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I understand that for AC clamp meters, a changing magnetic field induces a voltage/current in a wire loop and therefore it is possible to measure AC currents by induction. But how does a DC clamp meter work? In essence a DC current means a static magnetic field, and by Faraday's Law, no voltage/current is induced.

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This is one way of doing it. Ref

A normal transformer can't deal with DC currents. Therefore the operating principle of DC current probes is rather different from AC probes. Here also is the current carrying conductor the primary winding and is inserted through the core opening. There is also a secondary winding, but now it functions as a compensation coil. The core is provided with an air gap that holds a sensor, e.g. a hall-sensor, which measures the magnetic flux in the core.

The current in the primary wire will magnetize the core. This magnetic field is measured with the sensor and as a result of this, the control circuit runs a current through the compensation winding in a way that the magnetic flux in the core is kept zero. As a result of this the core will never be magnetized. The advantage is that the non-linear properties and hysteresis of both the core and the magnetic sensor have little influence on the measurement results.

Beside the described measurement circuit there is also demagnetization circuit. Before using the current probe the core must be degaussed without wires inserted in the core.

Gain can be increased with compensation turns ratio at the expense of bandwidth.


Side Note

True RMS RF power meters work something like above, except instead of magnetic loop matching, they use a thermal resistor and using a bridge to compare RF heat with a DC heater for accurate measurements and obviously much lower bandwidth from thermal time constant, but very accurate.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's very interesting. I'd also like to know how a Marvel clamp meter measures current. \$\endgroup\$ – Almo Nov 24 '17 at 19:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Marvel will detect an inrush condition and immediately start recording a large number of samples during a 100 millisecond period. At the end of the sampling period, the meter processes the samples and tells you the actual starting current. \$\endgroup\$ – Sunnyskyguy EE75 Nov 24 '17 at 21:15
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Static magnetic fields can be measured with an Hall effect sensor.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I know about Hall effect sensors, I didnt know they were also used in clamp meters \$\endgroup\$ – S.s. Nov 22 '17 at 6:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hall sensors are best used in a bridge like my answer because they are very non-linear. In differential mode they are very accurate. \$\endgroup\$ – Sunnyskyguy EE75 Nov 22 '17 at 20:12
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If an AC clamp is put around a wire with DC current, a DC pulse occurs at the output of the winding of the clamp. Feeding that pulse to an integrator gives the current because the pulse voltage is equal with the flux growth velocity through the winding and the final flux is proportional to the current.

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