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Last updated date: 28th Nov 2023
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What is a Galvanometer?

A galvanometer is a device that measures or detects small currents with appropriate modification. It can be converted into an ammeter to measure the currents in the order of an ampere or millimeter or in the range of milliamperes or microammeter to measure microampere current. They have been used as a primary contraption to calculate small quantities of electric currents. André-Marie Ampère, who gave mathematical expression to Ørsted's discovery, named the device after the Italian researcher Luigi Galvani, who in 1791 located the precept of the galvanoscope.

Galvanometers were important for the improvement of technologies and even in lots of fields. For example, within the 1800s they enabled a long variety of conversations through submarine cables, consisting of the earliest transatlantic telegraph cables, and have been important to come across the electrical activity of the coronary heart and brain, with the aid of using their galvanometers.

Galvanometers have additionally been used because they show additives of different sorts of analog meters (e.g., mild meters and VU meters), acquiring the outputs of those meters' sensors. Today, the primary kind of galvanometer even now in use is the D'Arsonval/Weston type.

Modern galvanometers of the D'Arsonval / Weston type are built with a small wire coil that turns in the area of ​​a permanent magnet. The coil is attached to a thin pointer that runs through a calibrated scale. The torsion spring pulls the coil and the pointer to the zero position. When a direct current (DC) flows through the coil, the coil creates a magnetic field. This field acts against the permanent magnet. The coil twists push against the spring and move the pointer.

The pointer points to a scale that shows the electric current the careful construction of the pole pieces ensures a uniform magnetic field so that the angular deviation of the pointer is proportional to the current A useful measuring device usually contains a provision to dampen the mechanical resonance of the voice coil and pointer so that the pointer locks into place quickly and without vibration. Such meters are often calibrated to read another quantity that can be converted into a current of that quantity. By using current dividers, often called shunts,  a meter can be calibrated to measure larger currents. A counter can be calibrated as a CC. Voltmeter, when the coil resistance is known by calculating the voltage required to produce a full current. A meter can be configured to read other voltages by inserting it into a voltage divider circuit. 

 A meter can be used to read resistance by connecting it in series with a known voltage (a battery) and an adjustable resistor.  When the resistor is connected in series on the circuit, the current will be less than full scale and a properly calibrated scale can show the value of the previously unknown resistance.

Different kinds of electrical quantities in pointer movement make the galvanometer ideal for converting the output of other sensors emitting electricity (one way or another) into something that can be read by a human. Distance above the meter scale, a  parallax error may occur if the operator tries to read the line on the scale that is "aligned" with the pointer. To counteract this, some measuring devices contain a mirror in addition to the main scale markings.

At this point, the operator's eye should be directly above the pointer and parallax errors have been minimized.                   


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So, the use of a galvanometer is to detect whether there is a current in the circuit or not. While measuring the current, we have to convert it into an ammeter.

There are many types of galvanometers. In this article, we will study the moving coil type galvanometer.

Principle of Moving Coil Galvanometer

The principle of moving coil galvanometer is a torque on a current loop placed in a magnetic field.

Function of Galvanometer

We consider a coil to have many turns and place it in a very strong magnetic field.

The reason is the more the number of turns, the more is current and more is the torque produced. Similarly, the stronger the magnetic field; the more is torque produced.

The small current that needs to be detected/measured is sent to the coil. A torque acts on the coil which rotates the coil.

Now, this coil keeps on rotating. How to count the number of deflections it makes?

Here, we use a pointer and a scale to get the deflection of the coil.

So, the more the current, the more is the torque, the more is the deflection (rotation), more is the reading on the scale.

The purpose of this is to make the current directly proportional to the deflection.

What are the Uses of a galvanometer?

Galvanometers have been used as display components for other types of analog measuring devices (e.g. light meter and light meter. VU) in order to capture the sensor outputs of these meters. Today the main type of galvanometer used is the D'Arsonval / Weston type.

Strip chart recorders with galvanometer-driven pens could have an all-out frequency response of one hundred Hz and a number of other centimeters of deflection.

Moving coil kind meter mechanisms called 'voice coils' by disk manufacturers are used for dominating the pinnacle positioning servos in hard disk drives and CD/DVD players, so as to stay mass (and so access times), as low as possible.

