A low-cost, printed, flexible sensor was developed that can wrap around power cables to precisely monitor electrical loads. Using an inkjet printer, researchers deposited wires on a flexible plastic substrate, then wove in a magnetic strip to channel the flux produced by an electric current, making the sensor suitable to install in tight spaces.
When tested on conductors in the lab and on a building HVAC unit, the sensor measured responses of up to 90 amps of electrical current and is expected to exceed 500 amps in larger applications. The sensors provide real-time usage data needed to monitor and control devices such as smart HVAC and water heaters for better power grid efficiency and resilience.
The team is currently testing new materials, electronics, and packaging to increase the sensor’s range and applications while keeping costs low.