Types of Strain Gauges : Construction, Working & Function

what is strain gauge

A strain gauge is a device used to measure the strain or deformation of an object. It’s a type of sensor that detects changes in length, compression, or expansion of an object when a force is applied to it. Strain gauges are commonly used in various industries, including engineering, materials testing, and structural analysis, to monitor the structural integrity and performance of materials and structures.

The basic principle behind a strain gauge is that when an object undergoes deformation due to an applied force, its electrical resistance changes. Strain gauges are typically made from a thin wire or foil of a conductive material, such as metal or semiconductor. This wire is then attached to the surface of the object that needs to be monitored for strain.

As the object experiences strain, the wire or foil is also stretched or compressed, causing its length and cross-sectional area to change. This, in turn, alters its electrical resistance. By measuring this change in resistance, it’s possible to determine the amount of strain the object is undergoing.

It is often used in conjunction with Wheatstone bridge circuits, which help amplify the small changes in resistance into measurable electrical signals. These signals can then be processed by electronic instruments to provide accurate strain measurements.

What is a Strain Gauge

Overall, It play a crucial role in various fields by allowing engineers and researchers to understand how materials and structures respond to different forces and loads, helping ensure safety, reliability, and optimal performance.

strain gauge construction

A strain gauge is constructed using a combination of materials and design principles that allow it to accurately measure mechanical strain and deformation. Here’s an overview of the typical construction of a strain gauge:

  1. Base Material: The base material of a strain gauge is a thin carrier or substrate. This substrate provides a foundation for the strain-sensitive elements and helps maintain the structural integrity of the gauge. Common substrate materials include ceramics, polymers, and flexible films.
  2. Strain-Sensitive Element: The strain-sensitive element is the core component of the strain gauge that changes its electrical resistance in response to mechanical strain. This element is usually made from a thin wire, foil, or semiconductor material with high electrical resistance and good mechanical properties. Common materials include constantan (an alloy of copper and nickel), Karma alloy (nickel-chromium alloy), and semiconductor materials like silicon.
  3. Grid or Foil Pattern: The strain-sensitive element is formed into a specific pattern on the substrate, commonly in the form of a grid or a meandering foil pattern. This pattern allows the element to stretch and compress along with the substrate and the object to which the gauge is attached.
  4. Backer Layer: On top of the strain-sensitive element, a backer layer is applied. This layer provides electrical insulation and mechanical protection for the sensitive element. It also prevents the strain-sensitive element from coming into direct contact with the object under study, which could affect its behavior.
  5. Insulating Layer: An insulating layer is often added on top of the backer layer to further protect the sensitive element from environmental factors, such as moisture and contaminants. This layer helps ensure the long-term performance of the strain gauge.
  6. Lead Wires: The strain gauge needs to be connected to external measurement equipment. Lead wires, typically made of highly conductive materials like copper, are attached to the strain-sensitive element. These wires carry the electrical signal from the gauge to the measurement circuitry.
  7. Adhesive Layer: An adhesive layer is applied to the back of the substrate. This adhesive is used to securely attach the strain gauge to the surface of the object being monitored. The adhesive’s properties are crucial in ensuring a reliable bond and accurate measurements.

The overall construction of a strain gauge involves precise manufacturing processes to ensure consistency and accuracy. Different designs and materials may be used depending on the application and the specific requirements for sensitivity, temperature range, and environmental conditions.

Once constructed, the strain gauge is calibrated to determine its gauge factor, which relates changes in electrical resistance to changes in strain. This calibration ensures that accurate strain measurements can be obtained from the gauge’s output signal.

Strain Gauge Construction

working principle of strain gauge

The working principle of a strain gauge is based on the principle of electrical resistance change due to mechanical deformation. Here’s how it works:

