# What does "resistor as a reference" means?

I have a book with some projects examples that use Arduino, one of the projects use piezo to detect vibrations. The book says the following:

When plugged into 5V, the sensor (piezo) can detect vibrations that can be read by the Arduino's analog inputs. You'll need to plug in high value resistor (like 1-megaohm) as reference to ground for this to work well.

The book also says in other page:

Lower resistor values will make the piezo less sensitive to vibrations.

What does this mean? What does "resistor as a reference" means? And why would the piezo be less sensitive with less value resistors?

I don't have any experience in electronics, I started learning one week ago, and resistors are one of the most confusing things for me.

Project's circuit scheme:

• piezo parts are high impedance and dont generate much current but with small currents going thru high R values like 1 Meg, you get V=IR ( sorry megaohm) Jan 12, 2019 at 7:25
• If you add the schematic diagram into your question we may be able to help you better. Jan 12, 2019 at 10:06
• @Transistor Done Jan 12, 2019 at 11:05
• Where are you getting these weird white-on-brown schematics, anyway? They look like they're printed on wood or something. Jan 12, 2019 at 13:08
• @DaveTweed from the book I mentioned in the question, the book has some projects and in each project there is scheme for the circuit used in the project, I captured it. Jan 12, 2019 at 13:11

In very simple terms, the piezo transducer can give out highish voltages when subject to vibrations. The piezo transducer has extremely high internal resistance - you can try to measure it on the highest range of your multimeter ohms range - so the current it can give out is very low. As a result we call this a "high-impedance source". (Impedance can be thought of as resistance to current flow.)

Your microcontroller analog input has an input range of 0 to 5 V DC and to get best use of this our signal into it should be in that range of voltages. A 0 to 0.5 V signal, for example, would only use 1/10 of the range of the ADC (analog to digital converter) and for your microcontroller I think that would give you 102 possible values out of 1024.

To maximise the voltage from your weak transducer you need to feed the small current into a high value resistor. With the 1 MΩ value in your circuit we can see from Ohm's Law that you will reach 5 V when the current from the transducer is $$\ I = \frac {V}{R} = \frac {5}{1M} = 5 \ \mu \text A \$$.

The design of the circuit isn't great. The transducer may give out negative voltages or voltages higher than 5 V and they are relying on the microcontroller's internal protection diodes to prevent damage to the IC. A commercial design would be likely to include external protection.

You'll need to plug in high value resistor (like 1-megaohm) as reference to ground for this to work well.

I think we've covered this. The resistor converts the current from the transducer to a voltage for the microcontroller.

Lower resistor values will make the piezo less sensitive to vibrations.

We've covered this. A lower value resistor will result in a lower voltage for a given current from the transducer.

What does "resistor as a reference" means?

It is a poor choice of words. It is really a "load" for the piezo to convert current to voltage.

And why would the piezo be less sensitive with less value resistors?

Explained above.

Resistors are one of the most confusing things for me.

Resistors can be used to limit current in a circuit, decrease the voltage or to convert current into voltage. Keep up your studies and you will start to see where they are used and why as you read more circuits.