1.

Introduction

Control is more than information processing; it implies direct interaction with the physical world. Control systems include sensors and actuators, the critical pieces needed to ensure that our automation systems can help us manage our activities and environments in desired ways. By extracting information from the physical world, sensors provide inputs to control and automation systems. We may label our times the Information Age, but it would be a mistake to believe that advances in automation and control are solely a matter of more complex software, Web-enabled applications, and other developments in information technology. In particular, progress in control depends critically on advances in our capabilities for measuring and determining relevant aspects of the state of physical systems. Technologists tasked with automation and control of systems of ever-increasing levels of complexity, whether as designers, operators, or managers, or in other capacities, thus need to be familiar with sensor technology. The increasing sophistication of sensors and sensing systems, the considerations driving this sophistication, new sensors and uses of sensors in control systems, the increasing reliability of sensors, and the like are topics whose relevance today is not limited to sensor application specialist. Our objective in this chapter is to discuss sensors from these points of view. Our focus is on the role of sensors in control systems and the trends and outstanding needs therein. Since excellent reviews of recent sensor developments and current applications already exist, we give some selected examples of new sensor developments, without any claims at comprehensiveness. Rather, our goal is to point out the benefits of increased sensor sophistication as well as key approaches and areas where more understanding is needed. 2. Sensor Fundamentals We can define „sensor‟ as a device that converts a physical stimulus or input into a readable output, which today would preferably be electronic, but which can also be communicated via other means, such as visual and acoustic. As perhaps the simplest example, consider the sensor on a keyboard switch actuator – which provides a signal when the associated key is pressed. The keyboard switch sensor has several desirable features. It is inexpensive, it has a high signal-to-noise ratio (its on/off impedance ratio),

In these cases. and it has low power consumption. Figure 1 shows an example of a state-of-the-art sensor. the output is not a binary quantity but a value that is sensitive to a range of those physical conditions. pressure. which we are interested in regulating to within some „set point‟ range. many advanced sensors today are microscopic. Sensor Block Diagram 3. microstructure devices that leverage the economies of scale and the fabrication technologies of semiconductor manufacturing. and the control loop is thereby closed. Unlike most sensors.it is compact. for example) to correct for measured deviations from the set point. in this case. The Role of Sensor in Control System The role of a sensor in a simple automation system is depicted in Figure 2. and its output is binary. . a mass flow sensor. The controller outputs a command to an actuator (a valve. and flow sensors are more typical examples. The detection and measurement of some physical effect provides information to the control system regarding a related property of the system under control. Figure 1. As evidenced by this example. Temperature. a keyboard switch sensor lacks an analog input range. Its reliability and ability to operate over a wide range of environmental conditions are also exemplary.

however. The increasing complexity of sensors is in part a consequence of this trend. In especially simple systems. the information processing is being incorporated within the sensor device. Characteristics to choose and use a sensor in control system 1. For example. the „Honeywell Round‟ thermostat contains a bimetal strip as an analog sensing mechanism that responds to temperature. Figure2. depending on whether the room temperature is within the set-point differential. and between sensor and instrument. Accuracy . information processing with the sensor. the trend is to incorporate more. This integration of sensor and actuator turns a furnace or other space conditioning device on or off. not less. it represents a fair number of practical control systems.Because of the simplicity of the control system example of Figure 2. blurring the distinction between transducer and processor. In many cases. and the switch attached to it serves as the actuator. a distinct controller may not be immediately evident. Example of a Simple Control System III. In general.

it is possible to have a large family of real transfer functions.1A shows an ideal transfer function. where δ ≤ ∆. . The true value is attributed to the object of measurement and accepted as having a specified uncertainty. even when sensors are tested under identical conditions. workmanship.1 Transfer function (A) and accuracy limits (B) Figure II. design errors. The real functions deviate from the ideal by ±δ. manufacturing tolerances and other limitations. In real world. Because of material variations. any sensor performs with some kind of imperfection. Inaccuracy is measured as a highest deviation of a value represented by the sensor from the ideal or true value at its input. The permissive limits differ from the ideal transfer function line by ±∆. A B Figure II.Accuracy is a very important characteristic of a sensor which really means inaccuracy. However. all runs of the real transfer functions must fall within the limits of a specified accuracy.

