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IC 555 based Capacitance Meter Circuit

IC 555 based Capacitance Meter Circuit

In this post we will talk about a couple easy yet very handy little circuits in the form of  frequency meter and capacitance meter using the ubiquitous IC 555.

How Capacitors Work

Capacitors are one of the main electronic components which come under the passive component family.

These are extensively used in electronic circuits and virtually no circuit can be built without involving these important parts.

The basic function of a capacitor is to block DC and pass AC or in simple words any voltage which is pulsating in nature will be allowed to pass through a capacitor and any voltage that’s not polarized or in the form of a DC will be blocked by a capacitor through the process of charging.

Another important function of capacitors is storing electricity by way of charging and supplying it back to an attached circuit by the process of discharging.

The above two main functions of capacitors are used for implementing a variety of crucial operations in electronic circuits which enable getting outputs as per the required specifications of the design.

However unlike resistors, capacitors are difficult to measure through ordinary methods.

For example, an ordinary multitester might have many measuring features included like an OHM meter, voltmeter, ammeter, diode tester, hFE tester etc. but might just not have the illusive capacitance measuring feature.

The feature of a capacitance meter or an inductance meter is seen to be available only in high-end type of multimeters which are definitely not cheap and not every new hobbyist might be interested in procuring one.

The circuit discussed here very effectively tackles these issues and shows how to build a simple inexpensive capacitance cum frequency meter which can be built at home by any electronic novice and used for the intended useful application.

Circuit Diagram

IC 555 based Frequency Meter Circuit Diagram
IC 555 based Capacitance Meter Circuit Diagram

How Frequency Works to Detect Capacitance

Referring to the figure, the IC 555 forms the heart of the entire configuration.

This work horse versatile chip is configured in its most standard mode that is the monostable multivibrator mode.
Every positive peak of the pulse applied at the input that is pin #2 of the IC creates a stable output with some predetermined fixed period set by the preset P1.

However for every fall in the peak of the pulse, the monostable resets and auto triggers with the next arriving peak.

This generates a kind of an average value at the output of the IC for which is directly proportional to the frequency of the applied clock.

In other words the output of the IC 555 which consists of a few resistors and capacitors integrates the series of pulses to provide a stable average value directly proportional to the applied frequency.

The average value can be easily read or displayed over a moving coil meter connected across the shown points.

So the above reading will give a direct reading of the frequency, so we have a neat looking frequency meter at our disposal.

Using Frequency to Measure Capacitance

Now looking at the next figure we can clearly see that by adding an external frequency generator to the previous circuit, it becomes possible to make the meter interpret the values of a capacitor across the indicated points, because this capacitor directly affects or is proportional to the frequency of the clock circuit.

Therefore, the net frequency value now shown at the output will correspond to the value of the capacitor connected across the above discussed points.

That means now we have a two in one circuit which can measure capacitance as well as frequency, using just a couple of ICs and some casual electronic parts. With little modifications the circuit can be easily used as a tachometer or as RPM counter equipment.

Parts List

  • R1 = 4K7
  • R2 = 47E
  • R4 = 3K3,
  • R5 = 10K,
  • R6 = 1K,
  • R7 1K,
  • R8 = 10K,
  • R9 = 100K,
  • C1 = 47n,
  • C2 = 100n,
  • C3 = 100n,
  • C4 = 33uF/25V,
  • T1 = BC547
  • IC1 = 555,
  • N1---N6 = IC4049
  • M1 = 1V FSD meter,
  • D1,D2 = 1N4148

About the Author

I am an electronic engineer (dipIETE ), hobbyist, inventor, schematic/PCB designer, manufacturer. I am also the founder of the website: https://www.homemade-circuits.com/, where I love sharing my innovative circuit ideas and tutorials. If you have any circuit related query, you may interact through comments, I'll be most happy to help!

47 thoughts on “IC 555 based Capacitance Meter Circuit”

      • Hi Swag thks for response. I was going to build Brighthub circuit but noticed it’s a bit different. This circuit is more modern? Do you have a pcb for it? Thks.

        • You are welcome Andrew, I am sorry I do not have a PCB design for this, I wish I could do it for you, however due to lack of time I am not able to do it at the moment…

          • Hi Swag ok I did this circuit. The thing is that I using a volume audio meter don’t know if this is good? Cause when I tried it nothing came.

            • Andrew, the recommended meter is 0-1V FSD moving coil meter, not sure how other meters might work…. this circuit has been thoroughly tested by me.

  1. Sir, I want to ask you that can I replace fsd meter with seven segment display? If yes how can I do that . can you please tell me procedure… Thanks

    • I am sorry a DMM will not work correctly, because the output could be in a continuously vibrating mode which may be efficiently countered only by a moving coil meter

  2. Dear Mr Swagatam,
    Do you have a schematic about ESR meter. Technicians recommend me to check the electrolytic first everytime I come up with a dead circuit, But I dont know how to measure it. Thank you in advance for your answer.

  3. Hello sir,
    1v fsd meter is not available in my area but 6v or up to 6 v fsd are available.Have u any alternate working idea by using another ones.pls help us.

    • hello Tanmay,

      1V is the recommended one, for other higher voltages you may need to reduce R7/R8 proportionately for getting the deflections.

  4. Hello sir, will deflection shows for almost ranges of pF, nF, uF,…..
    Another: sir may u pls reffer about components in above diag. mainly upon which quantity of deflection depends?

