Glasgow’s microwave material makes a better temperature sensor

Glasgow’s microwave material makes a better temperature sensor

Technology News |
By Peter Clarke

UK researchers, led by a a team from the University of Glasgow, have developed a soft, mouldable composite material that acts an RF-to-microwave sensor with a wide-ranging sensitivity to temperature variation.

The flexible sensor’s ability to absorb and reflect radio-frequency (RF) signals varies with atmospheric heat or cold and does so across a much wider temperature range than typical thermistors. The range is from 30°C to more than 200°C. 

The sensor is made from a composite of carbon fibers and silicone rubber, and works passively without battery power or onboard processing. It also can withstand thousands of cycles of bending and stretching without losing its sensitivity to temperature, making it a candidate for wearable and medical temperature monitoring.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers show how they used a 3D printer to mould the flexible material and integrated it into components such as antennas, RFID labels, and resonators. They then tested its ability to absorb radiation at frequencies up to 26GHz and at different temperatures ranging up to 300°C.


Tests were done in a microwave anechoic chamber to as the sensor is sensitive to the RF background and such things as communications signals. However, because the material’s properties are anisotropic – meaning the vary with directionality – the team suggests the composite could be further tailored to enhance or reduce sensitivity to specific wireless signals.

Mahmoud Wagih, lecturer at the University of Glasgow, led the study. “Many researchers have used RF and microwave devices to measure liquid formulations, temperature, humidity, and other physical and chemical parameters. However, this level of sensitivity has not been demonstrated before,” he said in a statement.

Applications of the technology could include vital sign monitoring, radar sensing, satellite communications, and 6G wireless networks. 

The team’s paper: Wide-range soft anisotropic thermistor with a direct wireless radio frequency interface, is published in Nature Communications.

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