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README.md
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README.md

#372 MilliVoltmeterDIY

An ATmega328-based millivolt meter based on a design by Scullcom Hobby Electronics. Uses an LTC2400 ADC and LT1019 voltage reference.

See CustomBoardAndEnclosure for details of the custom PCB and enclosure I made for the project.

Build

▶️ return to the LEAP Catalog

Notes

This project is based on the excellent build tutorial by Scullcom Hobby Electronics #44 - Millivolt Meter MK2

clip

A few changes I've made:

  • LT1019 2.5V voltage reference instead of the ADR4540BRZ
  • direct LCD control instead of I2C (because it is what I had available)
  • some of the buttons moved to analog pins (digital mode) since the LCD uses a few too many pins
  • adjust the controls to a three-button command set.
  • discarded the op-amp buffer, as I found it skewed the reading at the top and bottom of the range
  • altered the calibration method, so the only fixed value in the code is the reference voltage.

Button Functions

I used normally-open pushbuttons on the breadboard, but for the final build I have some normally-closed pushbuttons. The #define BUTTON_LOGIC_ACTIVE_STATE is used to select between HIGH or LOW button logic. Internal pull-ups are enabled so there are no additional external components required other than the push-buttons themselves.

All the necessary functions are implemented with a three-button command set:

  • button 1: calibrate
  • button 2: change the number of digits (precision)
  • button 3: change the second-line function between 3 modes:
    • bar graph
    • hold value
    • raw ADC output

Buffering the Input Voltage

The input signal is tapped from a voltage-divider to provide around 10x attenuation, and therefore support a wider voltage range.

The values used in the voltage-divider are not critical. They just need to be in a suitable proportion to scale back the intended input voltage range to a maximum limit of the reference voltage, and large enough to provide a high-impedence input to the voltage under test.

In my design, I'm using 100kΩ and 1MΩ which support a full-range of around 27.5V

Ideally the reading should be buffered to further reduce coupling with the circuit-under-test, as in the original Scullcom project. I tested buffering with an LMC6482 op-amp, but although it is "rail-to-rail" I found it performed quite poorly at the top and bottom of the range e.g. 0V input still producted a 40mV output on the buffer. I decided to discard the buffer, and just rely on a stiff voltage divider. Note that the Scullcom project used a AD8628ARZ, so perhaps that performs better as a buffer (I will have to get some to try).

I also planned to add a 1N4733 5.1V zener diode to provide some over-voltage input protection (across the lower half of the voltage-divider). However the leakage current introduced a minor non-linearity in the readings. So again, I discarded this idea in favour of the most accurate reading possible.

Using the LTC2400

10kΩ pull-ups are added on the CS and SCK pins to ensure the chip does not go into internal oscillator mode on startup.

The LTC2400 provides a 24-bit measurement with respect to the reference voltage (Vref = x00FFFFFF). This ias received in a 32-bit serial stream:

  • 4 high bits provide status
  • 4 low bits are "sub LSB" and can be discarded without affecting accuracy
  • the 24 bits in between are the actual reading

The status bits help decode the reading correctly:

  • SIG indicates if reading is positive or negative
  • EXR indicates if the reading exceeds the reference range (above or below)

Voltage Reference and Calibration

I'm using an LT1019 2.5V reference (because it is what I had available). This means that the LTC2400 ADC output is all calculated with respect to the 2.5V standard.

I have adapted the code so that the unit performs an automatic calibration with respect to the reference voltage. The only hardcoded value is the reference voltage. How this works:

  • the reference voltage is exposed on a "calibration" test point
  • the +ve input is connected to the "calibration" test point
  • press the "calibration" botton
  • the calibration adjustment factor is calculated to ensure an accurate reading of the reference voltage
  • the calibration adjustment factor is also stored in EEPROM as the default on startup

As a result - as long as the reference voltage is accurate(!) - this approach is agnostic with regards to any input attenutation set in the input voltage divider.

Code

MilliVoltmeterDIY.ino is my version of the code, based on the original Millivolt_Meter_MK2_ver33.ino.

Libraries used:

Breadboard Construction

I initially built this on a breadboard and controlled with an Arduino Uno to verify and refine the circuit.

Breadboard

Schematic

Build

Credits and References