - National Instruments http://zone.ni.com/devzone/cda/ph/p/id/12

3 oI 5 23/05/2008 08:39 a.m.

FIGURE 5.25 A spring-mass accelerometer has been attached to a table which is exhibiting vibration. The table

peak motion is x

o

and the mass motion is Dx.

To make the predictions of Equation (5.29) clear, consider the situation presented in Figure 5.25. Our model spring-mass

accelerometer has been fixed to a table that is vibrating. The x

o

in Equation (5.29) is the peak amplitude of the table

vibration, and Dx is the vibration of the seismic mass within the accelerometer. Thus, Equation (5.29) predicts that the

seismic-mass vibration peak amplitude varies as the vibration frequency squared, but linearly with the table-vibration

amplitude. However, this result was obtained without consideration of the spring-mass system natural vibration. When this

is taken into account, something quite different occurs.

Figure 5.26a shows the actual seismic-mass vibration peak amplitude versus

table-vibration frequency compared with the simple frequency squared prediction.You can

see that there is a resonance effect when the table frequency equals the natural frequency

of the accelerometer, that is, the value of Dx goes through a peak. The amplitude of the

resonant peak is determined by the amount of damping. The seismic-mass vibration is

described by Equation (5.29) only up to about f

N

/2.5.

Figure 5.26b shows two effects. The first is that the actual seismic-mass motion is limited

by the physical size of the accelerometer. It will hit "stops" built into the assembly that limit

its motion during resonance. The figure also shows that for frequencies well above the natural frequency, the motion of the

mass is proportional to the table peak motion, x

o

, but not to the frequency. Thus, it has become a displacement sensor. To

summarize:

1. f < f

N

- For an applied frequency less than the natural frequency, the natural frequency has little effect on the basic

spring-mass response given by Equations (5.25) and (5.29). A rule of thumb states that a safe maximum applied frequency

is f < 1/2.5f

N

.

2. f > f

N

- For an applied frequency much larger than the natural frequency, the accelerometer output is independent of the

applied frequency. As shown in Figure 5.26b, the accelerometer becomes a measure of vibration displacement x

o

of

Equation (5.20) under these circumstances. It is interesting to note that the seismic mass is stationary in space in this case,

and the housing, which is driven by the vibration, moves about the mass. A general rule sets f > 2.5 f

N

for this case.

Generally, accelerometers are not used near the resonance at their natural frequency because of high nonlinearities in

output.

Accelerometer Principles- Developer Zone - National Instruments http://zone.ni.com/devzone/cda/ph/p/id/12

4 oI 5 23/05/2008 08:39 a.m.

FIGURE 5.26 In (a) the actual response of a spring-mass system to vibration is compared to the simple w

2

prediction In (b) the effect of various table peak motion is shown

EXAMPLE 5.14

An accelerometer has a seismic mass of 0.05 kg and a spring constant of 3.0 X 10

3

N/m Maximum mass displacement is

±0 02 m (before the mass hits the stops). Calculate (a) the maximum measurable acceleration in g, and (b) the natural

frequency.

Solution

We find the maximum acceleration when the maximum displacement occurs, from

Equation (5.26).

a.

or because

b. The natural frequency is given by Equation (5.27).

Accelerometer Principles- Developer Zone - National Instruments http://zone.ni.com/devzone/cda/ph/p/id/12

5 oI 5 23/05/2008 08:39 a.m.

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Relevant NI Products

Customers interested in this topic were also interested in the following NI products:

Dynamic Signal Acquisition

LabVIEW Sound and Vibration Toolset

Data Acquisition (DAQ)

Signal Conditioning

For more tutorials, return to the NI Measurement Fundamentals Main Page.

Buy the Book

Purchase Process Control Instrumentation Technology from Prentice Hall.

Related Links:

Types of Motion

Types of Accelerometers

Motion Sensor Applications

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Legal

Excerpt from the book published by Prentice Hall Professional (http://www.phptr.com).

Copyright Prentice Hall Inc., A Pearson Education Company, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458.

This material is protected under the copyright laws of the U.S. and other countries and any uses not in conformity with the

copyright laws are prohibited, including but not limited to reproduction, DOWNLOADING, duplication, adaptation and

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