Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Clamp meters are a very convenient testing instrument that permits current measurements on a live conductor without circuit interruption. When making current measurements with the ordinary multimeter, we need to cut wiring and connect the instrument to the circuit under test as shown in Fig.1.
Using the clamp meter, however, we can measure current by simply clamping on a conductor as illustrated in Fig.2. One of the advantages of this method is that we can even measure a large current without shutting off the circuit being tested.
Fig 1: Measurment using multimeter

Fig 2:Measument using clamp meter
Ordinary clampmeters used to measure AC currents work on the principle of electromagnetic induction caused by the alternating current flowing in the conductor which reverses direction causing a dynamically changing magnetic field. However, in DC conductors, the current flows in a fixed polarity. Consequently, the magnetic field around the conductor is fixed and does not change. Hence, a conventional clamp meter will register no reading.

A DC clamp meter works on the principle of the Hall Effect. The Hall Effect, named after Edwin Hall who discovered it 1879, states that when a conductor carrying current is placed in a magnetic field, a potential is induced across the conductor, transverse to an electric current in the conductor and a magnetic field perpendicular to the current. It is caused as the charge carriers, electrons or holes, experience a force known as the Lorentz force and are pushed to the sides of the conductor.
In general AC clamp meters operate on the principle of current transformer(CT) used to pick up magnetic flux generated as a result of current flowing through a conductor. Assuming a current flowing through a conductor to be the primary current, you can obtain a current proportional to the primary current by electromagnetic induction from the secondary side(winding) of the transformer which is connected to a measuring circuit of the instrument. This permits you to take an AC current reading on the digital display(in the case of digital clamp meters) as illustrated by the block diagram.

A clampmeter which works on the Hall effect has a sensor known as the Hall element. The Hall element is subjected to the magnetic field caused by the flow of current to be measured. This causes a small voltage across the Hall element. This voltage is amplified and measured.

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