Dynamometer Review

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Dynamometer Review

A dynamometer or "dyno" for short, is a device for measuring force, moment of force (torque), or power. For example, the power produced by an engine, motor or other rotating prime mover can be calculated by simultaneously measuring torque and rotational speed (rpm).

A dynamometer can also be used to determine the torque and power required to operate a driven machine such as a pump. In that case, a motoring or driving dynamometer is used. A dynamometer that is designed to be driven is called an absorption or passive dynamometer. A dynamometer that can either drive or absorb is called a universal or active dynamometer.

In addition to being used to determine the torque or power characteristics of a machine under test (MUT), dynamometers are employed in a number of other roles. In standard emissions testing cycles such as those defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), dynamometers are used to provide simulated road loading of either the engine (using an engine dynamometer) or full powertrain (using a chassis dynamometer). In fact, beyond simple power and torque measurements, dynamometers can be used as part of a testbed for a variety of engine development activities such as the calibration of engine management controllers, detailed investigations into combustion behavior and tribology.

In the medical terminology, hand dynamometers are used for routine screening of grip strength and initial and ongoing evaluation of patients with hand trauma and dysfunction. They are also used to measure grip strength in patients where compromise of the cervical nerve roots or peripheral nerves is suspected.

In the rehabilitation, kinesiology, and ergonomics realms, force dynamometers are used for measuring the back, grip, arm, and/or leg strength of athletes, patients, and workers to evaluate physical status, performance, and task demands. Typically the force applied to a lever or through a cable are measured and then converted to a moment of force by multiplying by the perpendicular distance from the force to the axis of the level.

Principles of operation of torque power (absorbing) dynamometers:

An absorbing dynamometer acts as a load that is driven by the prime mover that is under test (e.g. Pelton wheel). The dynamometer must be able to operate at any speed and load to any level of torque that the test requires.

Absorbing dynamometers are not to be confused with "inertia" dynamometers, which calculate power solely by measuring power required to accelerate a known mass drive roller and provide no variable load to the prime mover.

An Absorption dynamometer is usually equipped with some means of measuring the operating torque and speed.

The dynamometer's Power Absorption Unit absorbs the power developed by the prime mover. The power absorbed by the dynamometer is converted into heat and the heat is generally dissipated into the ambient air or transferred to cooling water which is dissipated into the air. Regenerative dynamometers, in which the prime mover drives a DC motor as a generator to create load, make excess DC power and potentially, using a DC/AC inverter, can feed AC power back into the commercial electrical power grid - where the power produced is eventually converted back into heat (as in an oven or light bulb, etc).

Absorption dynamometers can be equipped with two types of control systems to provide different main test types.

Constant Force
The dynamometer has a "braking" torque regulator, the PAU (Power Absorption Unit) is configured to provide a set braking force torque load while the prime mover is configured to operate at whatever throttle opening, fuel delivery rate or any other variable it is desired to test. The prime mover is then allowed to accelerate the engine through the desired speed or rpm range. Constant Force test routines require the PAU to be set slightly torque deficient as referenced to prime mover output to allow some rate of acceleration. Power is calculated based on torque x rpm / 5252 + calculated power required for the acceleration rate that occurred.

Constant Speed
If the dynamometer has a speed regulator (human or computer), the PAU provides a variable mount of braking force (torque) that is necessary to cause the prime mover to operate at the desired single test speed or rpm. The PAU braking load applied to the prime mover to can be manually controlled or determined by a computer. Most systems employ eddy current, oil hydraulic or DC motor produced loads because of their linear and quick load change ability.

Power is calculated based on torque x rpm / 5252.

A motoring dynamometer acts as a motor that drives the equipment under test. It must be able to drive the equipment at any speed and develop any level of torque that the test requires. In common usage, AC or DC motors are used to drive the equipment or "load" device.

In most dynamometers power (P) is not measured directly; it must be calculated from torque (τ) and angular velocity (ω) values or force (F) and linear velocity (v):


P is the power in watts
τ is the torque in newton metres
ω is the angular velocity in radians per second
F is the force in newtons
v is the linear velocity in metres per second

Division by a conversion constant may be required depending on the units of measure used.

For imperial units,

Php is the power in horsepower
τlb·ft is the torque in pound-feet
ωrpm is the rotational velocity in revolutions per minute
For metric units,

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