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Be it our day-to-day activities or cutting edge research, modern day tech has raised to a completely different level today. One of the more exciting trends for the past 30 years is the miniaturisation of sensors, making it possible to have bug-sized drones and mini satellites, getting access to vital knowledge – in this modern world, the small is the new big.

By 2024 the expected growth of the Microsensor Market is estimated to exceed over 33.1 Billion US$ at a CAGR of 14.7 %.

  • The adoption, development and production of microsensors, the global Microsensors market is divided into the bases of the Input Signal as Magnetic, Thermal radiation, Mechanical, Chemical, and Biological.
  • Based on Types of Microsensors the market is globally segmented in Biochips, Nanosensors, and MEMS (Micro-electro-mechanical systems).
  • And finally, the applications of the Microsensors in the market are globally divided between Automotive,Medical, Chemical, Food, Consumer electronics, and other market segments.

The Types of Microsensor Based on the sensing parameters commonly come down to the following:

  • Thermal: (Thermocouple, Thermomechanical Thermoresistive).
  • Mechanical: (Piezoresistive, Piezoelectric, Capacitive, Piezosensitive).
  • Chemical: I.e. Nanosensors (see below).
  • Radiant: Sensing visible, UV or infrared light as well as ionizing radiation.

Some of the larger companies involved or primarily famous with their microsensor production volumes and overall innovations in the market are the Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics, OMRON, MEMSIC , NXP, Bosch and others.

Reading recommendation: If you want to know more about this topic, read our previous article about Funding the sensor start-ups in Central and Eastern Europe.

Future of Microsensors: Use Cases & Applications

The End products or final applications of microsensors are largely the ones with new dimensions, better and higher performance capabilities, reduced errors. Microsensors enable this by their transformation into smaller, flatter, lighter elements that don’t require much space, design adjustments or increased weight.

The IoT and automation solutions of the new world are produced with supreme design, high optimization potentials can now be tapped into from quality assurance and cost perspectives, fitting the higher detection and measurement requirements.

Not only the consumer products, but also the industrial and commercial world is seeing the high value shift when integrating microsensors into motors, drives, actuators, controllers, etc. These essential systems have lately been shrinking in size and growing in productivity, while still giving the potential for better performance.

In this context, it is important to mention that with the increasing demand to manufacture microsensors, the actual volume is decreasing.

This is an indicator of high productivity needs per measurement equipment. It is widely known that while shrinking in size, microsensors’ sensing behaviour (specifically the precision) typically increases (improvements in hysteresis, temperature drift, and repeatability). The conclusion remains that the micro-manufacturing demand of higher precision, repeatability and overall consistency of sensing performance, are better delivered with microsensors.

Microsensors by types

The microsensor market at present is concentrated within 3 main types: Nanosensors, Biochips and Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS). We will be giving a short overview of each, for general understanding of the current state:

Nanosensors

These are essentially platforms that have especially small, specific dimensions (nanometer in scale), and act similar to sensors, that is they detect ; they detect certain changes of physical quantities. As nanosensors are usually chemical or mechanical sensors, these are commonly used to capture presence of nanoparticles, monitor physical quantities like temperature in a nanoscale, and detect chemical species. Especially beneficial applications include the medical sector, water quality monitoring, etc.

Biochips or bio-microarray systems

They can be identified in three main types – the DNA-microarray; protein-microarray; and microfluidic chip. These systems are often referred to as a Lab-on-a-chip (LOC), and with extensive research their sizes have shrunk to miniature dimensions. The target application or the motivations that these microsensors have been developed with are to enable genomic, proteomic and functional genomic analyses.

Micro-electro-mechanical systems

Fundamentally these are based on capacitive plates, housing sensors. These are chip-based systems, a miniaturised smart assembly. Likely MEMS have the most applications in the modern world thus making the topic larger, however to filter the latest important aspects regarding the microsensor aspect of MEMS – the miniaturisation of sensors and sensing systems affected, and been pushed by MEMS, incorporating the, actuators, electronic circuitry, etc. for signal processing and controlled feedback detection. These have been largely possible due to the advances in the semiconductor industry, which has grown greatly during the past years.

Identified Improvements, Arguments regarding the relevance of R&I

Although there has been continuous progress in micromachining technology and sensor design, the basics of sensor telemetry remains essentially the same since its invention in ‘60s. Limitations in the microsensor device design are mainly caused by the lack of understanding of drift issues :

The commercially available nanosensors likely have heating resistors made of polysilicon (platinum) as these are easy to integrate with resistance value, however their properties drip overtime, compromising the sustainability of the measurements. Additional important drawbacks of nanosensors come up when considering the resolution of the signal, the general absence of systematic ways to analyse the complex data captured from these, etc.

Another major limitation, now mainly connected to MEMS sensors, is the price they come with. Even though being made of essentially inexpensive elements, MEMS sensors require design changes to the products they are applied to, thus making it a tough decision for designers and cost strategy experts of the products.

A Delphi survey of the BOHEMIA study addressed the question of the reliance of Research and Innovation in The ElectroSphere of Sensors, to fill the sufficient leaps in miniaturisation of sensors, sufficient micro-sensors to contribute to the SDGs 3, 11 and 14. The questions were addressed to 143 experts, the answers of which can be observed below, or through more comprehensive review of research.

To especially identify the Arguments regarding the relevance of R&I, 66 out of all the voters prioritised the argument – “A lot of specific research on individual materials is needed to clarify where sensors can be placed or how the material can be used directly as an active one”, making this the most common argument. Another one just as important to mention was that “Research is needed in heterogeneous integration of smart sensors into materials as well as heterogeneous integration of such system to provide useful function (e.g., resource & energy optimisation).”

These arguments (and many more in the research) vouch for the need of material science to put the missing pieces in place, with microsensors that are energy efficient, and grant accessibility to now inaccessible spaces.

The MicroWire sensors

By definition a microsensor is a miniscule adaptation of a sensor with a high increased physical range, usually in millimetres or sub-micrometer. Nowadays a miniaturised sensing system is a given especially in control systems, however the above mentioned drawbacks and the stagnation of innovations in the widely accessible microsensor market highlight the need to showcase what’s new, different and in many cases – simply better. Moreover, based on the arguments for the R&I mentioned above, material science is still in the fundamental bases of the sensors made to add the missing values in the industry.

A sensor as thin and elastic as human hair, with no connection or wiring need, with high resolution, sensitivity and precision possibilities, with robustness and ability to survive longer than the lifetime of the product its applied in – all this seems to good to be true, especially if we mention that sensor exists, it is inexpensive and quick to manufacture. The sensor in question is the MicroWire , and the sole manufacturer of it is RVmagnetics.

“We at RVmagnetics are ready and excited to receive your contact, and help you access the otherwise inaccessible physical data, in real-time”.