The Sensor Industry: Growth and Transformation Through Innovation

Pratik Gundawar

Innovation is the name of the game when it comes to sensors technology. Different types of sensors are in development for various applications. A lot of ongoing research and development activities have made things possible that were unimaginable before.

From the healthcare sector to agriculture, these sensors have proved their significance. Scientists have developed a sensor that can be installed in a smartphone camera and used to determine chemicals. Additionally, newly developed sensors can monitor the wound healing process.

On the other hand, farmers can be benefits if they know the quality of crops they have grown along with the quality of soil. A handheld crop sensor would facilitate the process. Sensors that can be used for monitoring the moisture content are helpful in the industrial processes. Moreover, sensors that can withstand extreme radiations have been developed for implementation in wireless 5G network connectivity.

The industry for sensors is flourishing with advent of innovative sensors. According to the research firm Allied Market Research, the global sensor market will reach $241 billion by 2022. Following are some of the activities taking place in the industry:

Sensors will be Integrated Into Cameras for Chemical Identifications

Sensors are becoming tiny and offering various capabilities that were not possible before. Spectrometers can detect harmful chemicals based on absorbed and emitted light. However, these instruments are expensive and bulky. Therefore, use outside of the lab is nearly impossible. To overcome this, engineers from University of Wisconsin-Madison created a small spectrometer than can be integrated into a camera without compromising the accuracy. It has low cost of fabrication and provides high resolution. Researchers published the finding in the journal Nature Communications.

The device enables hyper-spectral imaging that gathers the information about each pixel of an image to determine materials and objects, despite the intricate background. They can detect valuable minerals that reside in rocks. The spectrometer is dependent on prisms to bifurcate the light emitted from the object into various wavelengths. Therefore, the photo-detector of the camera can notice and analyze the bands.

For spectrometer to understand the difference between different colors, there must be a long path length for light beams to go through. The team developed tiny spectrometers that can measure nearly 200 micrometers on each of the sides. They are so delicate, that they lie on sensor of the digital camera. There are tailor made materials that can enable the light to bounce back and forth many times before it reaches the sensor. These reflections extend the path for the light to travel without impacting the resolution of the device. These tiny sensors would enable chemical identifications through smartphones.

Wound Healing Will Become Easier with New Sensors

Sensors have found their way into the healthcare industry. Furthermore, it has become possible to monitor the real-time wounds with the help of sensors. Researchers from the Binghamton University, State University of New York, have created a new electronics chip that would enable real-time monitoring of wounds. Matthew Brown, a Ph.D. student at Binghamton University, outlined that the team intends to progress healthcare and offer better understanding of wound care, progression of diseases, and fitness monitoring. The newly developed biosensor can monitor oxygen and lactate on the human skin. It is similar to micro architecture of the skin.

There are gold sensor cables that can attain the similar mechanics as of skin elasticity. The sensor would be an unobtrusive device to the wearer. After all, the better it molds with the skin, the better data it can provide from the patient. Brown added that oxygen and lactate are important bio-markers for monitoring the wound-healing progression. Therefore, there is a lot of research sensor. However, in the best case scenario, it will become a multi-functional sensor that helps in wound healing. There is a free transfer between bio-interfaced electronics and biological tissue. For context, the bio-interfaced system can determine the biochemical events by being invisible to the biological system. Therefore, these sensors will help in the healing process significantly.

Sensors are Useful to Farmers

A new sensor for agriculture can help in determining the quality of crops. The Trimble GreenSeeker handheld crop sensor is an optical sensor that measures plant biomass. The sensor displays those readings as NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index). Then, upon pulling the trigger, the sensor turns on and emits brief bursts of red and infrared light. The sensor measures the amount of light that reflects back. As the trigger engages, the sensor continues to scan the area through generation of continuous light pulses and updates the display.

However, most of the red light is absorbed and infrared light is reflected. Therefore, the density of the foliage is indicated through the relative strength of the detected light. The more dense the foliage is, the higher difference between reflected light signals. Additionally, this measured value shows on the screen. This handheld crop sensor would help farmers in determining the quality of crops as well.

New Temperature Sensor is Being Developed for 5G Applications

Temperature sensors that are capable of surviving the extreme conditions are essential factors in aerospace and military applications. They have also become essential for implementation of the 5G wireless technology. The need for radiation-tolerant devices is increasing. Thankfully, military and government agencies have taken initiatives to cater to them. The research and development activities have taken place recently. Additionally, the ICE Corporation has developed a temperature sensor that can withstand the exposure to radiation. The technique depends upon the Oecanthus Fultoni organic sensing element. In laymen’s terms, we refer to this as snowy tree cricket.

The “chirp” represents a function of temperature and has an Arrhenius equation dependency. Synchronous detection techniques are used for lock-in. Additionally, advanced non-linear filters reject the impulsive noise. Then, the circadian rhythm of the cricket encodes for a phase component in the chirp. Meanwhile, the Park and Clark transforms are start decoding. Finally, the relative time infers and the real time clock (RTC) peripheral function forms so it can be used in 5G applications.

A New Sensor System Will Track Moisture Content

Researchers from Saarbrücken, Germany have developed a new sensor system that can track drying processes in the industrial ovens. Moreover, it can offer air humidity measurements at the high temperature. Researchers have collaborated with various companies to develop a system that can control drying, baking, and cooking processes in the industries.

Additionally, this system can improve product quality, lower energy consumption, and improve the production process. As the food bakes, it is essential to keep track of humidity levels. If more than the required amount of moisture is lost in the process, there will be a loss of required properties in the final product.

However, if with stable humidity levels and accuracy in the bread making process, the final product will come as delicious and fluffy. Professor Andreas Schütze, an expert in the field of sensor and measuring technology, outlined that the precise monitoring of humidity would impact the quality to great extent. The measurement of humidity levels enables control of temperature during production process and saves energy. Moreover, the measurement of moisture is significant to dry wood, coatings, and textiles in the industry dryers. 

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