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LC Meter Part's List:
LC Meter's Technical
Voltage Supply: 7.5 - 15V
Zero Out Switch
LC Meter's Inductance
- 10nH - 1000nH
- 1uH - 1000uH
- 1mH - 100mH
LC Meter's Capacitance
- 0.1pF - 1000pF
- 1nF - 900nF
About LC Meter
This is one of the most accurate and simplest LC inductance / capacitance
Meters that one can find, yet one that you can easily build yourself. This LC
Meter allows to measure incredibly small inductances starting from 10nH to
1000nH, 1uH to 1000uH, 1mH to 100mH and capacitance from 0.1pF up to
900nF. LC Meter's circuit uses an auto ranging system so that way you do
not need to spend time selecting ranges manually. Another neat function is
the "Zero Out" switch that will reset the initial inductance / capacitance,
making sure that the final readings of the LC Meter are as accurate as
LC Meter Kit with Green Backlight LCD Display
How does LC Meter Work?
To be able to determine the value of an unknown inductor / capacitor we
can use the frequency formula given below.
Note that there are three variables that we can work with; f, L and C (f
represents a frequency, L inductance and C capacitance). If we know the
values of the two variables we may calculate the value of the third variable.
Lets say we want to determine the value of an unknown inductor with X
inductance. We plug X inductance into the formula and we also use value of
a known capacitor. Using this data we can calculate the frequency. Once we
know the frequency we can use the power of the algebra and rewrite the
above formula to solve for L (inductance). This time we will use the
calculated frequency and a value of a known capacitor to calculate the
Isn't this amazing? We just calculated the value of unknown inductor, and
we may use the same technique to solve for the unknown capacitance and
pplying the Theory to LC Meter's Hardware
Now let's use the above theory and apply it to electronics. The LC Meter
uses a popular LM311 IC that that functions as a frequency generator and
this is exactly what we need. If we want to calculate the value of an
unknown inductor we use a known Ccal 1000pF capacitor and the value of
an unknown inductor. LM311 will generate a frequency that we can
measure with a frequency meter. Once we have this information we can
use the frequency formula to calculate the inductance.
The same thing can be done for calculating the value of a unknown
capacitor. This time we don't know the value a capacitor so instead we use
the value of a known inductor to calculate the frequency. Once we have
that information we apply the formula to determine the capacitance.
All this sounds great, however if we want to determine the value of a lot of
inductors / capacitors then this may become a very time consuming
process. Sure, we can write a computer program to do all these
calculations, but what if we don't have an access to a computer or a
That's were PIC16F84A microchip comes handy. PIC16F84A is like a small
computer that can execute HEX programs that are written using an
assembly language. PIC16F84A is a very flexible microchip because it has
PINs which can be configured as inputs and outputs. Besides that,
PIC16F84A IC requires very minimal number of external components like
4MHz crystal / resonator and few resistors depending on what project we
are building. Before we can use PIC16F84A microchip we have to program it
with a HEX code which has to be sent from the computer.
In the next step we use the frequency generated by LM311 IC and pass it
on to PIC16F84A's PIN 17. We designate this PIN as an input, as well as all
other PINs that are directly connected to switches and jumpers. User can
use these inputs to tell the microchip to execute specified set of
instructions or perform calculations.
Once the microchip will calculate the unknown inductance or capacitance it
will use PINs that are designated as outputs and pass the results on to the
16 character LCD display.
LC Meter's Switches & Jumpers
SW1 - Zero out the readings.
SW2 - Capacitance / Inductance switch.
J3 - turns on the backlight on LCD displays that have LED backlight.
J1 - used by 16x2 two line character LCD displays.
J2 - displays the initial frequency of the LM311 oscillator which should be
Character LCD Display Connections
Most of the character LCD displays have 14 or 16 PINs. The displays that do
have a backlight have 16 PINs and displays that do not have a backlight
have 14 PINs. The PINs that are highlighted in green in the table below are
the ones that PIC16F84A uses to pass the output information represented in
Read / Write
Data Bit 0
Data Bit 1
Data Bit 2
Data Bit 3
Data Bit 4
Data Bit 5
Data Bit 6
Data Bit 7
CAUTION: The controller chip that is visible on the back of the LCD display
can be damaged with the static energy. Make sure to ground yourself every
time you hold it, and handle it by the edges and not the PINs.
16x1& 16x2 LCD modules with
both LCDs can be used
LCD modules (back)
LC Meter's Enclosure (4"x2.5"x1")
LC Meter's Construction
16x1 LCD with pcb standoffs
and header pins
Measuring 2 pF Capacitor
40nH - small piece of magnet
80nH - 4 turns of magnet wire
90nH coil used in FM transmitter
280nH - 10 turns of magnet
500nH wire through choke
1uH VK choke
small RF toroid, 5 turns
1nF Ccal is used as a calibration capacitor so make sure that you use a
good quality mylar capacitor. Keep the cables between LM311 and the
terminals as short as possible to keep the stray capacitance to minimum
and ensure the highest accuracy. Also, you have to use a "5V reed relay"
because the current passed from PIC16F84A is very small. Reed relays
require very minimal amount of current to be switched. I also suggest
that you use a 7805 IC to protect the LC Meter, in case you accidentally
apply a higher voltage. PIC16F84A will be damaged if you apply voltage
higher than 5.5V.
Where to get LC Meter parts or kit
If you are building the above LC Meter and have trouble finding some of
the components, we are distributing the following components and a kit
in our Electronic Store.