# Fig.1. A basic inductance and capacitance. (CR) oscillator.

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1 Constructional Project PIC LCF METER JOHN BECKER Simple monitoring of inductance, capacitance and frequency values HIS simple PIC-based unit was designed to measure and display the Tvalues of inductors and capacitors. As a by-product of the technique used, it can also display the frequency of an external 0V/+5V signal source. The ranges are approximately: Capacitance: pf to 6500mF Inductance: mh to 0H Frequency: 0 05Hz to 5MHz OSCILLATOR CONCEPTS The design is based upon the concept that oscillators can be constructed from CMOS NAND gates or inverters, and that their oscillation frequency depends on the values of inductance, capacitance and resistance in their feedback paths. The principles were discussed by George Hylton in his two-part series Logic Gate Inverter Oscillators of Sept/Oct 02. Using a suitable microcontroller, such as one from the PIC6F62x or PIC6F87x families, software can read the frequency of an oscillator and calculate the value of an unknown component if the values of the other components are known. In this design, a PIC6F628 is used and the results are output to an alphanumeric liquid crystal display (l.c.d.). Fig.. A basic inductance and capacitance (LC) oscillator. One technique for using an inductor in a CMOS oscillator circuit is that shown in Fig.. Here the oscillation frequency is determined by the formula: F = 2 p Ö(L C) where: F = frequency C C2 C = C + C2 L = inductance p = 22/7 Using this formula, if any two values are known, the third can be readily calculated. For instance, if C and F are known, then L can be calculated using the formula: ( 2 2 p F) L = C Similarly, using the capacitance-resistance oscillator configuration shown in Fig.2, the output frequency can be calculated for known values of R and C. Several formulae exist for this calculation and the one used in this application is: F = p R C from which the value for C can be calculated if R and F are known: C = p R F Fig.2. A basic capacitance and resistance (CR) oscillator. FREQUENCY TO PIC Referring to the full circuit diagram for the PIC LCF Meter in Fig.3, two independent oscillators are used, one based on inductance and capacitance (LC) values, the other on capacitance and resistance (CR) values. The LC oscillator is formed around NAND gate IC3a. The inductance is provided by inductor L, used in series with the external inductor whose value needs to be measured. The external inductor is connected across probe clips P and P2 and switched into circuit by rotary switch S2 in position. The capacitance is provided by capacitors C5a, C5b, C6a and C6b. Two pairs of capacitors are used so that the value of C in the LC formula is simple for the software to process. The values for each of the four capacitors is set at 0nF. 92 Everyday Practical Electronics, February 2004

2 Fig.3. Complete circuit diagram for the PIC LCF Meter. Therefore the parallel value of C5a/b = C6a/b = 20nF (a value not obtainable in standard capacitor ranges). In the formula, as expanded above, the value for C is thus 0nF. A preset potentiometer, VR2, is also included in the feedback path. Its principal purpose is to ensure that oscillation starts reliably and then continues in a stable manner. The effect is due to its relationship with capacitors C6a/b, which impose a more pronounced phase shift on the signal being fed back through the inductor than the output of the gate itself can allow. Potentiometer VR2 also has the side effect of providing a degree of frequency control, although this is not important in this application. In use, the inductor whose value is to be measured is placed in series with L. The latter provides a minimum inductance value against which the circuit is nulled prior to taking measurements. Its use minimises the effect of stray fields within the physical circuit assembly. The CR oscillator is formed around NAND gates IC3b and IC3c. The maximum frequency at which the oscillator runs is basically set by resistor R4 and capacitor C7. The external capacitor whose value is to be measured is connected between the probe clips and switched in parallel with C7 by switch S2 in position 2. As with L, C7 provides a minimum reference against which the circuit is nulled. Because the reference value has been set to be high enough to effectively swamp stray capacitance into an unimportant role, the software is capable of discerning very small capacitance differences, typically from pf upwards. It should be noted that the value of resistor R3 also has an effect on the oscillation frequency. In this circuit it has been chosen to be ten times the value of R4 and is ignored in the frequency calculation formula. GATE CONTROL The use of NAND gates in this circuit allows the oscillators to be selectively turned on and off by the PIC microcontroller, IC. The LC oscillator becomes active when IC3a input pin 2 is taken high by PIC pin RA0. When RA0 is low the oscillator is inhibited, with IC3a output pin being held high. The CR oscillator is similarly controlled. PIC pin RA when high allows the IC3b/c configuration to oscillate. When RA is low, the oscillator stops with IC3b output pin 4 held high. The outputs from IC3a and IC3b are jointly fed to the inputs of NAND gate IC3d. When IC3a is oscillating, its frequency is passed through IC3d via pin 9 since its other input, pin 8, is held high by IC3b s output pin 4. Conversely, when IC3b/c is oscillating, its frequency is passed through IC3d via pin 8 since pin 9 is now held high by IC3a s output pin. As only one oscillator can be selected at any time, there is no conflict of frequencies passing through IC3d. The output from IC3d pin 0 is fed via resistor R5 to PIC pin RB6. This pin is used as the input to the PIC s TMR 6-bit counter/timer. FREQUENCY CAPTURE For high frequency monitoring, the PIC is set for non-synchronous input to TMR and input rates in excess of 5MHz can be registered correctly. It is this fact that also makes this circuit suitable as a frequency counter up to about 5MHz. Everyday Practical Electronics, February

4 between the probe clips, this reference value is subtracted from the result of the measurement. However, the PIC must be told that this is the value to use. At present it is subtracting zero from the value, as set when the power is switched on. Pressing switch S3 sets the reference value into temporary memory within the PIC. This is confirmed by the word NULLED being shown on line, followed by the capacitance value being reset to zero on line 2. Having released switch S3, the next sample value should also read zero until the capacitance across the probes is changed. Clip the probes to a capacitor nominally specified as, say, 000pF and its actual value will be displayed on line 2. Note that the frequency value on line is always the actual oscillation frequency and is not affected by the nulling. Be aware that the act of touching the probe leads with your hands will introduce additional capacitance across the probes, so do not hold them while taking value measurements. A 470pF ceramic capacitor being monitored while this text is being written is producing a frequency of 77653Hz and, after the reference value has been subtracted by the software, is shown as having a real value of 492pF, well within its cataloguestated tolerance of ±5%. Fig.4. Component layout and master track pattern for the PIC LCF Meter. Typical l.c.d. pinouts are shown to the right. Now clip an electrolytic capacitor in place of the previous one, say a value of mf, correctly connecting the positive clip to the positive capacitor lead an important point to note when measuring electrolytic capacitors, which are polarity sensitive, of course. Observe the capacitor s displayed value on screen. Using a test capacitor while writing this, the screen shows a frequency of 3 38Hz and a value of 0 974mF (not a bad value for a mf capacitor whose tolerance is nominally ±20%!). Two points are worth noting in relation to this displayed value. First, a different timing technique is used for frequencies that are below 024Hz, in order to obtain better accuracy than with pulse counting for low frequencies. In this mode, which is entered automatically if a frequency below 024Hz (a binary round value) is detected, the PIC assesses the logic status of the signal on its RB6 pin. It then waits until this logic phase changes. It then starts a timing counter (TMR) which runs until the pin status has changed twice more, representing a complete cycle of the waveform. At the end of this cycle the counter is stopped. The count value, which is in relation to the MHz crystal used, is converted into microseconds (T), and then converted into the equivalent frequency (F) for that timing (F = /T). In this mode the reference value is too low to be of interest and is ignored. Secondly, this mode produces frequency results that have three places of decimals and a decimal point is displayed Everyday Practical Electronics, February

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