4-20mA Converter Question

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by scubasteve_911, Sep 16, 2008.

  1. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
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    Hello everyone!,

    I have a pressure transducer that I need to interface with a 0-3.3V ADC. The output of the sensor is the typical 4-20mA.

    I have seen Maxim's appnote http://pdfserv.maxim-ic.com/en/an/AN823.pdf , which converts 4-20mA to 0-5V. This is done by a current shunt, with an appropriate gain, then a subtraction for the 4mA offset via a reference. This is a 'high-side' scheme, which requires the opamps common-mode input voltage to be high, thus necessitating high common-mode rejection.

    My question is, why not use low-side current sensing? You can use much better opamps (lower offset, offset tempco, noise, cmrr, etc.). Is there some industrial reason for this?, like detecting faults or something?

    I want to get as much precision as possible with the circuit, since it is a one-off prototype and money isn't too much of an issue.

    Thanks!

    Steve
     
  2. bertus

    Administrator

    Apr 5, 2008
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  3. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
    1,202
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    Okay, but I am not looking for a pre-packaged solution. I'm looking to see what the reasons were why people typically do not employ low-side current sensing. Thanks for the link though, I was unaware that there are completely integrated solutions.

    Steve
     
  4. SgtWookie

    Expert

    Jul 17, 2007
    22,182
    1,728
    Hey Steve,
    I thought 4-20 was used for digital signalling. I'm unaware of 4-20 devices that may respond in an analog way. I don't claim to be experienced in 4-20 circuits, but have done a fair amount of reading up on them.

    Your initial post suggested to me that you believe the output of the sensor is linear in response. I just don't see that happening on a 4-20 device; it's a logic 1, a logic 0, or an error.

    But I really don't have enough information. It would help a great deal to know what device you are considering.
     
  5. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
    1,202
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    Wookie,

    4-20mA can actually be used for digital communications and Analog circuitry. Good old Wikipedia says:

    The device has a non-linear sensor, which gets digitized, then multi-point compensated, then converted to a linear 4-20mA signal.

    Steve
     
  6. Gina Hann

    New Member

    Sep 19, 2008
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    I support Texas Instruments Signal Chain Analog, and some of the challenges of low side current sensing typically include sensitivity to additional resistance in the ground path, noise coupling from ground, or the difficulty finding a rail-to-rail input and output amplifier that meet the requirements of the full current range (4mA and 20mA). You can use an amplifier, but will probably end up needing to put it in a difference amp configuration and adding some common mode offset. The OPA333 has a low and high side monitor example in the datasheet http://focus.ti.com/lit/ds/symlink/opa333.pdf. An instrumentation amplifier might be a better choice to help minimize your efforts in resistor matching, and there is a good single supply rail to rail in/out INA called the INA326. The datasheet has a low side current monitor application that may be of help. http://focus.ti.com/lit/ds/symlink/ina326.pdf

    Best of luck,
    Gina Hann
     
  7. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
    1,202
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    Gina,

    Thanks for the suggestion, I really liked the INA326, the specs are actually pretty good. I have had trouble finding a good instrumentation amplifier with high common mode input voltage capability, too bad you weren't suggesting that particular part when I was designing a high volume circuit two months ago :( We ended up going with an Analog Devices INA. Maybe next time !

    I don't see the stray ground resistance an issue because the differential nature of the opamp, which should take care of that. I will checkout that part though, thanks!

    Steve
     
  8. cwilson

    New Member

    Oct 21, 2008
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    Hi Steve,
    I'm looking into doing exactly the same thing (4-20mA -> 0-2.5v ADC) and I'm running into the same question of whether to do high vs. low side current sensing. I can't find a good answer on which is the preferred method of sensing. Did you have any resolution on this question?

    I'm looking at using something from the MAX407x series (the MAX replacement for the MAX471). Have you decided upon a current sense amp? I'm brand new to 4-20mA in general, so any pointers you can give would be much appreciated.
    --Chris
     
  9. scubasteve_911

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
    1,202
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    Hey Chris,

    Sorry, I actually didn't finish this circuit since I didn't get the sensor that I wanted. I was bidding on it on ebay and planned on buying it, but it wasn't exactly what I needed, so I let someone else win it.

    I personally haven't done this myself either, only researched it.

    Steve
     
  10. vetterick

    Active Member

    Aug 11, 2008
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