OVERVIEW OPPORTUNITIES, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Judging from current uses and development efforts in sensor technologies, the committee expects increased use of advanced sensors in the manufacture and operation of major aerospace and military systems, commercial products, and infrastructure applications.
Traditionally, major sensor research and development efforts have been funded by various application programs that require specific sensor technology. The committee believes that a new era of sensor research and development is emerging in which the significant benefits of advancements in sensor technology will be rapidly adopted by multiple applications rather than focusing on specialized niches.
The committee anticipates that technological advances involving materials for sensing applications will, in some cases, result in more capable and more complex sensor systems. However the complexity will be ''hidden" from the end user. For example, highly integrated sensor systems incorporating advanced signal processing and fusion from multiple sensor inputs will involve a high degree of internal complexity, although the user would have a simplified task of applying the sensor since the subsystem details are packaged together within the sensor system.
It is clear that a multidisciplinary approach to sensor technology R&D and to sensor application engineering is critical. Advancing the field of sensor materials, for example, is quite difficult unless specific requirements are known. Many of the sensor system materials needs include portions of the system other than the transducer.
Part III provides the committee's conclusions and recommendations regarding what could be done to accelerate the introduction of new sensor materials into applications. Chapter 7 contains a synopsis of the broad range of materials development opportunities that were presented in the case studies discussed in the four chapters of Part II. The decision process for sensor development involves both a categorization of sensor needs and a maturity/risk assessment of potential technologies. Three broad categories of risk can be identified:
low-risk: incremental extension of an existing sensor's performance envelope (e.g., the development of a cooled, miniature ultrasonic transducer that is needed to measure in situ void content during the consolidation of thermoplastic resins);
medium-risk: redesign of existing sensor system to satisfy new implementation constraints. Chemically selective sensors to monitor gas purity during semiconductor processing, if the nature of the impurities are known, would be a medium risk sensor materials need. Another example is the redesign design of an existing pressure sensor to accommodate the geometrical constraints imposed by a prepreg tape-laying head.
high-risk: a new materials solution to replace an inadequate materials solution or to support an entirely new concept of measurement (e.g., finding a superior optoelectronic modulator material to replace