# Instrument Characteristics

1.1 Introduction
This chapter concentrates on 'how well an instrument performs its various functions'. That
determine how closely the instrument output reflects the value of the variable that is being
measured.
Instrument performance is described by means of quantitative qualities which are referred to
as characteristics : the two realms being the static and the dynamic. The static
characteristics pertain to a system where quantities to be measured are constant or vary
slowly with time. When the instrument is required to measure a time-varying process variable,
one has to be concerned with dynamic characteristics which quantify the dynamic relation
between the instrument input and output.

2.2 Static terms and characteristics
2.2.1 Range and span : The region between the limits within which an instrument is designed
to operate for measuring, indicating or recording a physical quantity is called the range of the
instrument. The range is expressed by stating the lower and upper values. Span represents
the algebraic differences between the upper and lower range values of the instrument. For
example,
Range 10°C to 80°C ; Span 90°C
Range 0 volt to 75 volt; Span 75 volt
2.2.2. Accuracy, errors and correction : No instrument gives an exact value of what is being
measured. There is always some uncertainty in the measured value. This uncertainty is
expressed in terms of accuracy and error. Accuracy of an indicated (measured) value may be
defined as conformity with or closeness to an accepted standard value (true value). Accuracy
of the measured signal depends upon the intrinsic accuracy of the instrument itself, variation of
the signal being measured, accuracy of the observer and whether or not the quantity is being
truly impressed upon the instrument. For example, the accuracy of a micrometer depends
upon factors like error in screw, anvil shape, temperature difference, and the applied torque
variations etc
In general, the result of any measurement differs somewhat from the true value of the quantity
being measured. The difference between the measured value (Vm) and the true value (Vt) of
the quantity represents static error or absolute error of measurement (Es), i.e.
Es = Vm - Vt
The error may be either positive or negative. For positive static errors the instrument reads
high and for negative static errors the instrument reads low.
From experimentalist's view point, static correction or simply correction (Cs) is more important
than the static error The static correction is defined as the difference between the true value
and the measured value of a quantity.

2.3 Calibration. The accuracy specified above refers to the intrinsic accuracy of the instrument itself and does not include procedural or personal performance.Vm The correction of the instrument reading is of the same magnitude as the error. The calibration standard should be at least an order more accurate than the instrument being calibrated. (ii) a secondary standard of accuracy greater than the instrument to be calibrated or (iii) a known input source. The magnitude of the error and consequently the correction to be applied is determined by making a periodic comparison of the instrument with standards which are known to be constant. along with their typical accuracies.1. The entire procedure laid down for making. measured value − true value x 100 percent true value ⎛ V − Vt ⎞ ⎟⎟ x 100 percent = ⎜⎜ m ⎝ Vt ⎠ error = The percentage error stated in this way is the maximum for any point in the range of the instrument. or checking a scale so that readings of an instrument or measurement system conform to an accepted standard is called the calibration.025 cm. Likewise a scale of length may be read within ±0. for certain physical parameters have been given in Table 2. i.. by comparing it with another flow meter (a secondary standard) which has already been compared with a primary standard. Cs= -Es  Error specification or representation : (i) Point accuracy wherein the accuracy of an instrument is stated for one or more points in its range. diminishes with a drop in the true value.5°C between 100 oC and 200 oC. For example. For example a given thermometer may he stated to read within +0.Cs = Vt . (ii) Percentage of true value or the relative error wherein the absolute error of measurement is expressed as a percentage of true value of the unknown quantity. . adjusting. Solve Example 2. A comparison of the instrument reading may be made with either (i) a primary standard.1-5 2. or by direct comparison with a primary measurement such as weighing a certain amount of water in a tank and recording the time elapsed for this quantity to flow through the meter. we may calibrate a flow meter by comparing it with a standard flow measurement facility at the National Bureau of Standards .e. however. but opposite in sign. The graphical representation of the calibration record is called calibration curve and this curve relates standard values of input or measurand to actual values of output throughout the operating range of the instrument. The size of the error. (iii) Percentage of full scale deflection where in the error is calculated on the basis of maximum value of the scale. The calibration standards.

