Active magnetic levitation and 3-D position measurement for a ball viscometer
We present a new technique for 3-D position sensing and active magnetic levitation of a steel ball for use in a levitating ball viscometer. In order to achieve a stable levitation, a very sensitive positioning measurement system is mandatory. For this task the differential transformer principle was chosen to realize a 3-D position measurement. This leads to a purely magnetic sensor and actuator system without the need for other transducer types such as optical readout. The actuation utilizes power efficient switch-mode electronic circuitry which opens the possibility of upscaling the device, if demanded, for future applications. It is shown that this switch-mode actuation can be combined directly with the position measurement when special switching patterns are applied. A position resolution of ∼ 100 µm in all three axial directions at a sample rate of 476.19 Hz is achieved. For viscosity sensing, the steel ball is magnetically driven to orbital movements of variable revolution frequency of up to 2.5 Hz within a fluid chamber. The frequency response is analyzed and related to the shear viscosity of the fluid under test. As a proof of concept, measurements in various viscous liquids were performed with the prototype, showing promising results in the range of 1–10 mPa s. The principle may also be of interest for applications beyond viscosity sensing, such as fluid mixers, or as actuators in microfluidic devices.