Calibrating Sensors | Calibration

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Calibration of sensors
  Calibrating Sensors Created by Bill EarlLast updated on 2016-09-10 09:51:46 AM UTC  236 667 8 89 10 1010 1111 1316 1617 Guide Contents Guide ContentsWhy Calibrate?So, How Do We Calibrate? Standard ReferencesThe Characteristic CurveCalibration Methods One Point Calibration How to do it:Example: Two Point Calibration How to do it:Example Boiling Water Triple Point Ice-Water Bath Multi-Point Curve FittingMaxim 31855 Thermocouple Linearization Code from jh421797Code from 'heypete'  © Adafruit Industries 2 of 18  Why Calibrate? Why do we need to calibrate sensors?There are a lot of good sensors these days and many are 'good enough' out of the box for many non-critical applications. But in order to achievethe best possible accuracy, a sensor should be calibrated in the system where it will be used. This is because: No sensor is perfect. Sample to sample manufacturing variations mean that even two sensors from the same manufacturer production run may yield slightlydifferent readings.Differences in sensor design mean two different sensors may respond differently in similar conditions. This is especially true of ‘indirect’sensors that calculate a measurement based on one or more actual measurements of some different, but related parameter.Sensors subject to heat, cold, shock, humidity etc. during storage, shipment and/or assembly may show a change in response.Some sensor technologies 'age' and their response will naturally change over time - requiring periodic re-calibration. The Sensor is only one component in the measurement system.  For example:With analog sensors, your ADC is part of the measurement system and subject to variability as well.Temperature measurements are subject to thermal gradients between the sensor and the measurement point.Light and color sensors can be affected by spectral distribution, ambient light, specular reflections and other optical phenomena.Inertial sensors are sensitive to alignment with the system being measuredWhat makes a good sensor?The two most important characteristic of a sensor are: Precision  - The ideal sensor will always produce the same output for the same input. Resolution  - A good sensor will be able to reliably detect small changes in the measured parameter.What affects precision? Noise  - All measurement systems are subject to random noise to some degree. Measurement systems with a low Signal to Noise Ratio willhave problems making repeatable measurements. In the diagrams above, the sensor on the right shows much better precision than thenoisy one on the left.  © Adafruit Industries 3 of 18  Hysteresis  - Some types of sensors also exhibit hysteresis. The sensor will tend to read low with an increasing signal and high with adecreasing signal as shown in the graph below. Hysteresis is a common problem with many pressure sensors.To paraphrase George Santayana:   Those who ingnore hysteresis are doomed to unrepeatable results.   Are there any other important qualities in a sensor?Precision and resolution are the real 'must have' qualities. But there are a couple of other 'nice-to-have' qualities: Linearity  - A sensor whose output is directly proportional to the input is said to be linear. This eliminates the need to do any complex curve-fittingand simplifies the calibration process. Speed  - All else being equal, a sensor that can produce precise readings faster is a good thing to have.What about accuracy? Isn't accuracy the most important thing?Accuracy is a combination of precision, resolution and calibration. If you have a sensor that gives you repeatable measurements withgood resolution, you can calibrate it for accuracy.  © Adafruit Industries 4 of 18
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