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Quiescent-Current Measurement System


The Quiescent-Current Measurement System is engineered to facilitate precise measurements of standby and operating currents in automotive control units like ECUs during breadboard testing and LabCar applications. This breadboard testing simulates the interconnected network of vehicle electronics under lab conditions, allowing for dynamic testing of electrical configurations, software behaviors, and power consumption metrics as if within a prototype vehicle but in a controlled environment.

Quiescent vs. Wide-Range Current Measurement

Quiescent current refers to the minimal electrical currents that automotive electronics consume while in a dormant or standby state. These currents are important for assessing the energy efficiency of electronic components when they are not in active use. However, the full scope of an electronic device’s behavior can only be assessed by also measuring the higher currents it demands during active operations. This is where wide-range current measurement becomes indispensable.

By spanning measurements from nanoamperes in the quiescent state to amperes during full activity, wide-range current measurement provides a comprehensive view that is crucial for several key areas:

  • Precision in Power Management: It enables detailed monitoring and management of how automotive electronics transition between low and high power states. This precision is critical for optimizing battery life and designing energy-efficient systems, especially in electric vehicles where power management directly impacts range and performance.
  • Enhanced Design and Testing: Accurate current measurements across the spectrum aid engineers in refining electronic components to meet operational demands without exceeding power specifications. This ensures components perform reliably under all conditions, enhancing vehicle safety and functionality.
  • Regulatory Compliance and Sustainability: As automotive standards evolve to emphasize lower emissions and higher efficiency, being able to measure and verify a component’s energy consumption across all states ensures compliance and aids in achieving a smaller environmental footprint.
  • Innovation in Automotive Electronics: Understanding both quiescent and operational currents fosters innovation, as engineers can explore new ways to reduce standby power drain and enhance overall energy management. This leads to smarter, more connected, and energy-efficient automotive solutions.

How Wide-Range Current Measurement Works

Wide-range current measurement, also known as quiescent current measurement when specifically referring to the lower end of the spectrum, is essential for evaluating the minimal electrical currents consumed by automotive electronics in their dormant or standby state, as well as the significantly higher currents during active operations. This dual capability to measure from nanoamperes to amperes is crucial for a comprehensive assessment of an electronic device’s behavior under all operational conditions.

  • System Setup: Precise calibration and stringent environmental conditioning ensure that the measurement instruments are fine-tuned to accurately capture the full spectrum of currents, especially the quiescent currents, which are typically minimal but critical for assessing the energy efficiency of devices.
  • Dynamic Range Handling: The system employs sophisticated auto-ranging technology capable of adjusting to the dramatically different current levels that automotive electronics exhibit across various states—from quiescent modes characterized by extremely low current to active modes requiring robust current flow. This adaptive capability ensures precise and seamless transitions in measurement across the spectrum without the need for manual intervention.
  • Real-Time Monitoring: Continuous and real-time data acquisition is essential in monitoring the subtle fluctuations in current that occur as devices transition between different power states and for understanding how devices manage power, particularly how they conserve energy in quiescent states, which can significantly impact battery life and overall energy efficiency.

Wide-range current measurement precisely captures the full spectrum of automotive electronics’ current levels, from minimal quiescent to high operational currents, setting the stage for addressing specific testing challenges with advanced solutions.

Challenges of Wide-range Current Measurement

Developing and testing devices with battery supply often involves fluctuating operating currents due to power management, sleep modes, and various active states. Traditional measurement technologies are often limited in this aspect. The precise measurement of wide-range currents, from the nanoamperes seen in quiescent states to the amperes during full operation, presents several technical and environmental challenges.

1. Range and Sensitivity: Effective measurement systems must handle the vast range from nanoamperes in sleep modes to several amperes during active operation without compromise in sensitivity. The technology needs to detect minimal currents while maintaining the capability to accurately assess much higher currents required during operational states.
2. Accuracy and Resolution: The low magnitude of quiescent currents requires instruments with exceptional accuracy and high resolution. Small measurement errors can lead to significant misjudgments in evaluating the energy efficiency and operational integrity of electronic components.
3. Dynamic Current Changes: Automotive components often switch rapidly between power states, necessitating a measurement system that can quickly adapt to these changes. The system must provide continuous monitoring without interrupting the device’s power supply, capturing transient behaviors accurately.
4. Environmental Influence: Measurement accuracy can be compromised by external environmental factors such as temperature variations and electromagnetic disturbances. Robust system design is required to shield and compensate for these influences to ensure reliable data.
5. Integration and Connectivity: Integrating the measurement technology into existing test setups with varied data communication protocols poses a challenge. Systems must seamlessly connect with different testing architectures to streamline operations and maintain data integrity across platforms.

