New low-cost super strong micro-sensors set to save lives

Scientists have developed new micro sensors that are so strong that they can withstand corrosion and temperatures of more than 500oC, meaning they can be used in extreme conditions such as oil pipelines to detect for any early signs of deterioration.

“When used in pipeline systems, these new sensors can detect drops in flow rates to prevent catastrophic events such as gas pipe explosions,” says Dr Hoang-Phuong Phan, from Griffith University.

Current sensing technologies rely on silicon, a materials which can be found in mobile phones or computers, but silicon devices can only work at temperatures below 150oC.

Dr Phan and his colleagues developed silicon carbide – a robust material which is tolerant to harsh environments. The sensitivity of these sensors can be improved by reducing their dimension down to nanometer scale, meaning they can quickly detect any changes in pressure, strain or shock.

Griffith University created the world’s first silcon-carbide-on-glass ‘wafer’ with diameters up to 150mm. This means that the mass production is possible, with more than 5,000 sensors can be fabricated in one process, making it affordable for a wide range of applications.

“Our technology is promising for use in many applications including monitoring of spacecraft and car engines,” Dr Phan says.

The work led by Dr Phan is currently being carried out in collaboration with the University of Tokyo, Japan, and Stanford University in the US.

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