Solid aerosols in the air we breathe, especially in the fine dust range, are associated with numerous health problems, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. This means there is an increasing need for precise measuring instruments in order to monitor individual overexposure.
INTEGRATED SENSORS TO BENEFIT HEALTH
Environmental sensory systems are gaining in importance and will deliver fast and simple information about possible health or safety risks. However, until now – in spite of a great deal of national and international research activity – there have only been separate measuring instruments for measuring particles in the environment. And these have a decided disadvantage: they are the size of a pack of cigarettes (at least) and must be carried around as a separate device, which is not always practicable for the user and therefore not very convenient. Highly integrated, small and powerful particle sensors which can be integrated in smartphones or “wearables”, for instance, are therefore worthy of special attention. In the EFiPaS project, the team of researchers is seeking to create a system-on-chip solution in which a fundamentally new type of measuring principle including signal processing and additional optional gas sensors can work together and be integrated in as small a space as possible. In this way, the research team may be able to make a revolutionary contribution to mobile and “on demand” environmental monitoring.
The main objective of the EFiPaS research project is to prove the viability of the evanescent-field sensor principle and to implement an initial sensor system demonstrator using semiconductor technology. The specific application of evanescent-field sensors for aerosol measuring technology is currently under-researched. The core scientific objective is to obtain an overall understanding of the sensor effect with the help of comprehensive simulation models, among other things, and the specific focus is to investigate whether, in addition to the quantity/mass of the particles, more complex properties such as their size distribution can be measured. The sensor chip demonstrator produced subsequently is intended to stand out due to its miniaturization and its shape, which is optimized for the specific application, its functionality and its integrability. Moreover, it is hoped that the findings will lay the foundations for further technological innovations in optical sensor technology.
The research consortium consists of three partners. Responsible for initiating and leading the project is ams AG, a company headquartered in Styria, Austria, which is an international market leader in the development and manufacture of sensor solutions and analogue ICs. On the scientific side of things, comprehensive know-how is being provided by the Institute of Electronic Sensor Systems (IES) at TU Graz and CTR Carinthian Tech Research.
"We are contributing our research competence in comprehensive multiphysical simulation and optical design. The exciting part is combining simulation with experiments and taking a range of different aspects into consideration, with the ultimate aim of implementing a new type of physical approach for practical applications as effectively as possible."
Andreas Tortschanoff, CTR Senior Researcher Photonic Systems