Atmospheric electrostatic field acquisition system with ... electrostatic field acquisition system with charge sensing ... Mityo Mitev ... results from transient analysis of IVC10 with TINA-TI

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  • Technical University Sofia Bulgaria

    Texas Instruments European Analog Design Contest 2013 Project Report

    Atmospheric electrostatic

    field acquisition system with

    charge sensing Team Leader: Tsvetan Marinov

    Team Members: Team Petya Popova

    Advising Professor: Mityo Mitev

    University: Technical University of Sofia, Bulgaria

    Date: 31.07.2013

    Qty. TI Part Number & URL Qty. TI Part Number & URL

    1 IVC102 1 DRV8834

    1 OPA369 1 REG101-5

    1 ADS8519 1 TPS7A4901

    1 MSP430FR5739 1 TPS7A3001

    1 LP38690

    Project abstract: In this project complete system for atmospheric electrostatic field monitoring and logging was developed. Field Mill type of sensor was chosen in combination with charge sensing amplifier. The system was developed as self sustained and autonomous, capable of intelligent power management and continues data acquisition. Also live data is transmitted via wireless connection, with capability of complete device control. Working prototype was developed, proving the overall concept and practicality, also recording real life data from thunderstorms.


  • Introduction

    The motivation for this project came from the fascination with nature. To be able to predict the weather gives us a great advantage. Not only it aids our everyday lives, it helps us plan and execute different activities and even a rough estimation could mean saving a lot of lives in different exploratory missions and conducting things that we take for granted as bridge maintenance and tall building maintenance for example. The device not only detects nearby lightning, but can detect the atmospheric conditions which precede lightning. This means that ELFIS (Electrostatic field acquisition system) spots trends in weather which could help the prediction of approaching storms. Devices of this type are often exclusively used in weather stations, mainly because of their price, the complexity of their software and their big dimensions. The device presented in this project is compact and can be easily installed in any household. This makes it valuable for agricultural uses and secluded households.

    Design Overview

    Block diagram of the electrostatic field acquisition system is shown on Fig.1 The building blocks of the device are field mill sensor, charge sensing, power supply, motor control, data acquisition + RF link. The following chapters will discuss design decisions for each block.

    Field Mill Sensor

    The first step of the development was the field mill sensor [Fig. 2]. It consists of a

    base plate ground, sensing electrodes, rotating shield, acting as a shutter, and a

    position sensor. The shutter periodically exposes and shields the electrodes from the

    applied electric field. This field chopping technique allows compensating leakage,

    charge injection from switches and other unwanted effects of real life amplifiers. For

    the position sensor, a Hall Effect magnetic sensor with combination of magnets was

    Fig. 1 Block diagram of the system

  • chosen, glued to the shutter. This way the microcontroller knows if the electrodes are

    being shielded or exposed to the field. The physical dimensions, construction and

    shape of the field mill sensor, were chosen in favor of easy manufacturing and

    small case dimensions. For the case for the system (also base plate for the field mill

    sensor) was chosen an of-the-shelf water tight (IP65) die cast aluminum case.

    In order to calculate the total amount of charge produced by the sensor, assumption

    that the electric field is homogenous in every part of the construction was made. The

    sensitivity of the sensor can be expressed by the following equation:

    ( )

    ( )



    Where: 6 is the number of electrodes; S is the surface area of one electrode; 0 is the

    vacuum permittivity; d is the distance between the electrodes and the base; E is

    applied electric field (V/m). This calculated coefficient will be used later for amplifier

    gain calculation.

    Charge sensing

    The charge sensing is based on TIs IVC102 transimpedance amplifier. The IVC102

    was chosen because it provides more precise, highly integrated alternative to

    conventional transimpedance op amp circuits and its output voltage can be held for

    accurate measurement using the internal analog switches. The charge sensing is

    performed in 2 stages, each stage consists of 2 measurements and each

    measurement is based on 4 ADC samples. The first stage is with the electrodes

    exposed to the field, the second stage is with the electrodes shielded from the field.

    First measurement is the offset of the amplifier; second measurement is the end of

    integration voltage. Four samples per measurement were made in order to reduce

    the error caused by noise. The result from each stage is the resulted voltage from

    the end of integration cycle minus the offset voltage. Electric field strength is the

    result from stage one minus stage two. This way leakage is being compensated, as

    a. b. c.

    Fig. 2: a fully assembled sensor; b 1-base plate, 2-sensor electrodes, 3-hall

    effect sensor; c 1-rotating shield (shutter), 2-magnets




    4 1 2

  • well as charge injection and offset of the operational amplifier. In order to

    compensate errors from mechanical tolerances, the field strength is calculated using

    the average of all shutter positions in one complete turn of the shield. The high input

    impedance of the charge sensing amplifier brings 50Hz interference from the mains.

    In order to reject these interferences integration period of 40ms was chosen which is

    equal to 2 periods of the mains frequency. The described procedure was simulated

    using TINA-TI [Fig. 3]. Fig.4 shows result from transient analysis. It is clear that the

    output voltage is shifted because of leakage. The expected amount of charge for this

    two integration cycles is the same, but with opposite signs. The leakage on the other

    hand is always in the same direction. Therefore subtracting the first measurement

    from the second and dividing it by 2 will return the actual value, canceling the


    Fig. 3: schematic for simulation of IVC102 with TINA-TI






    + S1





    VS2 -12


    VS1 12

    + S2


    Agnd DgndV+










    U1 IVC102M

    Field Mill sensor is represented by 2 current generators:

    HUM - interference from the mains

    E_FIELD - chopped electrostatic field

    Fig. 4: results from transient analysis of IVC10 with TINA-TI





    Time (s)

    0.00 50.00m 100.00m 150.00m 200.00m




















  • The ADC is configured for +/-5V input range and a +/-30kV/m range is desirable. Because of that the integration capacitor for IVC102 (setting the gain) must be:

    Initially the internal capacitor was configured for 100pF, but the real transfer coefficient of the sensor was lower and configuration with 40pF integration capacitor was used. While designing the PCB [Fig. 5] the following considerations were taken into account: ensuring as low as possible leakage from other traces, ensuring no ground loop and the absence of all other possible ground problems. In order to lower the leakage a guard ring was made, around the signal trace, in every part of the PCB. The guard ring is connected to the non-inverting input of IVC102, which is Analog Ground. In order to avoid ground problems, single point grounding was chosen for Analog Ground. Digital Ground and Analog Ground are connected together near the Analog to Digital Converter. The ADC itself is ADS8519. The ADS8519 was chosen because of its bipolar input ranges, precision internal resistors, high resolution, low error and high sample rate. The design is also provided with header for external reference, but the internal reference was used.

    Power supply

    The power supply should output 3.3V for all digital ICs, 5V for the ADC and +/-12V for the IVC102, from 2 li-ion cells. The first prototype of the system was built on universal prototyping boards and an of-the-shelf +/-12V switching convertor was being used. This DC-DC convertor was emitting a lot of switching noise and filtering proved to be difficult. In order to eliminate this problem in the final design a decision was made to design a custom low noise DC-DC convertor. The decision was to implement resonant Royer convertor. The pros of this convertor are high efficiency, simple hardware design, low part count and very narrow spectrum. The convertor works with sinusoidal wave form, ideally only one harmonic is present. Full schematic of the converter with transient analysis is sh