This type of deviation presentation facilitates a rapid visual assessment of the accuracy of the instrument. The user looks along the abscissa for the value indicated by the instrument and then reads the correction to be applied. KLM represents the median and is commonly accepted as the calibration curve. A faired curve through the experimental points then represents the correction curve. A properly prepared calibration/correction curve gives information about the absolute static errors of the measuring device. the indicated values are plotted as abscissa and the ordinate represents the variation of the median from the true values. The term median refers to the mean of a series of up and down readings. 2.1) ABC represents the readings obtained while ascending the scale.In a typical calibration curve (Fig. DBF represents the readings during descending. . and the hysterises and repeatability of the instrument. the extent of the instrument's linearity or conformity. Quite often.

high stress developing at some parts and contamination of primary sensing elements cause drift. Friction or play is the direct cause of dead zone or band 2. Hysterises may also occur in electronic systems due to heating and cooling effects which occur differentially under conditions of rising and falling input.2. the static sensitivity is not constant and must be specified in terms of the input values as shown in Fig. 2.2. Drift occurs very slowly and can be checked only by periodic inspection and maintenance of the instrument.. magnetic and thermal effects.2.5 Drift: It is an undesired gradual departure of the instrument output over a period of time that is unrelated to changes in input.4 .6 2. Change of output signal Staticsensitivity (k) = Change of input signal Sensitivity is represented by the slope of the calibration curve it the ordinates are expected in the actual units. the sensitivity is constant. 2. However. Drift occurs in thermocouples and resistance thermometers due to the contamination of the metal and a change in its atomic or metallurgical structure. Hysterises results from the presence of irreversible phenomenon such as mechanical friction. operating conditions or load. elastic deformation.6 Sensitivity : Sensitivity of an instrument or an instrumentation system is the ratio of the magnitude of the response (output signal) to the magnitude of the quantity being measured (input signal). With a linear calibration curve.Solve Example 2. 2. i. nozzle or venturimeter. it would be noted that the magnitude of output for a given input depends upon the direction of the change of input. Dead zone is the largest range through which an input signal can be varied without initiating any response from the indicating instrument. Maximum difference is frequently specified as a percentage of full scale. Wear and tear. Hysterises is the maximum difference for the same measured quantity (input signal) between the upscale and downscale readings during a full range traverse in each direction. slack motion in bearings and gear. It may occur in obstruction flow meters because of wear and erosion of the orifice plate.4 Hysterises dead zone: From the instrument calibration curve (Fig. This dependence upon previous inputs in called Hysterises.1).e. if the calibration curve in non-linear.

due to loading effects. and these depend upon the instrument or measurement system being investigated. there will be some minimum value input before which the instrument will not detect any output change. Sensitivity of an instrument system is usually required to be as high as possible because then it becomes easier to take the measurement (read the output). then the overall sensitivity is worked out from the following relations: θ θ θ K1 = 1 . the operation of a resistance thermometer depends upon a change in resistance (output) to change in temperature (input) and as such it sensitivity will have units of ohms/°C. Further when the input or output signal is changing with time. K3. K 2 = 2 . ….5). Threshold may be caused by backlash or internal noise.etc.7 Threshold and resolution : The smallest increment of quantity being measured which can be detected with certainty by an instrument represents the threshold and resolution of the instrument.etc. . θ i θ1 θ 2 = K1 x K 2 x K 3 The above relation is based upon the assumption that no variation occurs in the values of individual sensitivities K1. Thus threshold defines the minimum value of input which is necessary to cause a detectable change from zero output. When the input to and output from the measurement system used with electrical/electronic equipment have the same form. K1 = o . When these elements are connected in series or cascades (Fig. In a digital system. K3. the term gain is used rather than sensitivity. Likewise an increase in displacement with the optical and mechanical instruments is described by the term amplification. 2. the term transfer function or transfer operator is used other than sensitivity. K2. …. θi θ1 θ2 Overall sensitivity (K) = θo θi = θ1 θ 2 θ o x x . K2. it is the input signal necessary to cause one least significant digit of the output reading to change. For example.Sensitivity has a wide range of units. Let the different elements comprising a measurement system have static sensitivities of K1. and they describe the relationship between output and input.2. 2. When the input signal to an instrument is gradually increased from zero. gain or amplification. Apparently the terms sensitivity. gain and magnification all mean the same. This minimum value is called the threshold of the instrument.

