Smart Sensors Setting the foundation for future technology trends

Developing low-cost, integrated smart sensor systems to address many measurement challenges is a priority within a number of important applications in areas including the Internet of Things (IoT).

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Setting the foundation for future technology trends


Robust sensor systems that respond selectively to specific chemicals in a wide range of environments are often required to enable more sophisticated measurement and control systems or point of use” measurements. Meeting the physical requirements of a number of these measurement challenge often means that adopting either a conformal or flexible sensor technology offers significant advantage over a planar and physically rigid technology.

Combining printed and flexible electronics with conventional silicon-based electronics i.e. a hybrid technology platform, can often deliver a solution to a measurement challenge that combines the attributes of both types of electronics.

Researchers at the University of Manchester have used polymeric semiconductors to produce flexible,organic field effect transistor (OFET) sensor arrays. These can detect a wide range of gas molecules, including those present in the environment (e.g.
oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide), those given off by food (e.g. amines) and volatile organic molecules (e.g. esters, fatty acids) emitted by humans. Researchers at the University of Cambridge developed a printed operation amplifier (OpAmp that can be combined with the printed OFET sensors to generated an integrated system on a flexible foilsubstrate. The iPESS project combined the research of both institutions to deliver an integrated technology platform that can meet several of the measurement challenges of interest to UK based companies. The KCMC helped to facilitate the interaction between the iPESS project and several companies. This included the development & execution of the number of collaboration projects aimed at the application of the iPESS sensing technology to a number of commercially relevant measurement requirements.

The sensing technology platform developed by the iPESS project is flexible, thin and light and is suitable for applications across a wide range of form factors. Moreover, it was produced with processing from solution that is compatible with commercial printing processes over large areas. The sensor provides sensitive and selective detection of gas molecules at industrially relevant concentrations, while operating at low voltage operation and low power consumption. It also can be integrated into systems utilising conventional silicon electronics to provide specific functionality.

The first phase of the iPESS ran from 2014 to 2017. Following from the success of the first phase a second phase of the project was funded from 2017 to mid-2019.