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Sensors

A sensor (also called detectors) is a converter that measures a physical quantity and converts it into a signal which can be read by an observer or by an (today mostly electronic) instrument. For example, a mercury-in-glass thermometer converts the measured temperature into expansion and contraction of a liquid which can be read on a calibrated glass tube. A thermocouple converts temperature to an output voltage which can be read by a voltmeter. For accuracy, most sensors are calibrated against known standards. Sensors are used in everyday objects such as touch-sensitive elevator buttons (tactile sensor) and lamps which dim or brighten by touching the base. There are also innumerable applications for sensors of which most people are never aware. Applications include cars, machines, aerospace, medicine, manufacturing and robotics. A sensor is a device which receives and responds to a signal. A sensor's sensitivity indicates how much the sensor's output changes when the measured quantity changes. For instance, if the mercury in a thermometer moves 1 cm when the temperature changes by 1 °C, the sensitivity is 1 cm/°C (it is basically the slope Dy/Dx assuming a linear characteristic). Sensors that measure very small changes must have very high sensitivities. Sensors also have an impact on what they measure; for instance, a room temperature thermometer inserted into a hot cup of liquid cools the liquid while the liquid heats the thermometer. Sensors need to be designed to have a small effect on what is measured; making the sensor smaller often improves this and may introduce other advantages. Technological progress allows more and more sensors to be manufactured on a microscopic scale as microsensors using MEMS technology. In most cases, a microsensor reaches a significantly higher speed and sensitivity compared with macroscopic approaches. There are a wide variety of sensors and transducers available for measuring pressure, level, humidity, and other physical properties. The sensor is the part of the control system, which experiences the change in the controlled variable. The sensor may be of a type where a change in temperature results in a change of voltage or perhaps a change in resistance. The signal from the sensor may be very small, creating the need for local signal conditioning and amplification to read it effectively. A small change in resistance signalled by a sensor in response to a change in temperature, may, for example, be converted to an electrical voltage or current for onward transmission to the controller. The transmission system itself is a potential source of error. Wiring incurs electrical resistance (measured in ohms), as well as being subject to electrical interference (noise). In a comparable pneumatic system, there may also be minute leaks in the piping system. The term 'thermostat' is generally used to describe a temperature sensor with on/off switching. 'Transducer' is another common term, and refers to a device that converts one physical characteristic into another; for example, temperature into voltage (millivolts). An example of a transducer is a device that converts a change in temperature to a change in electrical resistance. With pneumatic devices, the word 'transmitter' is frequently encountered. It is simply another description of transducer or sensor, but usually with some additional signal conditioning. However, the actual measuring device is usually termed as the sensor, and the more common types will be outlined in the following Section. More items… Can you submit more information?

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20th Jan 2015

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