How Harsh/Critical Environments Are Driving Sensor Innovation

Sensors Insights by Karmjit Sidhu

Between miniaturization, placement in remote locations and the integration of multiple functions on one unit, sensors are enabling monitoring and control in areas not feasible only two years ago. Thanks to heavy investments in research and development, sensors are increasingly being engineered to withstand extreme conditions.

In an upcoming presentation at Sensors Expo 2017 (How Harsh/Critical Environments Are Driving Sensor Innovation; Thursday, June 29 @ 2:30-3:20 PM), we’ll review a number of design considerations for properly selecting a sensor for rugged applications. 

One example of this is trend is pressure sensors engineered to withstand corrosion resistance in hydrogen storage. Because it’s environmentally-friendly and is available in an abundant supply, hydrogen’s use as an alternative to other elements in petroleum refining has been growing.  


Engineer the Right Sensor for Each Application

But hydrogen poses unique challenges to the pressure sensors installed on the storage tanks.  Corrosion and embrittlement are the two biggest concerns in maintaining the integrity of hydrogen within a tank.  In its simplest form, hydrogen is not corrosive, but when a hydrogen atom is split into a hydrogen ion (two H+ atoms), it can penetrate through thin metal diaphragms.  Over time, hydrogen ions leaking into the sensor cause outward expansion of the diaphragm and lead to cracks and sensor failure.

By employing wetted parts made from 316 L SS (stainless steel), pressure sensors can withstand the permeation of hydrogen ions as well as provide exceptional over-range and burst protection.  Proper selection of sensor construction, including material thickness, surface finish and the use of weld-free joints, reduces the potential for embrittlement, which causes metal to weaken and break. 

Without a critical eye to these specific design elements, a sensor technology may not be engineered to provide the highest degree of reliability in these environments.


Sensors Face Many Other Harsh Elements

Corrosion is only one of many factors that need to be considered when developing sensors for harsh environments.  Selecting the proper sensor for each application can mean the difference between a long term, successful installation and expensive maintenance and system failures.  From temperature and vibration to shock and humidity, sensor technologies need to provide reliable monitoring data and provide that data back to a larger system for analysis and evaluation.

For a more in-depth look at sensors in harsh environments, plan to join us at Sensors Expo 2017 (How Harsh/Critical Environments Are Driving Sensor Innovation; Thursday, June 29 @ 2:30-3:20 PM). You can also stop by TE Connectivity’s booth (#822) to talk more about engineering sensors for harsh environments.


About the Author

Karmit Sidhu is the Global Director Sensor Business Development at TE Connectivity. He can be reached via email at [email protected].