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Chapter: Electrical Engineering and Instrumentation - Basics of Measurement and Instrumentation

Capacitive Transducers

Disadvantages of capacitive transducers and Application of capacitive transducers

Capacitive Transducers

Due to a potential difference across the conductors, an electric field develops across the insulator. This causes the positive charges to accumulate on one plate and the negative charges to accumulate on the other. The capacitor value is usually denoted by its capacitance, which is measured in Farads. It can be defined as the ratio of the electric charge on each conductor to the voltage difference between them.

The capacitance is denoted by C. In a parallel plate capacitor,

C = [A*Er*9.85*1012 F/M]/d

A – Area of each plate (m)

d – Distance between both the plates (m)

Er – Relative Dielectric Constant


The value 9.85*1012 F/M is a constant denoted by Eo and is called the dielectric constant of free space. From the equation it is clear that the value of capacitance C and the distance between the parallel plates are inversely proportional to each other. An increase of distance between the parallel plates will decrease the capacitance value correspondingly. The same theory is used in a capacitive transducer. This transducer is used to convert the value of displacement or change in pressure in terms of frequency.


As shown in the figure below, a capacitive transducer has a static plate and a deflected flexible diaphragm with a dielectric in between. When a force is exerted to the outer side of the diaphragm the distance between the diaphragm and the static plate changes. This produces a capacitance which is measured using an alternating current bridge or a tank circuit.

A tank circuit is more preferred because it produces a change in frequency according to the change in capacitance. This value of frequency will be corresponding to the displacement or force given to the input.


It produces an accurate frequency response to both static and dynamic measurements.



An increase or decrease in temperature to a high level will change the accuracy of the device.


As the lead is lengthy it can cause errors or distortion in signals.


Application of capacitive transducers

Capacitive sensors have found wide application in automated systems that require precise determination of the placement of the objects, processes in microelectronics, assembly of precise equipment associated with spindles for high speed drilling machines, ultrasonic welding machines and in equipment for vibration measurement. They can be used not only to measure displacements (large and small), but also the level of fluids, fuel bulk materials, humidity environment, concentration of substances and others Capacitive sensors are often used for non contact measurement of the thickness of various materials, such as silicon wafers, brake discs and plates of hard discs. Among the possibilities of the capacitive sensors is the measurement of density, thickness and location of dielectrics.

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