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Wind Sensor As Hot Wire Microphone

Posted: Sun Sep 07, 2014 2:49 pm
by Mikrotopia
Hi All,

I'm a sound artist and am trying to recreate a DIY Hot Wire Microphone for a WW1 anniversary project.
The idea is to create a simple device that people can put together in a workshop setting (experimenting with technology inspired by WW1 tech) and then use it to make recordings of low frequency sounds.

I know there are other probably simpler ways of detecting low frequency sound but i want to stay true to the original and have the hot wire as part of the design

I wanted to use the Modern Devices Wind Sensor as a starting point. Can anyone give me advice on whether this can be done, how to proceed or how the MD Wind Sensor could be hacked?

Here's some more information on Hot Wire Microphone's:

"The Hot-Wire Microphone


The hot-wire microphone ... does not reproduce sound pressure variations electrically, but is more of a detector of sound and an indicator of its energy. Since the name does crop up from time to time, we'll describe it here for completeness. It is specifically used for low frequencies and for infrasonic signals. It was developed during the 1914-1918 war as a sound ranging device, for acoustic location of artillery to aid counterbattery fire. After the war, Tucker and Paris perfected the hot-wire microphone for infrasonic detection, publishing their results in 1921.

An example of a hot-wire microphone is shown at the right. It consists of a very fine platinum wire placed over the neck of a Helmholtz resonator and heated by a current passed through it. The wire is supported by a thin glass rod and a disc of mica. The disc is clamped between silver rings that make the contacts. When a sound wave of the resonant frequency arrives, air rushes in and out of the neck of the resonator at that frequency. This air flow cools the wire by forced convection, so its resistance decreases. The resistance decrease is easily detected by a Wheatstone bridge. The hot wire of a typical device is 6 μm in diameter, with a resistance of 350Ω and requiring about 30 mA to heat.

A Helmholtz resonator consists of a volume V and a neck of length L and cross-sectional area A. Its resonant frequency is given by the formula in the diagram, where c is the speed of sound. A 125-ml Florence flask makes a good Helmholtz resonator. I measured L = 5.5 cm and A = 1.54 cm2, which gave f = 256 Hz (the physicist's middle C). The actual resonance was an A, or 220 Hz, on the musician's scale, not far off. Without the resonator, the sensitivity of the hot-wire microphone is very low, so practical devices are all resonant. The microphone can be applied to frequencies as high as 512 Hz.

In addition to the DC change in resistance, it is also possible to detect AC variations in the hot-wire resistance. These variations are at twice the sound frequency, since the air blows alternately in and out, and the cooling does not depend on the direction of the air velocity. The hot-wire microphone is, accordingly, not applicable to speech or music. As its use in acoustic ranging indicates, it has a rather quick response. It is useful in a frequency range where other microphones are unresponsive."

Information borrowed from this website:

Any help or advice on this would be great!

Re: Wind Sensor As Hot Wire Microphone

Posted: Sat Sep 27, 2014 1:28 pm
by oz

Sorry about the really slow reply.
You probably figured out by now that the modern device wind sensor is completely inadequate for sound sensing.
The thermal time constant (you may have to Google that) makes it way too slow to detect anything but perhaps 3-4 hz, so not much fun.

It is possible to do this, but you need .0003 " platinum, tungsten or iron-nickel wire, which is really hard to come by, and is also very pricey.
That dimension is NOT 3 mils (.003") BTW but 3 tenths of a mil wire for this. You could also break various light bulbs for some finer filament.
You can't really solder to tungsten (reports vary - some people using acid flux) have reported success. Another technique people use is just
to break a fine grain of wheat light bulb, leaving the supports intact, and connect to the light bulb base. Then put enough current through the filament to heat it substantially
without burning out the filament (buy four or five bulbs for some various losses).

Since you don't really care about the DC voltage, your job is a lot easier.
After you've got the bulb (sans glass) hooked up to some wires, measure the resistance with an ohmmeter. Obtain a resistor in about the same range, which may be only 6-30 ohms, the specific value is unimportant. Hook up a capacitor say 10uf to the junction of the resistor and the hot wire. The top of the resistor goes to V+, the bottom of the hot wire goes to GND. Then it's a matter of hooking up a high enough gain op amp and seeing what you get.

If you haven't given up on the project - or our forum, write to support@ you know where and I'll send you a schematic



It's possible you could use the rev P wind sensor as a circuit - you would need to alter the balance on the bridge - but you could put in a pot for that.
The hardest

Re: Wind Sensor As Hot Wire Microphone

Posted: Thu Jul 23, 2020 7:28 pm
by marktrainer
This is very interesting in order to capture the RMS velocity in the mean flow. I am thinking about using the bulb from a Maglite Mini.

Can you provide an updated schematic. The link provided on the product page does not match the sample I purchased. The sample I have reads "rev.P5" and has a pot as R6 - there are other inconsistencies...

Within the balance bridge, which resistor needs matching? In the schematic posted online, I assume it is R3 (2.21 Ohms)


Re: Wind Sensor As Hot Wire Microphone

Posted: Sat Jul 25, 2020 3:50 pm
by oz
Within the balance bridge, which resistor needs matching? In the schematic posted online, I assume it is R3 (2.21 Ohms)
The pot trims the 10K reference side of the circuit.

I think we'll keep the schematics a step behind actual production. I'm well aware that our products can be produced more cheaply overseas. On the other hand what I've posted so far is more than enough for a knowledge person to build their own or start experimenting.


Re: Wind Sensor As Hot Wire Microphone

Posted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:43 am
by Foxbat_25BM
Does the diameter of the wire have to be .0003 for tungsten or nickel-iron wire, too, or is it a platinum-only thing? Because I'm not finding FeNi wire at this size, and the only tungsten I get at this diameter is powder. And of course, I do find the price of the platinum stuff expensive.

The thing is that I was considering the idea to do a Hot Wire microphone with my son next year if everything goes well (that isn't a given, we have first to move from our flat to some of this property in Greece so that we can have a garden and a shed to tinker in... but I'm getting lost in my own thoughts there) as we recently learnt that my great-grandfather operated one of these during WW1 and I thought it'd be replicable at home.
But then, when looking at the sort of kit it'll require, I guess I'll pass on that plan.

Re: Wind Sensor As Hot Wire Microphone

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:28 am
by oz

I've got some 40 gauge from here ... ifethal-70

Seems like a low cost option if it works. If you send me your address a support@ md I'll send you 10 feet of mine or however much you want in an envelope.

That according to email from people at the site, is the finest gauge the manufacturers want to draw, as it's really soft and hard to work with.

I think for your mic you could just heat it up, in a voltage divider, with a power supply and pick a signal off with a capacitor then run it through an op amp with a whole lot of gain. I imagine it's going to be much more effective in the bass region because of thermal inertia.

I was planning to make an anemometer with it and see if I could get an audio signal from it as a demonstration of speed.

Good luck it's a noble pursuit,
I had no idea they were ever used commercially although I did realize that hot wire anemometers could be used as mics.


Re: Wind Sensor As Hot Wire Microphone

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 11:39 am
by Foxbat_25BM
Oh, that's amazing, I can't thank you enough for that!
I was looking for iron-nickel wire as tungsten is hard to solder and platinum is too expensive for a hobby project, but couldn't find the right gauge, and here you are with that recommendation.

Thanks once again, I'll give feedback as soon as I start working on that project!