NASA Langley Research Center has developed a wireless, open-circuit SansEC (Sans Electrical Connections) sensor that can detect the presence of chemicals without being in contact with the chemical it is detecting. This unique thin-film sensor is used in conjunction with a chemical reactant that detects the presence of the chemical. Because of the way the sensor operates, the reactant can be separated from the sensor itself and placed in caustic or harsh environments, and can still work to detect the specific chemical it was designed to discern. The ingenuity of the thin-film design with the elimination of all wires, connections, and electronic components enables the sensors to be produced cost-effectively. This is an application of the NASA award-winning SansEC sensor, which is damage-resilient and environmentally friendly to manufacture and use. The sensors use a NASA award-winning magnetic field response recorder to provide power to the sensors and to acquire physical property measurements from them.

The SansEC circuit (left), and the SansEC circuit underneath a chemically selective reactant.

The SansEC sensor is an open circuit without electrical connections that functions as an electrical simple harmonic oscillator when exposed to a harmonic magnetic field. Its response is dependent upon the measured physical property. It consists of a uniquely designed thin-film electrically conductive geometric pattern that stores energy in both electric and magnetic fields. When wirelessly interrogated using the NASA-developed Magnetic Field Response Recorder, the sensor becomes electrically active, and a chemical reactant works in tandem with the thin-film trace. If the chemical is present, it causes a change to the reactant, resulting in an alteration to the sensor's magnetic field response attributes. This change is noted electronically by the Magnetic Field Response Recorder.

This sensor can be used in the oil and gas industry for flammable and combustible gas detection, in food production for monitoring for refrigeration leaks, and in chemical manufacturing for hazardous leak detection.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact The Technology Gateway at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link here  for more information.


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This article first appeared in the July, 2018 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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