Ultrasonic sensors are one of the most widely used type of sensors in the world today because of their wide range of applications. But before we dive into what they are and some of the ways they are being utilized today, let us first explain what a sensor itself is.
For people that lived two hundred years ago, the world we live in today would have been impossible for them to imagine. What humans have been able to achieve through technology in the last century is truly commendable and phenomenal, almost like magic. With planes, we can travel between continents faster than it has ever been done. The internet has made the world smaller by bringing everyone together through a connected network and its importance to us cannot be overemphasized.
When we begin to analyze the giant strides we’ve accomplished in the last century, we’ll find it difficult to attribute them to one thing. While it is true that the computer age was birthed from the invention of the transmitter, we can all agree that no one could have predicted what would come of it. The same can be said about sensors.
Sensors are a critical piece of nearly every electronic device in production today. They are devices that detect changes in physical, electrical, or other quantities, and produce an output in acknowledgement to the change. This output is usually in the form of a signal which could be electrical or optical.
Without sensors, important devices like fire and smoke detectors would be impossible to create. There wouldn’t be automations which no doubt has made life much easier in so many ways. These tiny devices have such great value and importance in the world of manufacturing today.
Aside from manufacturing, they are crucial in areas like security, surveillance, and monitoring; areas that have to do with our safety. In their defense, the applications we’ve mentioned so far are only a fraction of the many ways sensors are being utilized. In factories and manufacturing industries, there are more complex applications of sensors that help to make work easier, faster, and more efficient.
Types of Sensors
As you can see here, there are different types of sensors that detect changes in various quantities. All of them are categorized in the following ways and groups:
- Based on conversion phenomenal
- Based on mode of detection
- Active and passive
- Analog and digital
The following are the different types of sensors that are used today to detect changes in various quantities:
- Infrared (IR)
- Gas, alcohol, and smoke
- Flow and level sensors
- Strain and weight
What are Ultrasonic Sensors?
Ultrasonic sensors are electrical devices that measure the distance of an object. Their working principle is quite easy. The sensor emits an ultrasonic wave, which is a high frequency sound that can not be heard by us humans; ultrasonic waves are faster than the speed of sound.
This wave travels until it hits the target object which reflects the wave. The reflected wave then travels back to the sensor which upon receiving it calculates the time taken between the wave emission and reception. By calculating this time, the device determines the distance of the object. So, basically, the longer it takes for the emitted wave to travel to the object and back, the farther away the object.
There are two main components of an ultrasonic sensor that are responsible for its primary function. These are the transmitter and the receiver. The transmitter is the part of the device that emits the sound waves, while the wave is received by the receiver after it has travelled to and from the object. Thankfully, many companies are now making ultrasonic products more available to consumers.
You’ll find it interesting to know that the invention of this device was inspired by bats. Yes, the way bats interact with their environment is the inspiration behind ultrasonic sensors. As you may already know, bats are blind. So, by emitting sound waves just like we’ve explained, they are able to avoid objects as they fly and more importantly, locate food. Cool right?
Innovative Applications of Ultrasonic Sensors
Ultrasonic sensors have an incredibly wide range of applications. However, there are some ways they’ve been applied that stand out from others. These applications are truly innovative and are taking technology to a whole new level.
No doubt, self-driving cars are one of man’s best inventions. We can’t discuss all the technicality involved in this process but, have it at the back of your mind that this is no small feat. Ultrasonic sensors are arguably one of the most critical components of a self-driving car. They are responsible for detecting and measuring the distance of objects from the vehicle. So, they are essentially acting as the eyes of the vehicle.
They are installed all around the vehicle so that there is no blind spot. As a result, these vehicles have a 360-degree view of their surroundings, making them safe both to the passengers in the vehicle, and other road users. Tesla, the American automobile giant, is one of the leading manufacturers of self-driving cars in the world today.
Mobile Phone In-screen Fingerprint Scanner
Since their invention, mobile phones have become more sophisticated and functional year after year. They have become an integral part of our lives as they give us quick access to information, swift connection to people across the globe, entertainment on the go, and many other functions.
As mobile phone manufacturers continue to improve their products, we’ve seen impressive features that we never imagined coming to smartphones. One of these unbelievable features is the in-screen fingerprint scanner that is only possible thanks to ultrasonic sensors. Before now, fingerprint sensors were positioned in other parts of mobile phones, but, thanks to this little device, manufacturers have been able to pull this off.
In February 2019, Korean electronics giants, Samsung, became the first smartphone manufacturer to fit an in-screen fingerprint scanner in their mobile phone. The Galaxy S10 series and the Galaxy Fold were the first of the company’s smartphones to get the new feature. Since then, other manufacturers have adopted the technology and today, in-screen fingerprint scanners have become a common feature in smart phones.
You can go to SensComp for a more in-depth look at this subject.
Sensors are opening doors to wilder inventions that few years ago were impossible to imagine. While other types of sensors are important in various industries, ultrasonic sensors really stand out thanks to their wide range of applications. With incredible innovations like these from manufacturers, the future for us consumers has never been more exciting.