Sensors are all around us today. Everywhere you turn, there is one automated process or the other. Some of these sensors are either tiny or invisible that you can’t see how they work yet you feel their impact. For instance, there is a light that turns off immediately you leave the room and turns back on when you come back.
We are familiar with devices that detect carbon monoxide and gas leaks or even fires. What about the gate that automatically opens as you approach or the coffee machine that automatically shuts down when you forget to turn it off? Sensors are behind all these features. You can click here to read more about sensors.
What is an Ultrasonic Sensor?
It is an electronic device that emits ultrasonic waves which are used to calculate the distance of objects. These waves travel faster than audible sound and are divided into two: receiver and transmitter. The transmitter emits sound while the receiver hears the audible sound after the wave has traveled around the target object.
Basically, an ultrasonic sensor is used to measure proximity. It is utilized in vehicles with self-parking features to prevent a collision. It is also used in robotics to detect obstacles. Unlike an infrared sensor, airborne particles like gas and smoke cannot interfere with the way an ultrasonic sensor works. But heat can affect its physical components.
Additionally, the device can be used in a liquid medium to monitor, maintain, and measure the level of liquid. When it detects the liquid level, it quickly converts the reading to electrical signals. This technology is used in both the automobile and manufacturing industries. However, you can find it in home appliances like the ice maker in your refrigerator.
We won’t forget to mention one aspect of ultrasonic technology that has made healthcare easy: medical imaging. With the technology, doctors and health professionals can get clear images of the internal organs of patients to facilitate accurate diagnosis and treatment. Tumors can also be identified especially in the case of fibroid that grows alongside a fetus in the womb of a pregnant woman.
How Does Electrostatic Technology Apply to Ultrasonic Sensors?
Ultrasonic sensors are classified as transducers because they transmit sound waves. These transducers function using either the piezoelectric or electrostatic principle.
Piezoelectric devices require vibration to generate electric current for sensing a change in an environment. When you place a crystal between two metals and apply mechanical force, it will disturb the ionic bonds existing in the crystal. As a result, the negative and positive charges from the crystal will assemble on the metals. These charges will then serve as the voltage for electric current, which is basically how piezoelectric devices work.
The effect can work backward too by directly applying electrical energy to the crystal. It will expand, contract, and release mechanical energy in the form of sound. This technology is popularly used in cell phones, speakers, and microphones.
Furthermore, electrostatic devices utilize the energy that is stored in a negatively and a positively charged material. For instance, Van de Graffs, a generator that was built by Robert Van de Graff in 1932, uses a sphere of positive charge and a rod of negative charge to generate static charges. If the distance between the sphere and the rod increase, the charges will also increase.
Printers and photocopiers use electrostatic technology to trap and convert static charges into electrical current. However, if the discharge is not controlled, it may damage the equipment or harm the operator.
In terms of pressure levels, piezoelectric transducers have better outputs but electrostatic transducers have better bandwidth. As a result, electrostatic transducers have wider applications and are used to measure accurate distances.
Real-Life Applications of Ultrasonic Sensor Technology
Because ultrasonic sensors utilize sound when detecting objects, they can do what other sensors cannot do. Below are some real-life applications.
Driving and Parking Aid
Usually, drivers need to have enough intelligence to drive and park vehicles without colliding with other cars, objects on the road, or pedestrians. For beginners, this is a tough one as they always need a second eye to assist them in parking correctly. Although the mirrors in vehicles are also for this purpose, the human eye is limited.
Modern cars now come with features that assist drivers to drive and park carefully as they can see the entire front and back views through a small device inside the vehicle. In addition to this improvement, engineers have been working on self-driving cars. They are fully automated and have sensors that monitor the conditions of the surroundings.
Ultrasonic sensors prevent collision between cars and other objects. For instance, if your vehicle is fitted with the sensor, you will receive a signal when another vehicle comes dangerously close to yours. Also, when you want to park your car, the signal will make you know when you are close to a wall or another vehicle.
Additionally, walking sticks for blind people contain sensors that enable them to know when they are close to an obstacle. You can check out SensComp to find out more about such devices.
Production Line Optimization
In production lines, automated processes utilize sensors to notify operators when the process is about to come to an end. For instance, in a food and beverage factory, when cookies are produced, if one of the ingredients is running out faster than the others, the sensor will alert the operator. This technology is also useful in the correct measuring of ingredients, beverage dispensing, and milk metering.
Additionally, an ultrasonic sensor is useful in a printing press. The papers are placed in rolls in industrial printers and as they print, the paper rolls diminish. With a sensor, you can easily know when the paper is almost exhausted, so you can add fresh rolls without shutting down the entire production process.
Cable Sag Detection
In manufacturing companies, when cables or conveyor belts are used for a long time, they tend to sag. If they sag too much, the production lines will become slow or even grind to a halt. However, ultrasonic sensors can detect this issue to a precise degree.
Sensors are an essential aspect of modern-day living. Since we use more automated processes for manufacturing, sensors are useful in identifying when something is about to interfere with those processes. They are also useful in ensuring safety while driving.