  1. Conductive Material: A strain gauge is typically made from a thin wire or foil of a conductive material, such as metal or semiconductor. This material is chosen for its ability to change its electrical resistance when subjected to mechanical strain.
  2. Attachment to the Object: The strain gauge is attached to the surface of the object or structure that needs to be monitored for strain. This is often done using a suitable adhesive that ensures a strong bond between the gauge and the object.
  3. Deformation Induces Strain: When an external force is applied to the object, it undergoes deformation or strain. This strain causes the object’s dimensions (length, width, thickness) to change slightly, including the dimensions of the attached strain gauge.
  4. Change in Electrical Resistance: As the object deforms, the strain gauge experiences a change in length and cross-sectional area. This alteration in its dimensions leads to a change in its electrical resistance. When the object is stretched, the resistance generally increases, and when it’s compressed, the resistance generally decreases.
  5. Wheatstone Bridge Circuit: To convert the change in resistance into a measurable electrical signal, the strain gauge is often connected in a Wheatstone bridge circuit. This circuit includes multiple resistors, with the strain gauge forming one of the arms of the bridge. The bridge circuit is typically powered by a constant voltage source.
  6. Output Signal: As the resistance of the strain gauge changes due to the applied strain, the Wheatstone bridge becomes imbalanced. This imbalance results in a voltage difference, or output signal, across the bridge circuit. The magnitude of this signal is proportional to the applied strain.
  7. Amplification and Measurement: The small output signal from the Wheatstone bridge is amplified using electronic components like operational amplifiers. This amplified signal can then be measured using appropriate instruments, such as data acquisition systems, voltmeters, or other measurement devices.
  8. Calibration: Strain gauges need to be calibrated to determine their sensitivity, also known as the gauge factor. This factor indicates how much the electrical resistance changes per unit strain. Calibration involves applying known strains to the gauge and recording the corresponding changes in resistance and output signal.

By analyzing the output signal in relation to the applied force or deformation, engineers and researchers can accurately measure the strain or deformation experienced by the object. This data is crucial for understanding material behavior, structural integrity, and other relevant characteristics in various applications.

Types of Strain Gauge

There are several types of strain gauges available, each designed to suit specific applications and measurement requirements. Here are some common types of strain gauges:

  1. Wire Strain Gauge: This is one of the earliest types of strain gauges. It consists of a fine wire, typically made of materials like constantan or Karma alloy, that is wound in a grid or serpentine pattern on a substrate. Wire strain gauges offer good sensitivity and are suitable for various applications, including general-purpose measurements.
  2. Metal Foil Strain Gauge: Metal foil strain gauges are made by attaching a thin foil of a strain-sensitive material, such as constantan or Karma alloy, to a flexible backing material. These gauges offer high sensitivity, good stability, and are often used in precision applications.
  3. Semi-Conductor Strain Gauge: Semiconductor strain gauges are made using semiconductor materials like silicon. They exhibit a change in resistance due to mechanical deformation and are commonly used in applications where high sensitivity and stability are required.
  4. Thin Film Strain Gauge: Thin film strain gauges are created by depositing a thin layer of strain-sensitive material, often made of metal or semiconductor, onto a substrate using techniques like sputtering or vapor deposition. These gauges are known for their compact size, high sensitivity, and suitability for small-scale applications.
  5. Bonded Resistance Strain Gauge: Bonded resistance strain gauges are adhered to the surface of the object using adhesive. They are available in wire, metal foil, and semiconductor variations. These gauges are easy to install and suitable for measuring strain in various materials.
  6. Encapsulated Strain Gauge: Encapsulated strain gauges are designed to withstand harsh environments. The gauge element is protected within a casing that shields it from moisture, chemicals, and other environmental factors.
  7. Waterproof Strain Gauge: Waterproof strain gauges are specifically designed to resist moisture and water penetration. They are used in applications where the gauge may be exposed to wet or humid conditions.
  8. High-Temperature Strain Gauge: High-temperature strain gauges are constructed using materials that can withstand elevated temperatures. These gauges are used in applications involving extreme heat, such as aerospace and industrial processes.
  9. Biaxial and Rosette Strain Gauges: Biaxial and rosette strain gauges consist of multiple gauge elements oriented at different angles to measure strains in multiple directions. They provide more comprehensive strain data for complex stress analyses.
  10. Vibrating Wire Strain Gauge: Vibrating wire strain gauges use the change in frequency of a vibrating wire to determine the strain applied to it. These gauges are used in geotechnical and structural monitoring applications.

The choice of strain gauge type depends on factors such as the application’s environment, required sensitivity, temperature range, and measurement accuracy. Different types offer various advantages and disadvantages, making it important to select the appropriate gauge for the specific use case.

