Focusing the Electric FieldWhen a voltage is applied to a conductor, the electric field emanates from every surface. In a capacitive sensor, the sensing voltage is applied to the sensing area of the probe (Figures 3 and 4). For accurate measurements, the electric field from the sensing area needs to be contained within the space between the probe and the target. If the electric field is allowed to spread to other items--or other areas on the target--then a change in the position of the other item will be measured as a change in the position of the target. A technique called "guarding" is used to prevent this from happening. To create a guard, the back and sides of the sensing area are surrounded by another conductor that is kept at the same voltage as the sensing area itself (Figures 3 and 5). When the voltage is applied to the sensing area, a separate circuit applies the exact same voltage to the guard. Because there is no difference in voltage between the sensing area and the guard, there is no electric field between them. Any other conductors beside or behind the probe form an electric field with the guard instead of with the sensing area. Only the unguarded front of the sensing area is allowed to form an electric field with the target.
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