Basics of Instrumentation, Measurement and Analysis

Fall semester 2011, 4CP

Lecturers: Alexei Vyssotski (
                Alessandro Canopoli (

Time of the course: Tuesday 8.00-12.00
Results of voting: total participants - 11, for Monday morning - 7, for Monday afternoon - 2, for Tuesday morning - 9.

Location: Irchel room Y35 E30

Recommended literature
Franklin Bretschneider  &  Jan R. de Weille
Introduction to Electrophysiological Methods and Instrumentation
Elsevier, 2006

Paul Horowitz & Winfield Hill
The Art of Electronics
Cambridge University Press, 1989
The first chapter of this book

LabVIEW Fundamentals
National Instruments, August 2005

Additionally, the best guide is always the LabVIEW help. Try Ctrl+?



(to be populated)

Introduction to electricity: Electric charge, Current and Potential. Resistance, Capacitance and Inductance. Direct and Alternating Current. Frequency. Unwanted properties, Impedance. Ohm and Kirchoff’s laws. Voltage and current measurements. Exercise A: Ohm low + measurement of “virtual brain” stimulating current by voltage drop on a resistor by oscilloscope. Soldering introduction.

Correction of B & W book: Equation on p. 6 and following explanation are not correct. It should be U = L*dI/dt. For explanation see H&H p. 28. Equations on p.13 are wrong, as they don't take into account the phase shift between voltages on R and L.. The correct is Z = R+i*Omega*L, where i^2 =-1. For explanations see H&H pp. 31-32.

Composition of unequal components: Filters. Response of high/low-pass RC-filters to the voltage step and sinusoidal wave. Exercise B: exploring characteristics of a simple passive low-pass, high-pass and band-pass filters. Signals will be generated by the signal generator and analyzed with the help of oscilloscope.
pp. 25-33 B & W
Exercise B.pdf


Signal conditioning before digitization. Exercise C: Building operational amplifier (OA) band-pass filter for the microphone – microphone preamplifier. Test of the filter frequency response. Signal from the piezoelectric microphone consists from a constant shift from the ground about 0.9V and the alternative component in range of +/-50mV. To digitize such signal one should remove the constant component and very low frequencies (<20 Hz) from the signal by the high-pass filter. However, frequencies of most human speech harmonics lie above 100Hz, thus, we shall take the signal above this boarder. Afterwards one has to amplify it to make the output compatible with the standard audio recording equipment that has input range +/-1 V. Also, frequencies of most of harmonics in human speech lie below 10 kHz. Thus, we shall take the signal in frequency range 100 Hz - 10 kHz. We shall learn how to realize all these functions utilizing only one operational amplifier.
Datasheets: Amplifier_opa2350.pdf, Microphone_KPCM_G60H50_44DB_1184.pdf.


8.00 - 9.00: Discussion of Exercise C.
9.00 - 12.00: Introduction to LabVIEW (given by Alessandro): graphical programming, data acquisition, basic exercises. Loops, data format, sub vi's, saving data to files, arrays, timing.
Exercise D.

Please check out some of the videos in the "Getting Started with LabVIEW" playlist from the LabVIEW YouTube channel:
They are an excellent introduction to some basic features of LabVIEW.

Highly recommended are:
Writing Your First LabVIEW Program
Data Flow Programming Basics
LabVIEW Data Types
Using Debugging Tools in NI LabVIEW
Using the Tools Palette in NI LabVIEW
Using Arrays in NI LabVIEW
Using LabVIEW Case Structures
Using Loops in LabVIEW


8.00 - 9.00: Analog to digital conversion, Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem.
9.00 - 12.00: Data acquisition and control in LabVIEW (given by Alessandro). Exercise E: Record and save a sound wave file, control an LED.

9.00 - 12.00: Introduction to parallel loops. Queues. Exercise F.