Construction of Moving Coil Galvanometer

  1. Take two terminals, T1 and T2.

  2. Hang a fine wire through a metal attached to terminal T1.

  3. Tie a coil to the free end of the wire

  4. Attach one end of a spring to the bottom of the coil and another end to the terminal T2.

  5. The two horseshoe electromagnets are placed around this coil.

  6. Make sure the coil is tilted because torque isn’t generated when the coil is parallel to the magnetic field.

Now, let’s look at the moving coil galvanometer diagram:

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  1. The N turns wire on the coil should be insulated.

  2. The spring is made of either phosphor bronze or quartz wire.

  3. We attach a concave mirror to the wire at the top of the coil so that deflection can be measured using a lamp and scale.

Initially, this circuit is open. On joining both the terminals, the current I starts flowing. 

Let the area of each turn be A, and the magnetic field be B.

As the circuit completes, i.e., on making the connection between the wire, torque starts generating.

As the current (that is to be measured) is sent to the coil. We can express the torque produced as:

                               て = NIAB Sin Ө 

Here, Ө is the angle between the area vector and the magnetic field. This area vector A➝ is perpendicular to the plane of the loop.

Working of Moving Coil Galvanometer

As the coil rotates, it rotates smoothly and the spring twists. Therefore, restoring torque develops on the wire and the spring.

Slowly as the coil rotates, the restoring torque in the spring starts obstructing in its rotation. 

This means the more we rotate the coil, the more is the restoring torque in the wire and the spring.  

So, more is the twist; more is the restoring force. This strain in the wire is the Torsional strain. Now, how to measure this Torsional strain?

For example, if we rotate the coil by 1°, the Torsional constant will be C, similarly, if we rotate by 2°, it is 2 C. However, N, I, and A remain constant.

The restoring force in the spring and the wire keeps on increasing. However, the torque on the coil remains the same. A time comes when this applied torque balances the restoring torque.

Therefore, on rotation by  Φ°, it will be CΦ. So, the formula for the restoring force is:

                 てRestoring torque = CΦ

 If CΦ is the twist, restoring torque is CΦ, where C is the restoring force caused by a unit degree rotation. 

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Initially, this pointer points to 0. As the torque rotates, the deflection occurs as shown below:

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The pointer fixes at the point, and we get the final reading on the scale.

At this time, てapplied  = てRestoring torque                  

         NIAB Sin Ө = CΦ 

         I =  \[\frac{C}{N ABSin \theta}\]Φ

Here, Φ and Sin Ө is a variable, and I α Φ/ Sin Ө.

But, we desired I α Φ. Now, to remove this Sin Ө, we use the radial field.

Now, we will use a soft iron core (it is a strong ferromagnetic material) in place of a loop and cylindrical magnets in place of horseshoe magnets. This is how we can create a radial field. A field in which the magnetic field lines pass from N to South pole such that the area vector A➝is always perpendicular (radial) to the magnetic field B.

We use the radial field because it increases the strength of the magnetic field around the coil.

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This means Ө between B and A➝will always be 90°, i.e., Sin Ө becomes 1. Therefore, our purpose is solved, i.e., 

   I =  \[\frac{C}{N ABSin \theta}\]Φ  = \[\frac{C}{N AB}\]Φ  or I α Φ

FAQs on Galvanometer

1. Write the Types of Galvanometer.

The types of galvanometer are:

  1. Tangent galvanometer

  2. Static galvanometer

  3. Mirror galvanometer

  4. Ballistic galvanometer

2. What is the Relation between the Sensitivity and Deflection for a Galvanometer?

The sensitive galvanometer shows a huge deflection in a small current. A moving coil galvanometer is a highly sensitive instrument. Because of this nature, it can detect current in the range of milliamperes. 

3. What are the Current Sensitivity and Voltage Sensitivity of a Galvanometer?

The current sensitivity of a moving coil galvanometer is given as:

                                    CSenstivity = Φ/I = NAB/C

This means in the fractional flow of current, there is a high deflection.

If galvanometer shows a high deflection in a small voltage, then it is a voltage sensitivity given by

                                  VSenstivity =  Φ/V = NAB/CR 

Here, V = I/R (R = The resistance of the coil).

This is how we can convert galvanometer to ammeter and voltmeter to get the value of current sensitivity and voltage sensitivity respectively.

4. How Do You Increase the Sensitivity of a Galvanometer?

You can increase the sensitivity by:

  1.  Increasing number of turns

  2.  Increasing area of coils

  3. Magnetic field (using radial field)

  4. Decrease C by using phosphor bronze or Quartz wire because their Torsional constant is very low