Sensors: Types and Functions

A sensor is a device used to detect the presence of a physical object in its vicinity and provide information about said object. They are most commonly used with other electronic devices to identify pressure, force, strain, light, etc., and convert it into a desired electronic signal. Sensors are broadly classified as digital or analog, though there are many other more specific types. In this blog, we will cover the twelve most common types of sensors.

  1. Temperature: Temperature sensors are used to measure the temperature of an environment and its variations. They are used throughout the medical, automotive, aerospace, and agricultural industries. Examples include thermocouples, thermistors, and resistance temperature detectors (RTDs).

  1. Light: Sensors of this type convert light energy into an electrical signal to provide an output. They are also called photosensors or photoelectric devices and are found in mobile phones, computers, and tablets.

  1. Pressure: Pressure sensors are used to measure the pressure of liquids or gases. The sensor identifies the pressure levels and generates a signal displayed as an output. Examples of pressure sensors include pressure transducers and pressure switches.

  1. Ultrasonic: These sensors are used to measure the distance between signals being transmitted and received. They emit sound waves in a frequency that the human ear cannot hear. The common types of ultrasonic sensors are proximity and continuous level sensors, used in measuring liquid levels, detecting wire breaks, height control, robotics, and more.

  1. Color: Color sensors are used to detect colors, recognize color marks, and distinguish between different colors. These sensors detect color in the RGB scale. They are used in the industrial and automatic control fields.

  1. Touch: Touch sensors function similarly to a switch, performing a specific operation when touched. The most obvious example of these sensors is the smartphone, which are sensitive to human touch or other force applied.

  1. Flow and Level: Sensors of this type are used to measure the level of fluids in a given space, working on the principle of buoyancy. A magnet is connected to the device which gives a signal to the switch as the fluid levels rise.

  1. Smoke: Smoke sensors are common in the home. They have a light source attached to them which, when it comes in contact with smoke, is triggered to start the alarm. Aside from the home, smoke detectors are found in factories, ships, aircraft, etc.

  1. Accelerometer: Accelerometers are used to measure the acceleration of an object. The object’s proper acceleration depends on the motion or rest of the object, while coordinate acceleration depends on its coordinate system. Accelerometers are inertial sensors and can be found in vehicles, android devices, etc.

  1. Infrared (IR): Infrared sensors measure the infrared light emitted by objects within its view. In addition to detecting infrared light, IR sensors can also emit light. Active and passive infrared sensors alike measure IR light based on its warmth.

  1. Humidity: Also known as hygrometers, humidity sensors are used to measure the moisture present in the atmosphere.

  1. Tilt: A tilt sensor is used to measure the tilt or rotation of a reference plane in various axes. The sensor determines the inclination or rotation of a surface. Tilt sensors are used in vehicles as an alarm when an accident occurs.

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