Saturday, February 22, 2014

High Sensitivity Vibration Sensor Using Arduino

In my last post I described how to build a High Sensitivity Arduino Sound Level Detector. Another useful type of sensor to determine if something interesting is going on in the environment is a vibration sensor. In this post I use a piezo element as a raw sensor to detect vibration.

I found the raw piezo generated a very small signal. To greatly improve its sensitivity I used epoxy to glue a fishing weight to the piezo sensor. The piezo drives a load resistor of 1M in parallel with a 5.1v Zener diode just to protect the IC's against any large voltage spikes in the event of a large physical bump. I found the raw output of the piezo unsuitable for direct input to the Arduino as it is typically a very small voltage signal and needs amplification, so I amplify the signal from the piezo with a 221 gain non-inverting op-amp using one side of an LM358. I use the other side of the LM358 for a comparator. The sensitivity of the vibration sensor is controlled using a potentiometer for the threshold (negative) input into the comparator. The other (positive) input to the comparator comes from the amplifier of the piezo signal. The output of the comparator provides a direct input to Arduino Uno digital pin 8. To hear when it senses vibration I use a simple piezo buzzer driven directly from Arduino Uno pin 13. Below is the circuit diagram:

... and the breadboard circuit:

Here is the actual prototype:

... and a close up of the piezo element with the fishing weight glued on with epoxy for added sensitivity:

Here is the sketch I used on the Arduino Uno:

If you want to use this as a starting point you can copy / paste from below:


int buzzerDurationMillis = 1000;

void setup(){

void loop(){
    if(digitalRead(VIBRATION_DIGITAL_IN_PIN) == HIGH){
      digitalWrite(BUZZER_DIGITAL_OUT_PIN, HIGH);
      digitalWrite(BUZZER_DIGITAL_OUT_PIN, LOW);
Enjoy. Let me know if you make any cool improvements on this.

Note: if you notice your output locking in on state try lowering the feedback resistor of the op-amp from 220k to something lower, for example 160k.

Update: I later added a 0.1uF capacitor to connect the output from the piezo element to the input of the op-amp, also grounded on the op-amp side using a 100k resistor. This acted as a DC decoupler and effectively lowered the comparator threshold required to detect vibration.

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