Electrostatic voltmeter

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Electrostatic voltmeter

Electrostatic voltmeter can refer to an electrostatic charge meter, known also as surface DC voltmeter, or to a voltmeter to measure large electrical potentials, traditionally called electrostatic voltmeter.

Charge meter[edit]

A surface DC voltmeter is an instrument that measures voltage with no electric charge transfer.

It can accurately measure surface potential (voltage) on materials without making physical contact and so there is no electrostatic charge transfer or loading of the voltage source.


Many voltage measurements cannot be made using conventional contacting voltmeters because they require charge transfer to the voltmeter, thus causing loading and modification of the source voltage. For example, when measuring voltage distribution on a dielectric surface, any measurement technique that requires charge transfer, no matter how small, will modify or destroy the actual data.

Principle of operation[edit]

In practice, an electrostatic charge monitoring probe is placed close (1 mm to 5 mm) to the surface to be measured and the probe body is driven to the same potential as the measured unknown by an electronic circuit. This achieves a high accuracy measurement that is virtually insensitive to variations in probe-to-surface distances. The technique also prevents arc-over between the probe and measured surface when measuring high voltages.


Electrostatic voltmeter operation
Electrostatic voltmeter mechanism

The operating principle of an electrostatic voltmeter is similar to that of an electrometer, it is, however, designed to measure high potential differences; typically from a few hundred to many thousands volts.

Principle of operation[edit]

Electrostatic voltmeter utilizes the attraction force between two charged surfaces to create a deflection of a pointer directly calibrated in volts. Since the attraction force is the same regardless of the polarity of the charged surfaces (as long as the charge is opposite), the electrostatic voltmeter can measure both direct current and alternating current.

Typical construction is shown in the engraving. The pivoted sector NN is attracted to the fixed sector QQ. The moving sector indicating the voltage by the pointer P and is counterbalanced by the small weight w. In newer instruments the weight is replaced by a spring, thus allowing the meter to be used both in horizontal and vertical positions. This form of design is shown in the photograph of the mechanism. The fixed sector is insulated from the rest of the meter. The butterfly shaped moving sector, made out of a thin aluminum foil, is pivoted below. Both the fixed and the moving sectors are highly polished and without any sharp corners to minimize high electrical stress areas. The movement of the sector is damped by the air vane attached by a curved piece of wire.