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I am attempting to read two hall-effect flow meters through the audio-in (mic) port of an Android device. I want to be able to read both flow meters independently. The audio-in port is a standard headset port so it only has one channel for the mic.

The first problem is the +5v provided from the audio-in port provides only 2mA which is not enough to power both flow meters. I figured I could splice into the USB cable that would be powering/charging the android device and use its +5v and ground to power the flow meters.

The second problem is knowing which pulse came from which flow meter. I was suggested using an R-2R to mix the pulses into one signal but with voltages (and thus amplitudes) at 25% and 50%. That way, when I read a pulse I know if the pulse has an amplitude of 25% it was from flow meter A, 50% is from flow meter B, 75% is from both. Is this a good approach?

Now the problem is how to feed the output voltage from the R-2R to the audio-in port's ground. It seems I need to use the output voltage from the R-2R to control the voltage of the audio-in port's +5v. After doing some research I found you can use an op-amp to create a "voltage follower" that will match the voltage of one circuit with the voltage of another. Sounds like exactly what I need, but is it?


I put together a schematic as best I could - I am still pretty new to EE. Can I get some confirmation on its correctness? Any changes or improvements?: http://www.digikey.com/schemeit/#1fwi

These are the flow meters I am using now: http://www.adafruit.com/products/828

These are the flow meters I want to use eventually: FT-330 from Gems Sensors (sorry, can only post 2 links - can Google "FT-330" and it's the first and second result).


So far I have been testing with my desktop PC. I wrote a Java app that can detect pulses (interrupts?) from the audio-in (mic) port. I am able to hook up a single flow meter by connecting the +5v from the audio-in port to the +5v of the flow meter and the ground from the audio-in port to the pulse line of the flow meter. I don't know if this is the proper way, but it works in that I get a signal from the flow meter and I can see the pulses like so:

flow meter pulse reader app


Well, I got all my parts in and my circuit does not work.

I discovered my flow meters change between an "on" and "off" state depending on the location of the wheel and do not send out a single pulse like I thought. When they are "on" +5v can be read from the pulse pin to the ground. When they are "off" it is 0v.

The R-2R seems to work. When neither of the flow meters are "on" I read +0.02v from the output of the R-2R (combined pulses) to ground. When only flow meter 1 is "on" I read +0.95v. When only flow meter 2 is "on" I read +1.95v. When both are "on" I read +3.24v. While this will work, I expected to get +1.25v (25%), 2.5v (50%), and 3.75 (75%) respectively. Why don't I?

The op-amp does not do what I want at all. When the op-amp's VCC is +3.24v (both flow meters are on) reading between the op-amp's OUT and the mic's ground gives me -1.2v. Why this negative voltage? I thought that the op-amp would change the voltage from IN+ (mic's +5v) to OUT (mic's ground) to match the voltage from VCC to GND. What am I missing here?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What range of frequencies do you expect to get from the flow sensors? I expect that the mic input on your phone will not work well for frequencies less than 100 Hz or so. The mic input should work well for frequencies between about 100 Hz through 15 KHz or so. \$\endgroup\$ – Dwayne Reid Aug 8 '15 at 21:04
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You have a lot of questions in this post. Next time, I recommend splitting them into a separate posts, or at least numbering them.

1) Yes, you can get 5V from charging USB cable. This will work just fine.

2) Yes, two-resistor approach you are describing is good, as long as you use it with right kind of output (push-pull or open collector). The schematics you have shown assume push-pull outputs, while FT-330 is open collector (you can tell because they require pull-up resistor). It is not clear what kind of output adafruit meter has, but presumably push-pull, since there is no mention of pull-up resistors.

3) I am not sure why you need op-amp at all. It will not hurt, but you should be able to just connect output to microphone's input. The output voltage will drop a bit, depending on phone's input resistance, but this may not be a problem. Only add op-amp once you have established the phone provides too much of a load.

4) The reason your op-amps do not work is because you made an wiring error. From your schematics, your Vcc should always be 5 volt. If you do not see it, triple-check you have assembled everything properly.

extra: from your screenshot, it is clear you have a capacitor on your microphone input (likely inside the phone). As you can see, this has an effect that an 'average' voltage one the input will be 0 volt. You can see it on the graph -- if you give, say +5V volts, then in few tens of ms, the capacitor will charge to +5V and the input will see 0 volts(+5 - +5). If you now give 0V on input, the card will see -5 volts (0 - +5V). But soon, capacitor will discharge and you will see 0V again.

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