Current Measurement with Oscilloscopes

What do a Rogowski coil, a magnetic core, and a hall effect sensor have in common? They are all ways you can make oscilloscope probes that measure current. If you think of a scope as a voltage measurement device, you ought to watch the recent video from Keysight Technology (see below). It is true that Keysight would love to sell you a probe, but the video is not a sales pitch, just general technical information about making current measurements with an oscilloscope.

Of course, you can always measure the voltage across a shunt resistor — either one that is naturally in the circuit or one you’ve put inline just for measuring purposes. But if you add a resistor it will change the circuit subtly and it may have to handle a lot of power.

The Keysight video points out that there are different probes for different current measurement regimes. High current, medium current, and low current all use different probes with different technologies. The video is only about 6 minutes long and if you’ve never thought about measuring current with a scope, it is worth watching.

The video shares some high-level details of how the current probes work — that’s where the Rogowski coil comes in, for example. Of course, you can’t expect a vendor to tell you how to build your own current probes. That’s OK, though, because we will. Current probes are often expensive, but you can sometimes pick up a deal on a used one.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: A PCB To Emulate Coin Cells

The Coin Cell Emulator CR2016/CR2032 by [bobricius] homes in on a problem some hardware developers don’t realize they have: when working on hardware powered by the near-ubiquitous CR2016 or CR2032 format 3V coin cells, power can be a bit troublesome. Either the device is kept fed with coin cells as needed during development, or the developer installs some breakout wires to provide power from a more convenient source.

[bobricius]’s solution to all this is a small PCB designed to be inserted into most coin cell holders just like the cell itself. It integrates a micro USB connector with a 3V regulator for using USB as an external power source. The board also provides points for attaching alligator clips, should one wish to conveniently measure current consumption. It’s a tool with a purpose, and cleverly uses the physical shape of the PCB itself as an integral part of the function, much like another of [bobricius]’s projects: the Charlieplexed 7-segment LED display.