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In electronics, signal conditioning means manipulating an analog signal in such a way that it meets the requirements of the next stage for further processing. Most common use is in analog-to-digital converters.
In control engineering applications, it is common to have a sensing stage (which consists of a sensor), a signal conditioning stage (where usually amplification of the signal is done) and a processing stage (normally carried out by an ADC and a micro-controller). Operational amplifiers (op-amps) are commonly employed to carry out the amplification of the signal in the signal conditioning stage.In some transducers this feature will come inherent for eg in hall effect sensors.
In Power Electronics before processing the input sensed signals by sensors like voltage sensor and current sensor those are scaled down to level of microprocessor by using the signal condition card.
Signal inputs accepted by signal conditioners include DC voltage and current, AC voltage and current, frequency and electric charge. Sensor inputs can be accelerometer, thermocouple, thermistor, resistance thermometer, strain gauge or bridge, and LVDT or RVDT. Specialized inputs include encoder, counter or tachometer, timer or clock, relay or switch, and other specialized inputs. Outputs for signal conditioning equipment can be voltage, current, frequency, timer or counter, relay, resistance or potentiometer, and other specialized outputs.
Signal conditioning processes
Filtering is the most common signal conditioning function, as usually not all the signal frequency spectrum contains valid data. The common example is 50/60 Hz AC power lines, present in most environments, which cause noise if amplified.
Signal amplification performs two important functions: increases the resolution of the input signal, and increases its signal-to-noise ratio. For example, the output of an electronic temperature sensor, which is probably in the millivolts range is probably too low for an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) to process directly. In this case it is necessary to bring the voltage level up to that required by the ADC.
Commonly used amplifiers on signal on conditioning include sample and hold amplifiers, peak detectors, log amplifiers, antilog amplifiers, instrumentation amplifiers and programmable gain amplifiers.
Signal isolation must be used to pass the signal from the source to the measuring device without a physical connection: it is often used to isolate possible sources of signal perturbations. Also notable is that it is important to isolate the potentially expensive equipment used to process the signal after conditioning from the sensor.
Magnetic or optic isolation can be used. Magnetic isolation transforms the signal from voltage to a magnetic field so the signal can be transmitted without physical connection (for example, using a transformer). Optic isolation modulates an electronic signal and into a signal coded by light transmission (optical encoding), which is then used for input for the next stage of processing.
External power is required for the operation of active sensor. (E.g.. temperature sensor like thermistor & RTD, pressure sensor(piezo-resistive and capacitive) etc. Stability and precision of the excitation signal directly relates to the sensor accuracy and stability
Linearization is necessary when sensors produce voltage signals that are not linearly related to the physical measurement. Linearization is the process of interpreting the signal from the sensor and can be done either with signal conditioning or through software.
Cold Junction Compensation
Only for thermocouple sensor.
- "Data acquisition techniques using PCs." Academic-Press - Pages 44-47