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topic 2742

Need to measure 16,000 Amps DC


Can anyone help me find a source for an ammeter to measure DC Current up to 16,000 amps. I would really like to get a portable device that could clamp-around 8" buss bar. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

David Sugg
steel - Malvern, Pennsylvania

VOM meter

The way a commercial ammeter, such as is used on a rectifier, works is like this--

A short section of the busbar is cut out and a block of slightly resistive metal, called a shunt, is inserted so all the current has to flow through the shunt. The resistance of the shunt is chosen so that there will be a specific voltage drop (usually 50 mV) across the shunt when 16,000 Amps are going through it. So if we read a drop across it of 25 mV, the current is 8000 Amps, so the dial of the ammeter is marked accordingly.

Since the bus bar also has a specific resistance, you could measure the drop across a marked length of busbar with a simple hand-held millivoltmeter and translate that to an amperage reading. Install test points in the bus, maybe 10 feet apart, calculate or measure the mV drop at 16,000 Amps and calibrate. This makes any cheap $10 millivolt meter into a high-current ammeter. I haven't actually done it, but at the moment it sounds good on paper.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


IF you can turn the current off and on again, what you are looking for is called a Rogowski coil. Search for that name on the web, and look for the company that makes one that has a quick connect break in the loop of flexible insulated coil. A Rogowski coil is a spiral coil wound on an insulator with no magnetic permeability difference from air. The ends of the spiral coil wire are led back along the side of the spiral right next to it, so they do not form an effective loop that would "measure" some of the magnetic field. So, what does measure the field is all those little spiral circles measuring fields all along the path of the coil form (which starts and ends at the same spot when closed). The open circuit voltage of all these equal sized, equally sensitive loops is added together because they are connected in series, and the closed path they follow around the big conductor in the middle makes the voltage proportional to that conductor's current CHANGE. IF the big conductor current has to remain undisturbed, a rogowski coil can't help, since it measures change, not steady current, and you integrate it's output to get current vs. time. If you wanted to measure a steady buss bar current, and had a good, accurate, well zeroed integrator on a rogowski coil, you might be able to zero calibrate it off the conductor, then start integrating while undoing the coil break, looping the ends around the conductor, and connecting the coil break, then freeze the measurement. Then the current change would be the DC current.

John Griessen
metal works - Austin Texas

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