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Oak Ridge National Laboratory: Sensors – Printing on the fly


A method developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to print high-fidelity, passive sensors for energy applications can reduce the cost of monitoring critical power grid assets.

The sensors use surface acoustic waves, or SAWs, which can pick up changes in temperature, pressure and the presence of gases. In search of a simpler, cheaper alternative to sensors that require elaborate assembly in a clean room, ORNL researchers developed a method to print SAW sensors on substrates of lithium niobate crystal using nanoparticle inks.

The scientists demonstrated that the sensor features can be printed at a resolution of about 10 micrometers, which increases their operating frequency and sensitivity. Ongoing research aims to reach 1 micrometer resolution and to test the sensors in both a simulated nuclear plant application and on essential grid components such as transformers.

“The sensors are low cost, easy to deploy and customizable, and you can make them on the fly,” said ORNL’s Tim McIntyre.

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