Non-contact measurement of dc voltages using nonlinear elements

Paul Melville Record

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


In this work, it is shown that dc voltages may be measured via a capacitive interface, provided that the capacitance between the measurement system and the dc voltage source being measured is nonlinearized. This nonlinearization is achieved by the addition of a nonlinear capacitor in series with the coupling capacitance. Two types of nonlinear capacitor are used—multilayer ceramics and varicap diodes. Currently available multilayer ceramics have a larger value than desired but prove the concept, while the small capacitance of the varicap diode allows measurement on real wires. Results show that over a low voltage range (-8 V to +8 V), the voltage on a conductor can be measured if the coupling capacitance between source and electrode is larger than 20 pF, which equates to an electrode length of 5 cm when wire compliant with MIL-W-81044-22 is used. Detection is performed by momentarily applying a voltage at a node within the measurement system, then measuring the time it takes for this voltage to decay to a threshold level—the capacitive nonlinearity causes this time delay to be dependent upon the dc input voltage whose value is being measured.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)045001
JournalMeasurement Science and Technology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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