Bonded Strain Gauge

application of strain gauge

Strain gauges have a wide range of applications across various industries due to their ability to measure deformation and strain in different materials and structures. Some common applications of strain gauges include:

  1. Structural Monitoring: Strain gauges are used to monitor the structural integrity of buildings, bridges, dams, and other civil engineering structures. By measuring the strain, engineers can assess the effects of loads, temperature changes, and other factors on these structures.
  2. Aerospace and Aviation: In aircraft and spacecraft, strain gauges are employed to monitor the stress and strain on critical components such as wings, fuselage, and landing gear. This information helps ensure the safety and performance of these vehicles.
  3. Automotive Industry: Strain gauges are used in the automotive sector to test vehicle components such as suspensions, tires, chassis, and engines. These measurements aid in optimizing designs for efficiency, safety, and durability.
  4. Material Testing: Engineers use strain gauges to test the mechanical properties of materials. By subjecting materials to controlled loads and measuring the resulting strains, they can determine factors like elasticity, yield strength, and fatigue life.
  5. Medical Devices: Strain gauges play a role in medical devices like pressure sensors, force measurement tools, and equipment used in biomechanical studies to understand how forces affect the human body.
  6. Geotechnical Engineering: In geotechnical applications, strain gauges are used to monitor soil and rock behavior. They help assess the stability of slopes, tunnels, and other underground structures.
  7. Manufacturing Quality Control: Strain gauges are utilized to ensure the quality of products during manufacturing processes. They help identify defects, monitor stresses during production, and ensure consistency in product performance.
  8. Robotics and Automation: Strain gauges are integrated into robotic arms and industrial machinery to monitor forces and ensure precise movement and control.
  9. Renewable Energy: Strain gauges are used in wind turbines and solar panels to monitor the structural health of these installations and optimize their performance.
  10. Research and Development: Strain gauges are a staple in research and development environments where precise measurements of deformation are required, such as in materials science, biomechanics, and product design.
  11. Sports Equipment: Strain gauges are employed in the development of sports equipment, such as athletic shoes, bicycles, and sports gear, to enhance performance and safety.
  12. Oil and Gas Industry: In the oil and gas sector, strain gauges are used to monitor the integrity of pipelines, tanks, and other equipment subject to mechanical stress.

These applications highlight the versatility and importance of strain gauges in various fields, enabling engineers, scientists, and researchers to better understand the behavior of materials and structures under different conditions and loads.

Wire type of strain gauge

advantages of strain gauge

Strain gauges offer several advantages that make them a valuable tool for measuring deformation and strain in various applications:

  1. High Sensitivity: Strain gauges are highly sensitive to even small changes in strain, allowing them to accurately detect subtle deformations in materials and structures.
  2. Wide Range of Applications: They can be applied to a diverse range of materials, including metals, plastics, composites, and even biological tissues, making them versatile for different industries and research areas.
  3. Non-Intrusive: Strain gauges can be non-intrusively attached to the surface of a material or structure, minimizing any alterations to the object being tested.
  4. Real-Time Monitoring: They provide real-time data, enabling engineers and researchers to monitor changes in strain and deformation as they occur, helping to identify potential issues promptly.
  5. High Precision: Strain gauges offer high accuracy and precision in measuring strain, making them suitable for applications where precise data is essential.
  6. Cost-Effective: Compared to other strain measurement methods, strain gauges are relatively cost-effective, especially when considering the accuracy and versatility they provide.
  7. Easy Installation: Mounting strain gauges is relatively straightforward and doesn’t require extensive expertise, allowing for efficient setup and measurement.
  8. Remote Monitoring: Advances in technology have enabled remote data collection from strain gauges, allowing for monitoring and analysis from a distance.
  9. Compatibility with Electronics: Strain gauges can be easily integrated with electronic systems and data acquisition equipment, making it convenient to process and analyze the collected data.
  10. Durability: Depending on the material and encapsulation, strain gauges can be designed to withstand harsh environments, including high temperatures, humidity, and corrosive conditions.
  11. Dynamic Measurement: Strain gauges can measure dynamic events, such as vibrations and impact loads, providing insights into the behavior of materials and structures under varying conditions.
  12. Calibration: Strain gauges can be calibrated to provide accurate measurements for specific materials and applications, ensuring reliable and consistent results.
  13. Non-Destructive Testing: Strain gauges enable non-destructive testing, allowing for the assessment of structural health without causing damage to the object being tested.
  14. Long-Term Monitoring: Strain gauges can be used for long-term monitoring of structures and materials, helping to track changes in strain over extended periods.
  15. Research and Development: In research settings, strain gauges facilitate the study of material behavior, providing valuable insights for the development of new materials and designs.

Overall, the advantages of strain gauges, including their sensitivity, versatility, accuracy, and ease of use, make them a fundamental tool for engineers, scientists, and researchers in various industries and disciplines.

