Wednesday, June 19, 2024

What is… a Sensor?

I have been playing with radiation sensors my whole career. First, by studying and using them for my own projects. Now, by designing and making them for others’. There is an incredible amount of physics and engineering packed into these beautiful things. Also, as it turns out, sensors are everywhere. Without them, there no safety systems, no automation, no robots, no fancy AI on your phone… In a way, sensors support our entire modern way of life, like some sort of “power behind the throne”. If you think I exaggerate, I suggest you look for them in your daily life.

Put it simply, a sensor is an object that responds to a specific change in its environment.

A “specific change” is some form of energy transfer. A useful sensor is a material that is sensitive to one specific form of energy transfer. Throughout this site I will focus on sensors that produce an electrical response.

For example, a material can be light sensitive: it will emit electrons when it receives light. Think solar panels. Other materials will be sensitive to radiation, heat, movement, etc. My personal favourite are indeed radiation sensors, so I will talk mostly about these.

I will not use much of the technical terminology around sensors, but I do prefer to distinguish a sensor from a detector.

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