What Is a Current Sensor and Current Transducer?

The terms “current sensor” and “current transducer” are often used interchangeably, and each device can sometimes accomplish the same task. However, there are still some technical differences between them. In general, a current sensor is any device that can measure the flow of electrons in a circuit, whereas a current transducer specifically converts one input into a different output. As such, a current transducer may be used as a current sensor while the opposite cannot be true. If you are interested in the inner workings of current sensors, including how current transducers are used therein, read on as we compare and discuss the various types.

A current sensor is essentially a device which can monitor the voltage, direction, or charge of electrical current. As there are two different types of current—AC and DC— there are also two different types of sensors. Since AC has electrons moving back and forth, it generates a magnetic field that continually expands and collapses. Taking advantage of this natural process, AC sensors measure and amplify the voltage created by the oscillating magnetic field. To accomplish this, they include a wire that is wrapped around a core so that when AC is flowing, the current’s magnetic field will generate an equivalent voltage in the wire attached to the sensor. This voltage is then usually sent through a transformer to be amplified or reduced so it can be read by a meter.

Whereas AC creates an oscillating electromagnetic field, DC has electrons that move in just one direction, so there is a magnetic field but no inherent electromagnetism. As such, DC sensors use an electromagnet to measure the behavior of the current in a circuit. The way in which a magnetic field affects electrons is called the Hall Effect. This effect specifically notes that when exposed to a magnetic field, the electrons in a conductor will be either pushed or pulled to one side in relation to the field. Because a large grouping of electrons gives off a negative charge, Hall Effect Sensors can test the charge on either side of a conductor and will display a negative charge at one end, along with a small measurable voltage. Similar to in an AC sensor, a transformer must then be used to either raise or lower the voltage to a readable level. Though they are most commonly used to measure DC, Hall Effect sensors can be used to measure AC as well.

Besides measuring AC vs DC, current sensors can also either be digital or analog. Digital sensors read the current flowing through the conductor and use an on/off switch to display whether the current is running. The switch can then be used to control a warning light or audible alarm by way of triggering a relay. Overall, digital current sensors are great for giving a quick alert in the case of a voltage surge or other occurrence, but they are not able to measure the characteristics of a circuit. Displaying the range or volume consumed instead of just reading at a certain preset level, analog current sensors are much more helpful for measuring the voltage of a circuit. Furthermore, they can also be used to trigger the same light or noise output when connected with a relay system.

Current transducers are often used in current sensors to convert current from AC to DC or to generate a readable output. For access to high-quality current transformers, current sensors, and current transducers, Industrial Parts Circuit has you covered with our vast inventory of electronic parts. Backed by rapid lead times and convenient shipping, we guarantee unbeatable service with every order. Start the purchasing process with us today to see all that Industrials Parts Circuit can do as your sourcing partner!


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