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New multi-purpose pressure sensor

Published: 21 September 2005

A new sensor is being developed for the aerospace industry which will also have applications in medicine and the automotive industry. The sensor could be cheaper and more effective than others on the market.

Engineers from the School of Electronics & Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton and Brunel University have been commissioned by Ellison Sensors International, based in Wales, to design a sensor to measure pressures in jet engines.

Research into traditional methods of pressure measurement, which use a foil gauge bonded into a diaphragm, revealed that factors such as temperature and age of the device can impair the accuracy of the measurement.

The new sensor, which is based on resonant sensing, replaces the foil track with a resonant sensing element. This is excited into resonance using screen-printed smart piezoelectric materials and offers significant improvements in measurement over traditional methods.

Andrew Frood, a PhD student at ECS commented: "The applications of this sensor are both varied and exciting, ranging from sensors small enough to be inserted in a patient's blood stream giving a continuous readout of their blood pressure, to a sensor capable of monitoring the high pressures in a jet engine. The low cost of production could also open up new areas of mass deployment of the sensors bringing safety benefits such as cheap tyre pressure monitoring through sensors embedded in the tyres."

Albert Ellison, Managing Director of Ellison Sensors International added: "We are very excited about this pressure sensor which will work well in high temperature environments such as the aerospace industry. It will be the first sensor on the market capable of measuring a full range of pressures which will also make it suitable for a wide variety of applications."

A prototype of the sensor is due to be available in six months' time with the final product available in 2007.

Notes for editors

  1. Images are available from Joyce Lewis.
  2. Andrew Frood is based in ECS' Electronic Systems Design group which is internationally recognized in two areas - the development of novel algorithms and methodologies to underpin EDA tool development for large system design and test, and for intelligent sensor microsystems. These areas occupy different ends of a spectrum of activities - the Group has interests in all aspects of system design and development, all along the information processing chain. For further information about the group, please visit: http://www.esd.ecs.soton.ac.uk/.
  3. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University has around 20,000 students and 5000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £270 million.

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