I have always wanted to build a fairly capable LCR meter that could cope with real world use in my own personal lab. This would mean reasonably good accuracy across a wide range of L, C and R. Fortunately, I got the time to do just that this year in the 3rd year Instrumentation module at my University. Although this justified spending time on such a project, I was motivated to do a good job so the end result would be usable as an actual piece of test equipment.
The approach I took was a mixed signal one where a capable analog front end would be paired up with a beefy DSP processor to compute the Impedance. Most importantly, in this scheme, the DSP is responsible for discriminating the phase between the sampled voltage and current waveforms; this approach is preferred because it leads to good accuracy and calibration stability.
The specifications and features were basically designed to mimic a commercial LCR meter. The test frequencies can be chosen from 1, 10 and 100 KHz and are all digitally synthesised. The software supports displaying L, C, R, Z and also an auto mode that classifies the DUT based on its impedance phase. The impedance measurement range with simple calibration has currently been tested from 0.1 Ohm to 10 MOhm with very good accuracy; this range is achieved by a highly reconfigurable analog signal path that allows about 100 voltage and current ranges, most of which are not used to allow easier calibration.
The LCD is a jelly bean 128×64 type and has been divided into a primary display consisting of the measured quantity and a secondary display showing the current measuring range and the impedance representation currently being displayed. The overall cost came to about £55.
The first method is the traditional and broadband technique commonly referred to as the “I-V method”. In this a resistive current shunt is placed in series with the DUT and the voltage across the shunt and the DUT are read off, allowing a calculation of Z.
However, this method has severe practical limitations described briefly below.
Limited I-V gain which is coupled to burden voltage: To keep the burden voltage of the shunt small, the shunt itself is typically, a few mOhms. As a result, I-V gain i.e. the differential voltage across the shunt is very small and on top of a much larger common mode signal. This places very strict performance requirements on the difference amplifier U1 and any subsequent gain stages. The only way to practically increase this signal is to increase the value of RSHUNT, which in turn increases the burden voltage. The source V1 then needs to be increased to keep VZDUT, often a strictly specified test parameter, constant
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