6. and the result achieved by (he striker has been indicated by the mark 'X'. Proper checking and maintenance of instrument should be carried out to ensure its reproducibility. Thus the third digit shows or resolves millivolts. Resolution is usually reckoned to be no better than about ±0.When the input signal is increased from non-zero value. and consequently the resolution is 1 mV. e. i.2 of the smallest scale division.8. This distinction can be elaborated by considering the following two examples : The difference between accuracy and precision has been illustrated in Fig. the resolution is determined by the ability of the observer to judge the position of a pointer on a scale. the level of mercury in a glass tube. This increment is termed resolution or discrimination. 2.999 volt. resolution is determined by the number of neon tubes taken to show the measured value. if there are four neon tubes to represent voltage measurement on a 1 volt range. it prescribes the ability of the instrument to reproduce its readings over and over again for a constant input signal.g. With digital instruments. With analogue instruments. repeated on different occasions separated by intervals of time which are long compared with the time of taking a reading. Precision. Threshold and resolution may be expressed as an actual value or as a fraction or percentage of full scale value. repeatability and reproducibility. Thus resolution defines the smallest change of input for which there will be a change of output. For example. Two further terms used to define reproducibility are : • Stability refers to the reproducibility of the mean reading of an instrument..2. The centre circle then represents the true value. The conditions of use of the instrument remain unchanged. one observes that the instrument output does not change until a certain input increment is exceeded. The arrangement may be thought to correspond to the game of darts where one is asked to strike a target represented by centre circle. 2. Accuracy refers to the closeness or conformity to the true value of the quantity under measurement. Precision refers to the degree of agreement within a group measurements.e. These terms refer to the closeness of agreement among several measurements of the same true value under the same operating conditions. Let us differentiate between accuracy and precision as applied to the realms of measurements. . one tube will be taken by the decimal point and the others by digits to show readings up to a maximum of 0.

2. Linearity is defined as the ability to reproduce the input characteristics symmetrically.• Constancy refers to the reproducibility of the mean reading of an instrument when a constant input is presented continuously and the conditions of test are allowed lo vary within specified limits. (i) Theoretical slope linearity : Maximum departure ‘a’ from the theoretical straight line OA passing through the origin. The non-linearity may be due to non-linear elements in the measurement device. signal presented to the measuring system). (ii) End point linearity : Maximum departure ‘b’ from the straight line OB passing through the through the terminal readings (experimental end points—zero and full scale position) . The above discussion also points out that it is possible to obtain high precision with poor accuracy. but not high accuracy with low precision. In other words precision is a necessary prerequisite to accuracy but it does not guarantee accuracy.7. and elastic after-effects in the mechanical system.9. Any departure from the straight line relationship is non-linearity. viscous flow or creep. ‘x’ the input. Linearity : The working range of most of the instruments provides a linear relationship between the output (reading taken from the scale of the instrument) and input (measurand. mechanical hysterises. This aspect tends to facilitate a more accurate data reduction. ‘m’ the slope and ‘c’ the intercept. 2. The line OA refers to the straight line between the theoretical end points. and it is drawn will out regard to any experimentally determined values. In a nominally linear measurement device. Apparently the closeness of the calibration curve to a specified straight line is the linearity of the instrument. 2. This variation may be due to some changer in the external environmental conditions. and this can be expressed by the straight line equation y = mx + c where ‘y’ is the output. the non-linearity may taken different forms as illustrated in Fig.

