When measuring current in a conductor, there can often be times in which one may not want to make physical contact with the conductor or may not desire to disconnect components. In such instances, an electrical device known as a current clamp meter or current probe meter may be used. Combining a basic digital multimeter with a current sensor, the clamp meter utilizes a hinged jaw to allow a technician toquickly conduct a reading for wires, cables, or other various conductor types.
In this blog, we will discuss the design, functionality, and use of clamp meters, allowing you to understand their importance in electrical engineering and testing.
Depending on one’s needs, there are a few variations of current clamp meters that one may rely on. The current transformer type is the most common, featuring a split ring constructed from ferrite or soft iron. Generally, windings are established with wire coils that are placed on halves. Meanwhile, the clamped conductor is established as the other winding. Current transformers are only intended to work with AC or pulse waveforms that may extend into the megahertz range.
Iron vane current clamp meters are another type, utilizing a magnetic flux implemented in the core for the means of adjusting an iron vane. Due to their design and assembly, iron vane clamp meters are capable of measuring both AC and DC voltage, and a true root mean square (RMS) value may be obtained for non-sinusoidal AC waveforms. Generally, the vane of an analogue meter is directly connected to the display, meaning that its calibration will often be non-linear. Iron vane current clamps are useful for varying forms of measurement, commonly being used for power transmission frequencies that are below 100 Hz.
Capable of measuring both AC and DC voltage, the hall effect clamp meter is one that can even be used for values reaching into the kilohertz range. Hall effect clamp meters were once primarily used for more intensive applications, serving oscilloscopes and computerized digital multimeters. As of the present, however, they have begun rising in popularity as a more general measurement device.
The Rogowski coil current sensor is the final primary current clamp meter type, differing from other variations in its lack of a core. Generally, the Rogowski coil clamp meter is used for power monitoring loggers and clamp meters, and its benefits include a lack of saturation, better linearity, flexibility, and no requirement for an electrical or magnetic contact placed at the opening end. It is important to note that Rogowski coils provide a proportional voltage to the primary cable current rate of change, meaning that sensed values may be displayed with increased signal processing.
Despite their differences, the various clamp meter devices are highly beneficial for engineering applications. For one, they allow for a technician to avoid the old method of cutting into a wire for inserting test leads, rather only requiring the clamping of the meter’s jaw around a wire, cable, or other conductor. This ensures that the jaws do not need to establish physical contact with the conductor itself, preventing hazardous situations. Additionally, the method of garnering measurements increases convenience, and the ability to make measurements without turning off the circuit carrying current increases overall efficiency.
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