Null or Deflection Type Instruments

About the null or deflection type of instruments

The pressure gauge is a good example of a deflection-type instrument, where the value of the quantity being measured is displayed in terms of the amount of movement of a pointer. An alternative type of pressure gauge is the dead-weight gauge which is a null-type instrument. Here, weights are put on top of the piston until the downward force balances the fluid pressure. Weights are added until the piston reaches a datum level, known as the null point. Pressure measurement is made in terms of the value of the weights needed to reach this null position.

The accuracy of these two instruments depends on different things. For the first one it depends on the linearity and calibration of the spring, whilst for the second it relies on the calibration of the weights. As calibration of weights is much easier than careful choice and calibration of a linear-characteristic spring, this means that the second type of instrument will normally be the more accurate. This is in accordance with the general rule that null-type instruments are more accurate than deflection types.

In terms of usage, the deflection-type instrument is clearly more convenient. It is far simpler to read the position of a pointer against a scale than to add and subtract weights until a null point is reached. A deflection-type instrument is therefore the one that would normally be used in the workplace. However, for calibration duties, the null-type instrument is preferable because of its superior accuracy. The extra effort required to use such an instrument is perfectly acceptable in this case because of the infrequent nature of calibration operations.

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