A pure time delay may also he encountered when the instrument has to ‘wait’ for some reactions to take place. The signals cannot be impressed upon instantaneously and the mass add capacitances (thermal.3 Dynamic terms and characteristics When the instruments are required to measure au input which is varying with time. The calculation of measurement error requires numerical values of accuracy. In a measuring instrument the speed of response or responsiveness is defined as the rapidity with which an instrument responds to a change in the value of the quantity being measured. Certain terms used with dynamic systems are defined below : 2.(iii) Least square linearity : Maximum departure ‘c’ from the best fit straight line OC determined by the least square technique. size of the pointer and parallax effect. the dynamic or transient behavior of the instrument becomes as important as the state behavior.10 Some other terms associated with the static performance of an instrument are : • • • • Tolerance : Range of inaccuracy which can be tolerated in measurements : it is the maximum permissible error. 2. For example. or resistance. Readability and least count : The term readability indicates the closeness with which the scale of the instrument may be read. Zero stability : A measure of the ability of the instrument to restore to zero reading after the measurand has returned to zero.1 Speed of response and measuring lag. electrical. In roost instruments.e. the tolerance would be ±1% when an inaccuracy of ±1 bar can be tolerated for 100 bar value of pressure. humidity. Measuring lag refers to retardation or delay in the response of an instrument to a change in the input signal. vibration etc. resolution. . it does so only after passing through a transient period. Consequently the system does not settle to its equilibrium steady state condition immediately after the application of input signal. thermometers and materials testing equipment.) have been removed.2. or fluid) introduce slowness or sluggishness in the measurement system. 2. i. For the majority of laboratory instruments. for the instrument being used. However for some instruments such as micrometers. this data is given in a manufacturer's hand book. vernier calipers. from a constant sensitivity and is often expressed as a percentage of full scale. linearity etc. the linearity is taken to be the maximum deviation from a linear relationship between input and output. The term least count represents the smallest difference that can be detected on the instrument scale. and other variations (temperature. Back lash : The maximum distance or angle through which any part of a mechanical system may be moved in one direction without applying appreciable force or motion to the next part in a mechanical system.. pressure. the data is given in the standards maintained by the country. The lag is caused by conditions such as capacitance. spacing of graduations.3. inertia. Both readability and least count are dependent on length scale.

It refers to the ability of the system to reproduce the output in the same form as the input. backlash or hysterises in the instrument. It represents the time before the instrument begins to respond after the measured quantity has been altered. The pointer goes beyond the steady state i. a moving part. Dead zone defines the largest change of the measurand to which the instrument does not respond.e.2 Fidelity and dynamic error : Fidelity of an instrumentation system is defined as the degree of closeness with which the system indicates or records the signal which is impressed upon it. If the input is a sine wave then for 100 per cent fidelity. i.2.. 2.3 Overshoot. 2. it overshoots (Fig.8). here static error of the instrument is assumed to be zero.. the output should also be a sine wave. . Because of mass and inertia. Dead zone is the result of friction. The overshoot is defined as the maximum amount by which the pointer moves beyond the steady state. The difference between the indicated quantity and the true value of the time varying quantity is the dynamic error.3.3. 2. the pointer of the instrument does not immediately come to rest in the final deflected position.e.3 4 Dead time and dead zone : Dead time is defined as the time required for an instrument to begin to respond to a change in the measured quantity.

The step input is mathematically represented by the relationship θi = 0 at t < 0 θi = θo at t ≥ 0 where θo is a constant value of the input signal θi.Some of the dynamic terms are graphically shown in Fig. The capacity of the system to cope with changes in the input signal is indicated by the transient response. . The usual requirement is that the frequency of measurand should not exceed 60 percent of the natural frequency of the measuring instrument.5 Frequency response : Maximum frequency of the measured variable that an instrument is capable of following without error.9 where the measured quantity and the instrument readings arc plotted as function of time.3. The most common standard inputs used for dynamic analysis have been illustrated in Fig 2. and these are . (i) Step function which is a sudden change from one steady value to another.10. 2. 2. 2.4 Standard test-Inputs The dynamic performance of both measuring and control systems is determined by applying some known and predetermined input signal to its primary sensing element and then studying the behavior of the output signal.

