Low-Cost and Compact Printed Sensor Monitors Loads on Electrical Appliances

April 08, 2019 by Scott McMahan

Scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a low-cost, compact, printed sensor for better load monitoring on electrical appliances. The sensor can collect and transmit data.

Also, the inexpensive and flexible sensor can wrap around power cables to precisely monitor electrical loads from household appliances to support grid operations.

Using a standard inkjet printer along with specialized metallic nanoparticles injected into ink, they deposited wires on a flexible plastic substrate. They then wove in a magnetic strip to channel the flux produced by an electric current, making the sensor suitable for use in tight spaces.

When the scientists tested the sensor on conductors in the lab and on a building HVAC unit, it measured responses of up to 90A of electrical current. The device's measurement capability is expected to exceed 500 amps in larger applications.

"These inexpensive sensors provide crucial, real-time usage data needed to monitor and control devices such as smart HVAC and water heaters for better power grid efficiency and resilience," said ORNL's Pooran Joshi.

The team is now testing new materials, electronics and packaging to improve the sensor's range and potential applications while maintaining low cost.