8.00 - 12.00: Measuring high-resistance and low-capacitance. Exercise G:   Building an impedance meter for microelectrodes, testing the impedance of metallic electrodes. Knowing the impedance of electrophysiological recording electrode is important for estimation of its recording capabilities – number of cells that can be recorded or separated, sensitivity to noise and etc. However, current that one should pass through such electrode for the measurement should not be too high: cells in the vicinity of the electrode tip can be destroyed. For the extracellular recording electrode the current should not exceed 30 nA. Most of electrical activity of single cells (spikes) lie in the frequency range 300-3000 Hz. Thus, to estimate suitability of the electrode to record such activity, its impedance is usually measured at 1000 Hz. To measure the impedance of the microelectrode we shall generate 30nA sinusoidal current with the help of signal generator and current-limiting resistor. We shall estimate the impedance of the electrode by the voltage drop on it looking at the oscilloscope. Phase shift between the generator output and signal at the electrode will allow estimate resistive (active) and capacitive parts of electrode impedance separately. Preliminary measurement of voltage drop of at non-immerged in the solution (“virtual brain”) will allow to subtract the parasitic impedance of conductive wires to get precise estimate of the electrode impedance.

9.00 - 12.00: Finalizing Exercise G.  
8.00 - 12.00: Electrochemistry, electrolytes, AgCl electrode. Metal electrodes goldplating. Measuring electrode impedance before and after goldplating. Electrical processes in living organisms take place in watery solutions containing salts, proteins, carbohydrates and a host of other organic and non-organic substances. These processes are dominated to a large extent by various salts. Therefore, we will need a good understanding of the properties of electrolyte solutions and of the processes associated with them. In addition, most methods to get measurements from the wet medium are carried out with electronic instruments, which must be connected somehow to the process studied. Therefore, we are interested also in the processes at the electrodes used for measurement and stimulation. Exercise H: Goldplating of the metal electrode. Measuring its impedance before and after goldplating. Fabrication of AgCl electrode by electrochemical oxidizing the silver wire in 0.5M KCl solution (forming silver chloride layer). Measuring I/V behavior of the electrode before and after oxidizing.
SIFCO Process Gold (Alkaline) Material Safety Data Sheet: MSDS-3023.pdf.

8.00 - 12.00: Introduction to serial communication and buses: asynchronous (RS232, 485, 422), synchronous (SPI, I2C). Introduction to digital sensors. Many modern sensors of physical parameters (temperature sensors, magnetic field sensors, etc) have encapsulated in the chip electronics that provides already digitized output. There are two main benefits of such approach: improved signal to noise ratio and decreased system cost. Such sensors typically have a serial interface. We shall take a look at some common serial interfaces. Exercise I: Connecting I2C hall-effect position sensor to the computer. Reading data from it.
Datasheets and descriptions
Hall-effect position sensor NSE-5310 datasheet: NSE-5310_Datasheet_v1_0.pdf
Experiment board WaveShare EX-F320 introduction: DevBoard_C8051F320_Introduction.pdf
Experiment board WaveShare EX-F320 scheme: C8051F320_Sch.pdf
NI USB-8451 port map: C8051F320_NI_port_map.pdf
NI-845X Hardware and Software Manual: USB-845X_HardwareSoftware.pdf
Exclusively for curious people - C8051F320 datasheet: C8051F320_1.pdf

11 - 13

9.00 - 12.00: Real-time control. Feedback, close loop control of the microdrive in Labview. In many cases one needs not only to measure the physical parameters, but also influence on the experimental system in real time depending on results of measurements. We shall study how to achieve precise (about 1 micrometer) positioning of the microdrive for the microelectrode depending on the signal from position sensor. Exercise J: Moving microdrive to a predetermined position.

The basic LabView2010 library of I2C examples can be taken here: Basic.llb.
This library should be already preinstalled in all Windows computers in the lab. Just go to LabView menu "Help" -> "Find Examples..." Then search for "I2C".

Piezo motor driver NSD-2101 datasheet: NSD-2101_Datasheet_v0_5.pdf

Please direct all questions to Alexei Vyssotski
Last updated December 21, 2011

2011 Alexei Vyssotski