The challenges for sensor technology in harsh environments
A harsh environment includes, but is not limited to; extreme temperatures, high pressure, high shock, vibration, mechanical stresses, chemically corrosive substances and being exposed to elements or hazardous environments such as space.
The list of applications and demands for needing such specialist/precision sensors keeps growing - automotive, structural health monitoring, seismic applications, gas turbine, aerospace, Industrial/ oil and gas explorations, and the marine industry to name a few.
Considerations for harsh environment sensors
A standard sensor would have limitations for performance under these conditions, especially outside of ‘normal’ temperature ranges between -40° and +125°, so sensors designed specifically for these environments need to be hardy and robust enough to withstand demanding conditions, whilst still performing;
- Without failure
- Fast response
- Precision measurement
- High performance
- High reliability
- Stable with extreme resistance
We feature a wide range of high-quality specialist sensors from leading suppliers as well as having our own field engineers with experience of working with applications across a number of harsh environments able to advise on the best sensors or combinations from this portfolio, to achieve the best performance for each environment or application.
We also understand that for such demanding applications, these specialist sensors may require further customisation in order to operate under these conditions, which we can also assist with. Engineers must consider an application for a harsh environment prior to its design as the environment will affect the specifications of the product and its performance.
The top consideration is the protection and maintenance of the sensor.
To maintain operation in a hostile environment, it would need to operate without failure or the difficulty (and expense) of maintenance or swapping it out. Therefore, choosing the right sensor, protection with the correct coatings, housings and materials is paramount for success.
If you are unsure which one is right for your design given all the choices available – we can help with an extensive specialist portfolio and in-house expertise.
Bespoke sensing and connectivity solutions
Our range covers all key parameters across any environment, but to help solve more complex challenges for your application, we can design and build a complete solution to your needs with customer-specific combinations and custom-designed solutions along with wireless connectivity.
So, if you’re not sure where to start, contact our sensor experts who can help guide you through all of the options and find the best choice for performance and protection for your application in a harsh environment.
Outdoor and environmental hostile environments
Sensors in these environments need to be able to tolerate high vibration and shock in applications such as; monitoring deterioration of bridges, dams and buildings in structural health monitoring, construction, agriculture or seismology equipment as well as changes in pressure, temperature and exposure to acids or alkalis such as saltwater in a marine environment. These conditions would compromise a standard sensor, which may not be able to withstand the stresses or corrosive substances.
We recommend the following sensors that are specially designed for vibration applications that require low noise, low power, resistance to repetitive high shocks and insensitivity to temperature environments that will guarantee confidence of measurements in harsh environments with high accuracy.
Safran Colibrys SI1000 series
Designed specifically for strong motion class B seismic measurements, this small hermetically sealed sensor guarantees accurate and stable seismic measurements and requires no re-calibration or maintenance during its lifetime.
- Ranges: +/-3, 5 g
- Low Noise: 0.7 µg/vHz (+/-3g)
- Bandwidth: 0-550Hz (+/-3g)
- Non linearity : ±0.3% FS
- Size : <1cm²
- Embedded logic functions: Self-test, reset
Humidity and temperature sensor
IP67 Harsh environment combined humidity and temperature sensor
- Ready to use - Fully calibrated and temperature-compensated
- Water-resistant - IP67 Certified
- Digital Output or Pulse Density Modulated (PDM) Output converted to Analog
- Available in multiple flexible cable lengths
- Precise and accurate (±2% RH, ±0.5°C, 14-bit resolution)
- Low current consumption
- Reliable in harsh environments
- Flexible mounting options
Tewa TT0 series
The TTO series is IP68 waterproof temperature probe encapsulated with thermoplastic elastomer materials in over moulding technology, specifically designed for harsh environmental conditions.
Excellent performance in extreme freeze-thaw conditions with a wide choice of insulation material. Are a perfect solution for applications where the best waterproof and moisture protection is required.
- Excellent insulation against moisture
- Degree of waterproof protection IP68
- Flexible size of tolerances (smallest tip diameter 4.5 mm)
- Excellent resistance to UV (black insulation)
- ROHS compliant and Halogen Free
- Wide range of R/T characteristics
- Marking possible on request NTC and PTC thermistors, PtRTD versions are available
- Cable remains flexible at minimum design temperature
Industrial applications are a challenge for thermistor sensors, needing to cope with heat, cold, humidity and repeated or rapid changes in pressure and temperature. These sensors need to be hardy and able to withstand constant changes in pressure, extreme temperatures from freezing cold to boiling hot and exposure to corrosive substances.
These applications can vary across Oil & Gas exploration, Heating, Ventilation and Air-conditioning (HVAC), Refrigeration, industrial hydraulics that needs monitoring for safety and control purposes.