The Gantner Wide-range Current Measurement System

The Q.raxx XL Slimline A108 2SC is engineered for precise wide-range current measurements in automotive control unit testing featuring an inline dynamic switching (auto-range) capability that enables seamless transitions between quiescent (standby) and operating current measurements. This function is critical for achieving accurate, uninterrupted measurements across a range of operating conditions. Our solution ensures data integrity and measurement consistency, essential for detailed analysis and optimization of automotive electronics, particularly in power-sensitive applications.

Advanced Measurement Capabilities

The A108 2SC system distinguishes itself with its capability to seamlessly transition between quiescent and operational current states without interrupting the power supply. This feature is crucial for capturing the full dynamic range of current demands—from the nanoamperes consumed during standby modes to the amperes used during active operations.

Current Measurement: The system features two channels, capable of measuring quiescent (standby) currents ranging from nanoamperes up to 80 mA. It dynamically switches for operating currents up to 5 A on Channel 1 and up to 50 A on Channel 2, ensuring precise monitoring across a broad spectrum of operational conditions. The accuracy of these measurements is maintained at a remarkable 0.06% in the 80 mA range and 0.2% in the high Amp range.

Voltage Measurement: Equipped with two channels that can handle voltage measurements up to ±60 V. The system offers an exceptional measurement resolution down to 12 µV, enabling detailed analysis of voltage fluctuations and anomalies crucial for advanced automotive diagnostics.

Self-resetting Overcurrent Protection: The measurement system is designed with self-resetting overcurrent protection mechanisms. It also features specialized ventilation to maintain consistent performance and system integrity under various environmental conditions, ensuring reliable and safe operation during extended testing periods.

Applications of this system are diverse

The complexity inherent in automotive vehicle networks necessitates the quiescent and running current measurement of each breadboard or electronic component, such as ECUs and other control units. Understanding the current draw of components in passive vs. active modes, and during the transition between these modes, is vital for evaluating electrical performance and energy efficiency.

  • Measurement of Quiescent and Operating Current: Accurately measures the current drawn by components in their passive (quiescent) state and during active operation, providing essential data for optimizing electrical performance.
  • Measurement of Leakage Currents: Identifies and quantifies current leakages that can degrade battery efficiency and component performance, ensuring the reliability of automotive systems.
  • Energy Balancing: Assists in balancing energy consumption across various components, helping to optimize the overall energy efficiency of the vehicle’s electrical network.
  • Investigation of Complex Sleep Modes: Analyzes the energy consumption during control units’ sleep or standby phases to develop effective energy management strategies.
  • Investigation of Start-up Behavior (Surge, Inrush): Monitors the response of electronic components to sudden increases in power to assess component durability and operational safety.
  • Sleep Mode Dynamics: Provides detailed insights into the energy dynamics of control units during their sleep or standby phases, aiding in developing energy-efficient designs.
  • Surge and Inrush Current Analysis: Monitors the response of electronic components to sudden increases in power to assess component durability and operational safety.

Connectivity and Integration

The Q.raxx XL Slimline A108 2SC is specifically designed for compatibility with an EtherCAT slave, featuring a built-in standard EtherCAT bus coupler. However, it also provides the option to connect to a Q.station UART, enhancing its flexibility in connectivity and data communication. This design ensures the A108 2SC is primed for effortless integration into a variety of testing setups.

Elevate your Testing

For professionals seeking to enhance their automotive testing capabilities with accurate and wide-ranging current measurements, the Quiescent-Current Measurement System offers a sophisticated solution. Integrating the Quiescent-Current Measurement System into automotive testing labs not only boosts the accuracy and scope of current measurements but also enriches the development process by providing deeper insights into component behavior and system interactions, ensuring that your projects meet the highest standards of performance and reliability.

Discover our Quiescent Current Solution

For an in-depth view of how the Quiescent-Current Measurement System can be implemented in your projects, please download our technical solution flyer here.

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Questions about Quiescent Current Measurements?
Talk to our Experts.