Sensors Mag

October R&D Round Up

October 2, 2009 By: Melanie Martella, Sensors

E-mail Melanie Martella

This month, NIST produces a commercially available meter stick for nanotechnology, energy harvesting sensors are being developed to monitor the health of aircraft skins, and University of Central Florida researchers work to develop a miniature diagnostic tool kit to diagnose dementia.

Nanotechnology Measuring Tool
NIST's new calibration standard for X-ray diffraction—used to measure thickness, crystal structure, embedded strain, and orientation of thin films in semiconductors and nanotech materials—is capable of measurement uncertainties <1 fm. Each thin, multilayer, 25 mm2 silicon chip is individually measured and the spacing and angles of the silicon crystal-plane atoms in the base crystal are certified by the organization. The chip is used to calibrate X-ray diffraction instruments and serves as an absolute calibration reference. For more information, read "New NIST Nano-Ruler Sets Some Very Small Marks."

Embedded Sensing for Aircraft Skins
A research collaboration between EADS Innovation Works and Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM is developing sensors that can be applied to the skin of an aircraft to monitor its health. The sensors themselves will be powered using a thermoelectric generating technology from Micropelt GmbH, which converts a temperature difference into a voltage. Because the devices use energy harvesting for their power supply they can be located in awkward or inaccessible places. The prototypes have been built; the next stage is to build a prototype of the entire system—sensor, thermoelectric generator, energy storage, charging electronics, and signal transmitter. For further possible applications, please refer to the article "Energy-autonomous sensors for aircraft," courtesy of

Early Diagnosis for Dementia
A miniature diagnostic kit may enable doctors to spot dementia earlier than is possible with current methods. The kit, developed in collaboration between the University of Central Florida and the Boston University School of Medicine, uses nanoparticles on a credit-card-sized chip to detect reactive oxygen species (ROS)—oxygen byproducts that have been implicated in Alzheimers and other neurodegenerative diseases. By enabling earlier diagnosis, the reasoning goes, these conditions can be spotted at an earlier stage and treatment begun much sooner. More detail is available in the article "UCF research team develops miniature diagnostic tool kit to diagnose dementia."

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