Important Sensors

Engineers use two important types of sensors—superstar sensors and workhorse sensors. The superstar sensors usually provide information in high-profile applications such as advanced driver assistance systems, and engineers update them regularly for improving their performance. On the other hand, the workhorse sensors are more reliable, providing consistent information on more common applications. These workhorse sensors are simple to use, and meet the necessary performance specifications at reasonable price tags.

For instance, sensors have been readily available for detecting particulate matter in a dusty environment. However, in recent times, governments have tightened their regulations and have changed the definition of the acceptable levels of particulate matter. Advancement in technology has led to the development of small commodity dust sensors capable of being incorporated into mobile devices. This makes it easier for air monitors, air conditioners, and air purifiers to detect airborne dust particles in all types of environments.

Sharp Microelectronics offers a compact optical dust sensor, the GP2Y1010AU0F. It consists of an infrared light-emitting diode and a phototransistor placed in a diagonal position within the device. The phototransistor picks up infrared light reflected by dust particles. As the system is based on optical sensing, the device is thin and compact with dimensions of 46 x30 x 17.6 mm. The sensor from Sharp Microelectronics is sensitive enough to detect very fine particles such as those in cigarette smoke.

Honeywell offers their LLE Series of sensors for sensing liquid levels. Their technology uses a phototransistor trigger. The sensor can detect the presence or absence of liquid and presents the output in digital format. The sensor uses an LED and a phototransistor that Honeywell has placed inside a plastic dome at the head of the device. In the absence of liquid, light from the LED reaches the phototransistor after total internal reflections from the dome. As liquid fills up, it covers the dome, changing the refractive index at the liquid-dome boundary. This prevents light from the LED from reflecting back to the phototransistor, instantaneously switching the output and indicating the presence of liquid.

Omron offers their digital differential pressure-type mass-flow sensor, the D6F-PH. The sensor has an I2C output and uses a mass-flow MEMS chip, a proprietary of Omron. The company has redesigned the internal flow path such that it produces a high-velocity low flow for an impedance sensor to produce differential pressure. Users can buy these sensors in three models—for measuring a specific pressure range while being calibrated for several types of gases.

Measurement Specialties offers their compression load cell, the FC22. This is a low-cost, high-performance, medium compression force sensor. The sensor offers normalized zero and span, and thermal compensation for changes in span and zero as the temperature changes. The sensor is based on the Microfused technology of Measurement Specialties. It uses several micromachined piezoresistive strain gauges made of silicon fuzed with high-temperature glass to a stainless-steel substrate. While competitive designs suffer from lead-die fatigue, the FC22 sensor does not and can measure the direct force with unlimited life cycle expectancy, while offering superior resolution, and high over-range capabilities.