g. etc. a hysteresis. some specific limitation for the storage may need to be considered (e.The accuracy rating includes a combined effect of part-to-part variations.usually has limits for temperature/ humidity Storage conditions are non-operating environmental limits to which a sensor may be subjected during a specified period without permanently altering its performance under normal operating conditions. Many sensors change with temperature and their transfer functions may shift significantly. this method allows more accurate sensing. however. Temperature factors are very important for sensor performance. which is determined during the actual calibration procedure. storage conditions include the highest and the lowest storage temperatures and maximum relative humidity at these temperatures.. Special compensating elements are often incorporated either directly into the sensor or into signal conditioning circuits. A temperature band may be divided into . it may be prohibitive because of a higher cost.1B shows that ±∆ may more closely follow the real transfer function. The word “non-condensing” may be added to the relative humidity number.. Usually. they must be known and taken into account. which is simply the error band that is applicable over the operating temperature band. to compensate for temperature errors. the permissive limits become narrower. The specified accuracy limits generally are used in the worst-case analysis to determine the worst possible performance of the system. Depending on the sensor‟s nature. Figure II. −20◦C to +100◦C) within which the sensor maintains its specified accuracy. a dead band. calibration. Environmental condition . This can be accomplished by a multiple-point calibration. as they do not embrace part-to-part variations between the sensors and are geared specifically to the calibrated unit. the specified accuracy limits are established not around the theoretical (ideal) transfer function. in some applications. Clearly. Then. and repeatability errors. presence of some gases or contaminating fumes. Thus. The simplest way of specifying tolerances of thermal effects is provided by the error-band concept. The operating temperature range is the span of ambient temperatures given by their upper and lower extremes (e. maximum pressure. meaning better tolerances of the sensor‟s accuracy. but around the calibration curve. The inaccuracy rating may be represented in a number of forms:  Directly in terms of measured value (∆)  In percent of input span (full scale)  In terms of output signal 2.).g.

For example. in many cases.sections.Essential for most of the measuring devices as the readings changes with time If the sensor‟s manufacturer‟s tolerances and tolerances of the interface (signal conditioning) circuit are broader than the required system accuracy.5◦C. the logarithmic scale for small objects works as a microscope. 3. an available sensor is rated as having an accuracy of ±1◦C. a sensor may be specified to have an accuracy of ±1% in the range from 0◦C to 50◦C. particularly when they employ viscous damping. a dynamic range of the input stimuli is often expressed in decibels. it works as a telescope 4. Range (full scale) . Calibration . which.Measurement limit of sensor A dynamic range of stimuli which may be converted by a sensor is called a span or an input full scale (FS). it may represent low-level signals with high resolution while compressing the high-level numbers. Does it mean that . Being a nonlinear scale. but a ratio of values only. and ±3% beyond these ranges within operating limits specified from −40◦C to +150◦C. Temperatures will also affect dynamic characteristics. For instance. However. the sensor will generate an electric current that may be recognized by a processing circuit as a valid response to a stimulus. However. It represents the highest possible input value that can be applied to the sensor without causing an unacceptably large inaccuracy. we need to measure temperature with an accuracy ±0. ±2% from −20◦C to 0◦C and from +50◦C to 100◦C. is far more convenient. For example. when the temperature changes quickly. a calibration is required. and for the large objects. which is a logarithmic measure of ratios of either power or force (voltage). For the sensors with a very broad and nonlinear response characteristic. A decibel scale represents signal magnitudes by much smaller numbers. It should be emphasized that decibels do not measure absolute values. a dual pyroelectric sensor in a motion detector is insensitive to slowly varying ambient temperature. A relatively fast temperature change may cause the sensor to generate a spurious output signal. In other words. whereas the error band is separately specified for each section. thus causing a false positive detection.

and the A/D converter. It should be clearly understood that the sensing system accuracy is directly attached to the accuracy of the . but that particular sensor needs to be calibrated that is. it can. a blackbody cavity would be needed. it is essential to have and properly maintain precision and accurate physical standards of the appropriate stimuli. Overall mean of the entire circuit. To calibrate a hygrometer. its individual transfer function needs to be found during calibration. To calibrate the infrared sensors. Calibration means the determination of specific variables that describe the overall transfer function. For example. including the sensor. to calibrate contact temperature sensors.2 Calibration error To calibrate sensors. The mathematical model of the transfer function should be known before calibration Figure II.the sensor can not be used? No. the interface circuit. either a temperature-controlled water bath or a “dry-well” cavity is required. a series of saturated salt solutions are required to sustain a constant relative humidity in a closed container. and so on.

3). Conclusion . V.3 The repeatability error A repeatability (reproducibility) error is caused by the inability of a sensor to represent the same value under identical conditions. 7. material plasticity.calibrator. Resolution . An uncertainty of the calibrating standard must be included in the statement on the overall uncertainty 5. buildup charge. unless otherwise specified. Sensor – Enabled Visions for the Future VI. It is expressed as the maximum difference between output readings as determined by two calibrating cycles (figure II.Smallest increment detected by the sensor Cost Repeatability . 6.The reading that varies is repeatedly measured under the same environment Figure II. It is usually represented as % of FS: δr = 100% Possible sources of the repeatability error may be thermal noise.

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