Physical Principles of Sensing

  • Jacob Fraden


Since a sensor is a converter of generally nonelectrical effects into electrical signals, one and often several transformation steps are required before the electric output signal can be generated. These steps involve changes of types of energy where the final step must produce electrical signal of a desirable format. As it was mentioned in  Chap. 1, generally there are two types of sensors: direct and complex. A direct sensor is the one that can directly convert a nonelectrical stimulus into electric signal. Many stimuli cannot be directly converted into electricity, thus multiple conversion steps would be required. If, for instance, one wants to detect displacement of an opaque object, a fiber optic sensor can be employed. A pilot (excitation) light is generated by a light emitting diode (LED), transmitted via an optical fiber to the object and reflected from its surface. The reflected photon flux enters the receiving optical fiber and propagates toward a photodiode where it produces an electric current representing the distance from the fiber optic end to the object. We see that such a sensor involves transformation of electrical current into photons, propagation of photons through some refractive media, reflection, and conversion back into electric current. Therefore, such a sensing process includes two energy conversion steps and a manipulation of the optical signal as well.


Light Emit Diode Electric Charge Thermal Radiation Seebeck Coefficient PVDF Film 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.San DiegoUSA

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