Scientists at the University of Glasgow have made significant advances in temperature-measuring sensors. Their smart skin sensors are made from a soft, flexible composite material of carbon fibers and silicone rubber. The sensors use electromagnetic waves to detect temperature changes with extreme accuracy. By absorbing and reflecting radio signals, they deliver measured values with an unprecedented bandwidth.
The material combines ordinary silicone rubber with carbon fibers and can thus be formed into various shapes. These substrate-like layers serve as large-area antennas that detect temperature differences particularly sensitively. Unlike conventional thermistors, which are limited to narrow temperature ranges, the sensor covers an extremely wide range from 30 to over 200 degrees Celsius.
According to a study in “Nature Communications”, the researchers used a 3D printer to integrate the flexible material into components such as antennas, RFID chips or oscillating circuits. In tests, the sensor proved capable of absorbing radio waves even at 300 degrees Celsius – proof of its resilience and adaptability.
The achievement not only extends the measuring range of temperature sensors, but also promises cost savings and greater sustainability for wireless sensors. As fewer measuring devices are required, the price and resource consumption are reduced.
In addition to researchers from the Universities of Southampton and Loughborough and the semiconductor manufacturer PragmatIC in Cambridge, the project was funded by various British institutions such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering. The Office of the Chief Science Adviser for National Security was also involved.
The full research paper entitled “Wide-range soft anisotropic thermistor with a direct wireless radio frequency interface” is available online.