    • Hello Ramkumar, the range will need to be calibrated by appropriately setting or selecting the value of R3.

      please refer to the following article to know more details about the components and the functioning:


  5. FSD meter is not showing any deflection. Voltage at FSD meter is 2.2 mV. Voltage at unknown capacitance 7.8 mV. What is the range of this capacitance meter ?

  6. dear sir,
    i try to make this circuit in practical . but fails to get any output deflection on fsd when capacitance is applied. please tell me how to rectify the problem.
    i am getting 2.2 mv in at FSD and 7.8 mV at unknown capacitance side.
    please tell me the range of above meter also.
    please reply soon.
    I am struck.

    • Dear Renu,

      Use a 100k pot in place of R3 and adjust it for calibrating the scale of the connected meter. I have tested this circuit and it worked well for me.

    • Sir,
      I cant find the solution. its not working. R3 didn't help me.
      i wanna share my circuit photograph with you. Please suggest some other option for rectifying my problem. I am using voltmeter as FSD meter.
      What is the range of this circuit.
      Give me another alternative to talk to you for rectifyng my problem.
      i will be highly obiliged.

      thank you for your prompt respose.


    • I am using digital multimeter for this. As i want to know the correct of voltage output.
      I am getting output but its showing me almost same value for most of the different capacitor.
      I want to mesure nF capacitance can it be possible with your circuit?

    • try different value capacitors and try to find the corresponding full scale range of the meter, you can also take the help of R3 by adjusting it to locate the range of the meter which corresponds to the capacitor value.

      yes nF can be measured with this meter, according to me only moving coil type meters will work correctly here, i am not sure about DMMs.

  7. Thank you very much sir, but how will i know about your newly posted article ? Where should i have to search ??
    I request you to construct a one having range of 1 to tens or hundreds of Mhz with seletable frequency ranges using common ics such as CD4040,4017,555 etc but excluding the use of programmable chips. The circuit should also be capable of measuring accurate frequencies. I am requesting such an accuracy since i have faced slight to serious variations of known frequency levels ( which may have occured due to variations in the duty cycle of the waves, inability to detect high voltage peaks of the signal by the ics due to poor signal conditioning etc. )

  8. Sir could you please suggest a suitable frequency divider circuit which can be used in corporation with a digital fequency meter ( which is capable of measuring a maximum of 999 Hz )to measure upto tens or hundreds of MHz by caliberations.
    The divider should have this range
    f/10 to f/10,000 indicated by respective frequency ratio switches

    • Nazriya, yes it can be done either by using many 4017 ICs or a few 4040 ICs. I'll try to post a related article possibly soon in my blog.

  9. Sir i have tested the basic circuit diagram without connecting any galvanometer or binary indicator. On measuring voltages by feeding a 1 Khz wave, i got approx. 0.12 avg. Voltage. On feeding 10 Khz i got 0.4V etc. I understood that voltage increases on increase in freq. But the problem is , very small voltages in small frequency. Actually i want to make such a frequency meter which can be used to measure atleast 50 hz and therefore can be used for the testing at various construction steps of inverter like projects. I don' t need a one with LED displays. I am interested in implementing the above circuit with IC LM3914 but what to do at that lowest voltage levels???? Will U PLZ HELP ME????

    • Nazriya, the above circuit can be used to measure right from 10Hz to 10kHz….you will have to adjust R4/R5 also appropriately for the different ranges of the frequencies…the circuit will not work with a single setting for all the ranges as is true for even highly sophisticated instruments.

      By the way the LM3914 just needs 1 to 5V as input for providing the desired output display, in fact you can tweak the input preset of the LM3914 even to sense voltages as low as 0.2V

  10. Sir if i am gonna use an LED dot indicator using IC LM3914, will it perfectly function as a frequency meter on better caliberations???
    Actually what change is fed to the galvanometer leads in the circuit provided by you??? Is it a voltage change in accordance with frequency???? I am asking you this, because i will be able to implement the ic instead of galvanometer iff voltage fed to it is varied…… The biggest doubt having is, WHETHER THE OUTPUT VOLTAGE AVAILABLE FROM THE IC 55 WILL BE ENOUGH TO DRIVE THE IC3914?

  11. Sir can i use a voltmeter found in submersible pump ( showing reading upto 300 V) be used after any suitable calliberation since 1 V FSD meter is not available in our area.
    If it can't be done, can you please tell me how to employ a binary readout in place of this meter to measure frequency. I have the following ics with me
    4026,4011,4017,4047,4007 and a few 555 and 556 ics and 741 opamps

    • Nazriya, I don't think that would be feasible, because such voltmeters would have a coil with very high no of turns, not possible to modify them

      A different simpler approach could be to use a LM3915 IC for getting an LED bar graph readout

    • Subhramanyam, I don't think 4583 could be interchanged with LC6520, because all IC have different specs, and application procedures.

  12. Dear Swagatham,
    First of all i am congradulating you for this blog being a good success. The peoples like me who are just beginners in electronics can make use of many innovative ideas from here.
    Now i am coming into the subject. I have read this article and impressed much. But it would have been better to modify this with a digital reader using 4 no.s of seven segment displays instead of the analog set up. Can u please help me?

  13. Hello sir,
    I had tried to make the above circuit for capacitor meter.i had used old vu meter for 1v fsd meter.but when i had tested it with 1uf nonelectrolyte caps its showing me a very little deflection which is not enough to clibrate the scale.and i also want to know the use of r3
    (can be variable 100k )and how it is connected i.e.to use only two tip or to use all three.meter needle is giving vibrating reading.i think r8 should be reduced
    Please help me

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