…… . That gives : Ao θo = Bo θi OR θo = (Bo/ Ao) θi = K θi B . The output is a faithful reproduction of input without any distortion or time lag. a system whose output is directly proportional to input... An = 0 * First order system : n=1 and A2.following differential equation : (An Dn + An-1 Dn-1 +....e. no matter how the input varies...5 Zero..5.. (he input varies sinusoidal with a constant maximum amplitude. A4... …… . A2. The time factor in the input or driving function may correspond to step input..... of the input versus time relationship... i....... A3. first and second order systems 2.. Dk is the operative derivative of the order K... sinusoidal input or any combination of these.. The order of the measurement system is generally classified by the value of the power of n * Zero order system : n=0 and A1. A general measurement system can be mathematically described by the .+ B1 D +Bo) θi where the A's and B's are constants depending upon the physical parameters of the system. it may be represented as : θi = A sin ωt where ‘A’ is the amplitude and ‘ω’ is the frequency in rad/s. Mathematically. The frequency or harmonic response is a measure of the capability of the system to respond to inputs of cyclic nature. ramp input.. θo is the information out of the measurement system and θi is the input information.. The ramp input is mathematically represented as : θi = 0 at t < 0 θi = Ωt at t ≥ 0 where ‘Ω’ is the slope.....1 Zero order systems : Consider an ideal measuring system.... An = 0 2.. The ramp-response becomes indicative of the steady state error in following the changes in the input signal. …… ..(ii) Ramp or linear function wherein the input varies linearly with time.. This equation of the zero order system is obtained when the power of ‘n’ is set equal to zero in the general equation for a measurement system.+ A1 D +Ao) θo = (Bm Dm + Bm-1 Dm-1 +. The mathematical equation relating output to input is of the form θo = K θi where K is the sensitivity of the system. An = 0 * Second order system : n=2 and A3... (iii) Sinusoidal or sine wave function where the input has a cyclic variation .

‘D’ is the del operator = d/dt) This equation may be manipulated to rewrite in the following standard form : B A1 dθ o + θo = o θi Ao dt Ao τ dθ o + θ o = Kθ i dt where ‘τ’ is the time constant (τ = (A1 / Ao ) and ‘K’ is the static sensitivity (K = (Bo / Ao ) In terms of D-operator where D = d/dt .11 (a). D2 = d2/dt2 We have: τ D θo + θo = K θi (τ D + 1) θo = K θi θo K = θ i τD + 1 The above equation represents the standard form of transfer operator for the first-order system .2.The static sensitivity is the only parameter which characterizes a zero order system and its value can be obtained through the process of static calibration.5. amplifiers. 2. its block diagram has been indicated in Fig. and a linear electrical potentiometer which gives an output voltage proportional to the displacement of the wiper.2 First-order systems : The behavior of a first-order system is represented by a first-order differential equation of the form A1 D θo + Ao θo = Bo θi (obtained by substituting n=1 in the general equation .11(b). . 2. A block diagram representing zero-order system has been shown in Fig. Some examples of zero-order system are : mechanical levers.

11 (c). 2. dimensionless ζ = 2 Ao A2 B K = o = static sensitivity or steady state gain Ao ωn = we obtain : 1 d 2θ o 2ζ dθ o + + θ o = Kθ o ω n2 dt 2 ω n dt OR in terms of the D-operator we can write D2 2ζ D + 1)θ o = Kθ o ω n2 ω n θo K = 2 2ζ D θo ( 2 + D + 1) ωn ωn ( + The block diagram of a second-order system or instrument is given in Fig. thermocouples and thermistor.Some examples of first order system are : Temperature measurement by mercury-in-glass thermometers. network of resistance capacitance. rad/s A2 A1 = damping ratio. 2. .5. build-up of air pressure in bellows.3 Second-order systems : The input/output relationship of a second order system is described by a differential equation of the form : A2 d 2θ o dθ o A + + Aoθ o = Boθ o 1 dt 2 dt (obtained by substituting n=2 in the general equation) Dividing both sides by Ao and letting A0 = undamped natural frequency. velocity of a free falling mass.

