Advances in additive manufacturing have enabled the development of printable electronic sensor elements that can be deposited onto flexible substrates. To benchmark performance of printed sensors against the state of the art, NASA has developed a low-power flexible sensor platform.
The platform simplifies development of novel environmental sensors and their end-use applications by merging Bluetooth low energy (BLE) hardware, sensors, and sensor fusion software. It consists of a printed circuit board with programmable system on a chip (PSoC) microcontroller; commercially available inertial, environmental, and gas sensors; and area for deposition of novel printed sensing elements.
Outputs can be configured to send sensor data over BLE connection for recording and analysis in third party software. The platform’s integrated nature reduces system size, cost, and power consumption. It also includes all essential hardware to support the development of IoT devices.
NASA researchers have used the platform to study performance of the printed capacitive humidity sensor. The 2x4 mm co-doped barium titanate sensing element is highly sensitive to water vapor and performs as an unobtrusive breathing monitor, sensitive to breath at distances of up to 20 cm. Average change of sensor capacitance at a distance of 7.5 cm was observed to be 6.23.5 pF.
The platform has been used for development of respiration and environmental monitoring sensors for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.