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Why is effective isolation important during test?

Posted: 01 Feb 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:data acquisition? isolators? test and measurement? isolators? galvanically isolated conductors?

To achieve higher accuracy in data acquisition, test and measurement equipment designers are faced with hurdles on how to measure small signal variations when high common mode voltages (wanted or unwanted) are interfering with the system. These high voltages are caused by the different potential in the two grounds or any sudden transient overvoltage due to lightning strikes or power surges from motors or switching devices. Such voltages can impact measurement accuracy, as well as damage test systems and harm test operators.

Isolators are needed to physically and electrically separate two systems to protect them against sudden, voltage surges between two circuits or systems. They provide higher common mode voltage range that appears simultaneously between both signal leads and a common ground. This is important, for example, in measuring voltage across battery cells connected in series. Isolators are important to break the ground loop, which are unwanted currents between two points that share a common path in an electrical system. This is widely used in probing system and in measuring differential voltages. Moreover, isolators can serve as level shifter to solve the incompatibility of voltage levels between systems or circuits.

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