Sensor technology refers to the science and application of sensors for the measurement and control of properties and the composition of technical and biological systems and their changes. Sensors are used to determine physical or (bio) chemical parameters directly inside a sample, a device or a system. This includes deformation, acceleration, pressure, sound, temperature, humidity, pH or chemical substances such as gases, ions or biologically active molecules. It is foreseeable that in addition to the already ubiquitous physical sensors (e.g. distance or impact sensors in the automotive sector, deformation sensors in construction components), (bio)chemical sensors will play an important role in more and more areas of daily life in the future, similar to the simple applicable rapid tests based on test stripes. Typical applications include structural and environmental monitoring, near-patient or bedside diagnostics, and process control, ranging from the detection of damages to bridges caused by traffic and environmental pollution, through methods of determining air pollution or the spread of flammable gases after accidents in traffic and industry to monitoring clinical-chemical parameter in medical diagnostics.
A special feature of sensors is that they response reversibly unlike other analytical measuring methods. This enables continuous or online monitoring of the measurement parameters, which is of great interest, amongst others, for industrial process control or clinical monitoring in intensive care medicine. In addition to sensors with electrochemical signal transduction, such as pH or oxygen electrodes, optical sensor systems in particular have become established in recent years. Except for e.g. measurements of the time light takes to travel and interferences, the principle of operation of optical sensor systems is based on dyes which indicate changes in the parameters investigated, such as viscosity, temperature and, above all, analyte concentrations, by changes in their optical properties, i.e. the intensity and / or the spectral position of their absorption and / or fluorescence bands. Another trend in sensor development is towards ever smaller systems (miniaturization), energy self-sufficient sensors, and ever larger amounts of data, which require evaluation with chemometric methods.
BAM is engaged in the (further) development of sensors for different quantities and measurands like pH and chemical compounds and substances of content e.g. performing research activities for the early detection of material corrosion. Also, validation concepts and reference materials (for calibration, system control, and method validation) for sensor technologies are developed, particularly for optical sensing.