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Get Smart

Agent 86 would be proud.

New findings on how "smart sensors" function gives researchers the ability to improve their reliability. This image is a high resolution transmission electron micrograph of a YSZ/VO2 interface in VO2/YSZ/Si(100) epitaxial heterostructures. Image courtesy of Alok Gupta and J. Narayan, NC State.

Dr. Jay Narayan led the way in the development of “smart sensors,” integrating a sensor material called vanadium oxide with silicon chips to create sensors that can manipulate and respond to information (it has to do with something called “domain matching epitaxy”). These sensors are used in a variety of military and security applications, where sensor response time can be the difference between life and death. Now, researchers are uncovering new information that will help ensure these sensors will operate under extreme conditions – such as those found in Afghanistan.

Now, Narayan is leading a research team at NC State University that has been able to describe how vanadium oxide sensors work in conjunction with the silicon chips to which they are attached. Understanding how these sensors function gives researchers the ability to improve the reliability of these smart sensors, and account for variable conditions the sensors may be exposed to,  such as various temperatures and pressures.

The work, which was done with National Science Foundation funding, could lead to sturdier applications – such as infrared sensors with military uses. The work has been published in Applied Physics Letters and Journal of Applied Physics, and was presented earlier this month at the 2011 Materials Research Society Spring Meeting in San Francisco (where it won first prize).