Ultra-small humidity sensors for consumer electronics

March 30, 2017 // By Herr Vincent Hess
Ultra-small humidity sensors for consumer electronics
Today, sensors make many new applications possible that were inconceivable just a few years ago. Sensors such as the SHTW2 humidity and temperature sensor from Sensirion are microscopic in size, cost-effective, use little energy and, as a result, can very easily be integrated in numerous interesting, new applications in the consumer electronics and wearables sectors.

The development of microelectronics has influenced modern society in recent decades more than almost any other technology. The advances in electronics have today made computing power as well as wireless communication inexpensive and, thus, available nearly everywhere. If information about environmental conditions shall be processed and communicated, sensors are needed that record this data. Technologies from the field of microelectronics are being used in this area as well. This has led to sensors that are smaller, more powerful, consume less energy and are even more affordable.


Miniaturization in sensor technology

Sensirion AG is a pioneer in the miniaturization of environmental and flow sensors and has made significant steps in the technological leadership in the area of microsensors in the past 20 years. In 2001 the company launched the world’s first integrated, digital humidity and temperature sensor. With dimensions of just 5x7.5x2.5mm, it was extremely small compared to all other sensors available on the market at that time and had a much greater performance range. And progression has continued in miniaturization over the past 16 years. The smallest humidity and temperature sensor from Sensirion currently available measures just 1.3x0.7x0.5mm. This corresponds to less than one fifth the size of the next smallest humidity sensors available on the market. This miniaturization was made possible by manufacturing the sensors on the basis of standard CMOS technologies.

The sensor element, a “micro-machined” finger electrode system that operates on the capacitive principle, is integrated in the CMOS circuit here. This so-called CMOSens® technology results not only in miniaturization, but also offers a number of other advantages: the microsensor systems have a high level of integration and functionality as the analog and digital signal processing, the calibration data as well as a digital interface are located on the semiconductor chip together with the sensor element. As a result, the sensors are very accurate, insensitive to interference and extremely stable over the long term. The sensors, which are based on CMOSens® technology, can also be produced in large quantities and, thus, cost effectively.

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