Sensors recommended for these types of applications need superior mechanical strength and Robust casing protection, High heat resistance, fast response and excellent heat, oil and solvent proof with strong sealing.
Recommended specialist sensors:
Shibaura advanced sensors
These world-leading sensors provide best-in-class quality, precision, and extreme reliability. Their range of sensors is unmatched in performance, featuring a unique design and a fully automated, zero defect manufacturing process which means Shibaura thermistors work consistently - without failure or deterioration in harsh conditions and extreme temperatures. In addition, their sensors are highly customisable, offering a flexible choice of mouldings, assemblies, cable lengths and colours plus a variety of housings. Custom sensing assemblies are particularly useful for harsh and high-end applications, and our team of engineers, with more than 25 years of experience designing custom sensor probes and assemblies for a range of applications, will help ensure you choose the right sensor element, design a suitable housing, and add the appropriate cable and connectors.
- MP2 - Best used in air conditioners for business use, oil coolers, showcase freezers. Measuring water temperature, oil temperature, ambient temperature
- EP1 - Best used in automobile air conditioners & radiators, air conditioner outdoor units/pipes incl. discharge pipes, dehumidifiers, freezing machines, chiller lubricant, showcase refrigerators. Measuring solid inside/surface temperature, water temperature, oil temperature, ambient temperature
- CC1 - Best used in - Air conditioner indoor units, washer dryers, refrigerators, showcase freezers and measuring ambient temperature
Applications such as downhole drilling in the oil and gas industry, regularly require extremely reliable parts with ratings that often surpass military specifications. Extremely high-performance stability with shock resistance and the lowest non-linearity and noise in the MEMs marketplace - the TS1000T is definitely a best in class accelerometer perfect for high-temperature directional drilling applications, operating from -40ºC to +150ºC and up to +175ºC by intermittent temperature exposure.
- High-temperature range: -40 to 175ºC
- Long term bias repeatability: +2mg for +2g range
- Excellent Bias Residual model: < ±0.6% mg for +2g range
- Low Noise: 7 µg/vHz
Variohm Eurosensor EPT3100
The EPT3100 Pressure transducer is a high quality all stainless steel pressure transducer that contains non-silicone oil and no internal 'O' rings. intended for use in the measurement of gases and liquids compatible with stainless steel.
The EPT3100 strain gauge sensing element coupled with the latest ASIC circuitry gives:
- High strength
- excellent accuracy
- a choice of high-level outputs
- high performance and long stability
- protected within a rugged, stainless steel housing.
- Custom options and cabling are available
- Available in gauge and absolute pressure, with ranges up to 5,000 Bar
- Backed by a one-year warranty.
Applications for automotive range from engine motors and converters, radiators, heaters, lithium batteries to EV charging, motor coils and air-con. The sensors in most of these applications are likely to be exposed to a range of substances, corrosive chemicals and high temperatures.
High temperatures can cause some of the components such as the O-rings used in a standard sensor to deteriorate leading to performance failure.
We have extensive experience in working with applications for automotive and recommend sensors from our partner Shibaura, who are a world leader in the field of advanced temperature sensor technology for harsh environment applications.
Suitable for applications that are prone to frequent thermal cycles and high levels of humidity, their sensors give the extreme reliability, resistance and precision needed with a unique zero-defect design - featuring gold contacts in addition to waterproof glass coatings, resulting in almost no drift in the resistance over time and allowing the sensors to be used in permanent operating temperatures ranging from -60°C to +1000°C without failure.
Recommended Temperature Sensors for Automotive:
Shibaura advanced sensors
- MP1 - Automobile electric motors & inverters. Solid inside/surface temperature
- CS1 - Automobile engines, automobile radiators. Solid inside/surface temperature, water temperature, oil temperature
- MP3 - EV/HV motor coils. Solid inside/surface temperature
- EP1 - Automobile air conditioners & radiators, air conditioner outdoor units/pipes incl. discharge pipes, dehumidifiers, freezing machines, chiller lubricant, showcase refrigerators. Solid inside/surface temperature, water temperature, oil temperature, ambient temperature
- EE1 - Automobile air conditioners & heaters, air conditioner indoor units, water heaters. Solid inside/surface temperature, ambient temperature
- RT2 - Automobile inverters, water heaters, heat pump water heaters. Solid inside/surface temperature
- EP2 - Automobile battery chargers, air conditioner outdoor units, water heaters. Solid inside/surface temperature
There are also customisable options available for more challenging environments - with sensors that offer a flexible choice of mouldings, assemblies, cable lengths and colours plus a variety of housings.