Measuring Inductors

Often you find yourself in the position of needing to wind your own coil for a project, or maybe you come across an unmarked coil in the junk-box. How can you best find out its inductance? An oscilloscope is all you need. Construct a resonant circuit using the coil and a capacitor and connect it to a square wave generator (often part of the oscilloscope itself) Adjust the generator until you find the resonant frequency f.

Measuring Inductors circuit diagramWhen C is known (1000pF) the inductance L may be calculated from: L=1/(4π2.f2.C) If you are also interested how good the coil is i.e. what is its quality factor or Q, you can use the oscilloscope again. If the level of the damped oscillation drops to 0.37 (= 1/e) of the maximum after about 30 periods, then the Q factor of the coil is about 30. The Q factor should be measured at the intended operating frequency of the coil and with its intended capacitor. The coupling capacitor should by comparison be a much smaller value.