Capacitance Guide to Industrial Applications

Purpose

This guide from MTI Instruments explains what you need to know about using electrical capacitance for measurement in industrial applications, including advanced manufacturing.

Basic Principles

Capacitance is the ratio of the change in an electric charge to the corresponding change in its electrical potential (i.e., voltage). Capacitors, components that that have the “capacity” to store an electric charge, consist of conductive parallel plates that don’t touch or connect with each other. Instead, these metal plates are electrically-separated by air or a layer of insulating material (i.e., the dielectric).

MTI’s technology is based on the principles of parallel plate capacitor measurement and uses a probe as one of the plates and a grounded target as the other. The electrical capacitance that’s formed between the probe and the target varies as a function of the distance (gap) between these two surfaces. An amplifier converts the capacitance of the gap into an output voltage that’s proportional to the gap.

Why Capacitance?

Because capacitance doesn’t require physical contact between the sensor and the target, there’s no mechanical loading, probe or target wear, or target distortion. Capacitive probes also cost significantly less than laser interferometers while matching or exceeding them in terms of stability, precision and resolution.

Importantly, capacitive probes provide reliable performance in extreme environments. For example, they can withstand temperatures as high as 1200°F (650°C) and as low as 4°K (-269.15°C). Capacitive probes also work in very strong magnetic fields (2 Tesla) and operate under vacuum conditions (10-7 Torr). They withstand humidity, too.

Getting Started

Now that you know some basics, it’s time to examine uses and applications. You’ll also benefit by reading MTI’s case studies from different industries. Before using capacitance for your own application, however, you need to account for design considerations. Comparing the capacitance measurement systems that are available from MTI Instruments can also support your efforts.

Uses and Applications

Capacitance is used in a variety of industrial applications. Examples include measuring position and vibration. Whether you need capacitance for standard or advanced uses, you’ll benefit from its accuracy and reliability.

Design Considerations

Before using capacitance with your application, you’ll need to ask and answer a series of questions:
  • What are you trying to measure?
  • What is the level of accuracy that you need?
  • What is the application environment?
  • What are the risks of grounding the target?
  • Do you need continuous, automatic monitoring?

This is just some of what you’ll need to know. That’s why it’s important to choose the right partner, too.

Industries & Case Studies

Capacitance is used in industries ranging from aircraft maintenance to tire manufacturing. As the following case studies explain, capacitance is also used in consumer electronics and semiconductor manufacturing, wind and solar power, industrial processing, and in the automotive industry.

Additional Resources

For additional information about capacitance, visit these resources on the Web.

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