What is a Strain Gauge and How does it work?

Strain gauges are simple sensors that can be used to measure forces. They consist peice of conducting material that changes resistance as it is stretched in a given direction. The diagram below shows this:

Strain gauge.jpg|540x225

Circuitry

Typically, the change in resistance of the strain gauge is very small. In order to accurately measure this small change, special circuitry is needed. For this, a wheatstone bridge configuration is usually employed. There are variants on how this circuit can be arranged; two are presented below.

The first configuration is the simplest method. The wheatstone bridge measures small imbalances in the resistances. Here it is comparing the strain gauge resistance to R 3, which has a resistance equal to the resistance of the unstretched strain gauge. The other two resistors should have similar values.

Simple strain guage circuit.jpg|482x348

Next is a more advanced circuit used for measuring strain in both directions. Two strain gauges are used, and must be positioned carefully, as shown in the second figure.

Advanced strain gauge circuit.jpg\ 300x221 Advanced strain gauge attachment.jpg\ 300x218