What would be the possible error as a percentage of the indicated value when a reading of 5 bar is obtained in a test ? Example 2. hysterises in materials. viscous friction at bearings etc ) or may be introduced intentionally (e.g. Calculate the percentage error on the basis of maximum scale value. *U. galvanometer and pen control system on X-Y plotters.5 The pressure at a remote point has been measured by a system comprising a transmitter.15°C. The specified accuracy limits are : . and their combination provides a system which will oscillate naturally at a given frequency.  Examples to be solved : Example 2. *piezo electric pickups.20 bar is said to have an error of ±0. Most of the mechanical instruments invariably consist of a spring and a moving mass. a relay and a receiver element.V.4 A pressure gauge having a range of 1000 kN/m2 has a guaranteed accuracy of 1 percent of full scale deflection (i) What would be the possible readings for a true value of 100 kN/m1 ? (ii) Estimate the possible readings if the instrument has an error of 1 % of the true value. Damping may occur naturally (e. Example 2.2.Some examples of second-order instruments are : *spring-mass system employed for acceleration and force measurements. Determine the error and the correction for the given thermometer. The damping force opposes motion and is taken proportional to the linear/angular velocity.g.3 A pressure gauge of range 0.is a means of dissipating energy in the system. A temperature transducer has a range of 0°C to 100°C and an accuracy of ±0'5 percent of full scale value.5°C and the true value of the temperature is 73. dashpot similar to the automobile damper).25 bar when calibrated by the manufacturer. Example 2. The amplitude of the oscillation is affected by damping which . Example 2. Find the error in a leading of 55°C. A thermometer reads 73.1.

4 7. The sensitivities of these elements are stated as follows : Piezoelectric transducer.13 When a step input of 100 kgf/cm2 is applied to a pressure gauge.004 V/pC Ultraviolet charge recorder.25 mV/ °C Amplifier gain K2 = 2. Make suitable comments on your results.0 16.Transmitter : within ±0.9 A measuring system consists of a transducer.6 : Following data is taken while calibrating a bourdon gauge with a dead weight gauge tester : 5 10 15 20 25 30 25 20 15 10 5 Actual Pressure Kgf/cm2 2 Gauge Reading Kgf/cm 4.12. Example 2.5 28. and their individual sensitivities are stated as follows: Transfer sensitivity K1 = 0. an amplifier and a recorder. Determine the resolution of the instrument.0 21. Determine the . Example 2.6 14. Find the smallest change which can be measured.11 How resolution is reckoned for the analogue and digital read out devices? A force transducer measures a range of 0—150 N with a resolution of 0. Distinguish between threshold and resolution (or discrimination).0 22. the error and the correction curves. Example 2.2 18.3 kgf/cm2. (ii) An automatic balance has a quoted sensitivity of 1 vernier division/0.1 mg. Example 2. Example 2. The pointer scale of a thermometer has 100 uniform divisions.5 9.1 percent of full scale.0 Draw the calibration.0 26. full scale reading is 200°C and 1/10th of a scale division can be estimated with a fair decree of accuracy. the pointer swings to pressure of 102.2% Relay : within ±1.8 Explain the following statements: (i) A galvanometer has a sensitivity specified of 15 mm/μA.5 V/mV Recorder sensitivity K3 = 4 mm/V What would be the overall sensitivity of the measuring system? Example 2.2 11.1% Receiver : within ±0. Example 2.5 pC/bar Charge amplifier. K1 = 8. Determine the static sensitivity. K3 = 20 mm/V What would be the deflection on the chart due to a pressure change of 30 bar? Example 2.10 A pressure measuring system consists of a piezoelectric transducer.7% Estimate the maximum possible error and the root-square accuracy of the measurement system.5 kgf/cm2 and finally comes to rest at 101. a charge amplifier and a ultra violet charge recorder.7 A spring scale requires a change of 15kgf in the applied weight to produce a 2 cm change in the deflection of the spring scale. K2 = 0.

5θ o = 1.overshoot of the gauge reading and express it as a percentage of the final reading. . Determine the time constant and the static sensitivity of the thermocouple.14 The dynamic performance of a thermocouple in a protective sheath has been described by the following differential equation : 25 dθ o + 2. Also calculate the percentage error of the gauge.25 x10 −5 θ i dt where θo is the output volts and θi is the input temperature in oC. Example 2.