Electronic Products & Technology

Lab prints high-fidelity, passive sensors for energy applications

Potential for reducing the cost of monitoring of critical power grid assets

March 4, 2021  EP&T Magazine

A method developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee 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.

ORNL researchers are developing a method to print low-cost, high-fidelity, customizable sensors for monitoring power grid equipment. Source: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

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.

Low cost, easy to deploy and customizable

“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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Oak Ridge National Laboratory is an American multiprogram science and technology national laboratory sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and administered, managed, and operated by UT–Battelle as a federally funded research and development center under a contract with the DOE.


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