Disadvantages of Strain Gauge

While strain gauges offer numerous advantages, they also have some limitations and disadvantages that need to be considered:

  1. Sensitive to Installation: Proper installation is crucial for accurate measurements. Strain gauges are sensitive to factors such as alignment, bonding, and temperature during installation. Errors in these aspects can lead to inaccurate readings.
  2. Temperature Effects: Changes in temperature can affect both the strain gauge material and the object being measured. Thermal expansion and contraction can introduce errors if not compensated for.
  3. Environmental Effects: Exposure to humidity, chemicals, and other environmental factors can deteriorate the adhesive and strain gauge materials over time, affecting their performance.
  4. Calibration Challenges: Strain gauges require careful calibration to ensure accurate measurements. Calibration is influenced by factors such as the material’s mechanical properties, adhesive properties, and the strain gauge’s electrical properties.
  5. Limited Range: Strain gauges have a limited range of measurement before they reach their maximum strain capacity. In high-strain situations, the gauge might get damaged or become irreversibly deformed.
  6. Intrusiveness: While they are non-intrusive compared to some other measurement methods, strain gauges still require direct attachment to the object’s surface, which can potentially alter the object’s behavior.
  7. Electrical Noise: Strain gauges produce small electrical signals that can be susceptible to electronic noise, requiring proper shielding and signal conditioning to obtain accurate readings.
  8. Brittle Materials: Strain gauges are often made from thin, delicate materials that can be brittle and susceptible to mechanical damage or mishandling.
  9. Complex Analysis: Interpreting strain gauge data might require advanced knowledge of stress analysis and material behavior. In some cases, complex analysis techniques are needed to accurately understand the data.
  10. Single-Point Measurements: Strain gauges provide measurements at the location where they are attached. They might not capture variations or gradients in strain across the entire object’s surface.
  11. Fatigue and Creep: Repeated loading and unloading cycles or prolonged loading can lead to fatigue and creep, causing the strain gauge material to degrade over time and affecting measurement accuracy.
  12. Cost of Equipment and Expertise: Setting up strain gauge measurement systems might require specialized equipment and expertise, which can increase the initial investment.
  13. Wear and Tear: In applications subject to mechanical wear, strain gauges can experience deterioration due to friction and abrasion, affecting their longevity.

Despite these disadvantages, strain gauges remain a valuable tool for deformation and strain measurement in various fields. Proper understanding of these limitations and careful consideration during application can help mitigate potential issues and ensure accurate results.

what is Strain Gauge Rosette

A strain gauge rosette is a configuration of multiple strain gauges arranged at specific angles on a structure to measure strain in different directions. This arrangement allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the strain distribution within the object being measured. Rosettes are commonly used in applications where the strain isn’t purely uniaxial (along a single direction) but occurs in multiple directions.

Here’s how a strain gauge rosette works and its benefits:

A strain gauge rosette typically consists of three or more strain gauges, each oriented at a specific angle to one another. These angles are often chosen to form a known geometric relationship, such as 0°, 45°, and 90°. The gauges are attached to the surface of the object under study using adhesive, just like individual strain gauges.

When external forces or loads are applied to the object, it undergoes deformation in multiple directions. The strain gauges within the rosette detect the strain along their respective axes. By analyzing the changes in resistance from each strain gauge, engineers can calculate the strain values in the X, Y, and shear directions.


  1. Comprehensive Data: A strain gauge rosette provides a more complete understanding of the stress and strain distribution within a structure. This is crucial for accurately assessing how different forces affect various components of the object.
  2. Shear Strain Measurement: Rosettes can measure not only normal (axial) strains but also shear strains, which occur when forces act parallel to the surface. This is important for materials that experience complex loading conditions.
  3. Material Property Determination: With strain values in multiple directions, engineers can determine material properties like Poisson’s ratio, which describes how materials deform under stress.
  4. Structural Analysis: Rosettes are valuable for structural analysis, such as determining the principal stresses and identifying potential failure points.
  5. Stress State Visualization: By combining the strain values from the rosette, engineers can visualize the principal stress state using graphical methods.
  6. Alignment Compensation: In some cases, strain gauges might not be perfectly aligned with the principal axes of stress. A rosette allows compensation for this misalignment.
  7. Real-World Applications: Rosettes are commonly used in fields like aerospace, civil engineering, mechanical testing, and materials research, where complex loading conditions are present.

Usage Considerations:
When using a strain gauge rosette, it’s important to accurately align the rosette with the expected principal directions of strain. This often requires careful placement and alignment during installation. Additionally, the data from the strain gauges need to be properly processed to determine the principal strains and stresses using mathematical formulas.

In summary, a strain gauge rosette is a valuable tool for understanding the complex strain distribution within an object subjected to multiple forces. Its configuration of strain gauges at specific angles provides a comprehensive view of deformation, enabling engineers to make informed decisions about design, safety, and material behavior.

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