PicoScope 5000 Series

FlexRes® Oscilloscopes

PicoScope 5444D PC oscilloscope connected via USB cable to a silver laptop running PicoScope 6 software

High speed and high resolution. Breakthrough ADC technology switches from 8 to 16 bits in the same oscilloscope.

From just £809

Find out more  

Observing the changes in the charge in the atmosphere close to the surface of the Earth: results

Data Logger science experiment

Figure 3 below shows a quiet evening when the conditions were very still. Theresuitable for ages 16-19 KS5 is a slow cycle of activity visible that appeared to be a large tree situated some 50 feet from the sensor antenna swaying in the breeze.

No other source of the variation was visible, and careful observation of the instrument and the tree indicated that this was indeed the case. It is possible that the tree was acting as an antenna, and the variation is due to change in field strength.

evening charge results

Figure 3: Evening charge results

Figure 4 shows a heavy shower with some electrical activity associated with it approaching and passing in the distance. The recording starts with a shower drifting by in the distance with a second shower approaching and causing the local field level to start rising to the point where the meter was disconnected and the experiment stopped.

nearby storm results

Figure 4: Nearby storm results

Figure 5 shows the effect of charged particles from a crawler tractor being blown toward the antenna whilst it was working. The tractor in question was a large Cat D8, and the driver was throttling up to turn close to the antenna causing the spikes that can be seen to occur.

diesel results graph

Figure 5: Diesel exhaust results

he results in Figure 6 were obtained after installing an electronic weather station, allowing more detailed observations to be made.

The experiment was started at 19:40 on the 07/06/03, the following conditions were recorded:

  • Air temperature 21.3 °C
  • Wind direction South West
  • Wind speed 1.5 m/s
  • Barometer steady 1009.8 mb

The data logger was set to 1 s sampling, so tending to smooth excursions, but changes look fairly slow anyway.

Visual observation indicated an evening sky, going milky blue.

The experiment was monitored, activity observed to be predominantly positive, occurred at 4200 seconds (20:50 local) coinciding with the sky becoming cloudy, but remaining dry.

By 21:25, it was getting dark, the outside temperature down to 18.9°C. with the wind still from the South West, windspeed still 1.5 m/s and the sky continuing to cloud over. The barometer remained steady at 1009.9.

dusk charge results

Figure 6: Charge results at dusk

Teachers’ notes

Safety issues

Extreme caution should be exercised when using an external antenna as potentially dangerous voltages can build up.

As the weather is unpredictable this experiment should ideally be left running for extended periods of time.

Target age groups

Ages 16 to 19+ (Science Key Stage levels 5+)


Here the change in charge in the atmosphere can be detected and logged with an ADC-16, and the effect of approaching rain shown, together with the effects of thunderstorms and the passing over of clouds. Additionally the setup can detect the charge generated in exhaust smoke/fumes. All AS/A level Physics courses have sections on electrostatics and most courses in Meteorology would also address such phenomena. It might also provide an interesting investigative task for a slightly younger age group, though their understanding of the phenomenon and the detection technique would obviously be rather limited.


  • The kit (2408B) is of obvious quality, easy to setup and calibrate and the free to download software has a reasonable learning curve. Superb kit, superb support, what more can I say.

    Rop Honnor
  • I have been using my 4224 PicoScope for years. I travel abroad so this has been ideal due to its physical size. Storage of waveforms on my Laptop is very easy allowing me to quickly email waveforms to my Colleagues.

  • Not many USB scopes works on Win & Mac & Linux too, so that proves me that guys from Pico really cares about us, customers. This made my decision much easier when I was looking to buy an USB scope.

    Raul Trifan
  • We have been using Picoscope 6404D for quite some time, and are amazed by its accuracy and powerful emulations while working with numerous signal evaluations.

    J Mohanty
  • PicoLog TC-08: This is a very nice unit that works consistently and reliably.

    Jeff Hulett
  • It is a great scope. I had a weird problem - it did not work on one of my PC’s. Customer service gave me first class service. If I could give 6 stars for customer service - I would do so.

    Niels Larsen
  • Perfect Partner for Development of Encoder controlled Stepper Motor Actuators. Since the included software is really stable, this type of device is a great tool for great tasks!

    Helmut Schoettner
  • A superb piece of equipment worth its weight in gold

    Nigel Clinch
  • So simple to use & beats any other I have ever used hands down.

    John D Samsing
  • Great functionality in a compact size. I really like moving the mouse pointer to a position and having the Time and Voltage display the values at that point. Calibration equipment is a breeze with that feature.

    Don Horein

PC oscilloscope and data logger products