OVERVIEW DEFINITIONS AND ISSUES
Life is a permanent possibility of sensation.
Robert Louis Stevenson
The value of the North American sensor market in 1990 was estimated to be $1.6 billion, and it is predicted to grow to $4.2 billion by the turn of the century (Thome, 1992). According to one estimate, the world sensor market in 1992 was $7.15 billion; if it grows at an eight percent per year rate, it will approach $13 billion by 1999 (Defense Base Forecast, 1993). In addition to constituting an important market in their own right, sensors have a significant impact on many areas, such as manufacturing, the development of consumer goods, environmental monitoring and regulation, and national security. There are obvious economic and social benefits to developing improved sensors and sensor materials, and over the past decade there have been significant advances in certain areas of sensor technology, such as the manufacture of complex silicon-based sensor systems. However, some of the fundamental materials challenges associated with sensing have received far less attention from the materials community.
During the 1980s, a number of National Materials Advisory Board studies addressed a variety of issues for advanced materials processing, including the availability of sensors for process control (NRC, 1986a,b,c, 1987, 1989a,b, 1992). Additional development of sensors and sensor materials was consistently identified as a requirement for enhanced materials processing. On the same theme, a National Research Council report on chemical and biological sensor technologies identified a requirement to develop coating and membrane materials to improve the performance of chemical microsensors (NRC, 1984). Similar materials needs were identified during the course of the present study, suggesting that progress in developing improved sensor materials for certain applications has been relatively slow.
In the course of its deliberations, the committee noted that progress in developing new sensor technologies and materials has been hampered in part by the difficulty of communicating sensing requirements and the capabilities of existing sensor technologies across the diverse technical disciplines involved in sensor research and development (R&D). For this reason, some basic definitions and possible approaches to sensor R&D are discussed in the two chapters of Part I prior to discussion of specific sensor technologies and materials requirements in Part II.
Chapter 1, "Introduction to Sensors," provides the basic definitions and background material for the remainder of the report. Chapter 2, "Interdisciplinary Strategy," discusses the recent trends in sensor development and issues in developing an R&D strategy for a program in sensor technology and suggests an approach for identifying opportunity areas for sensor research.
Defense Base Forecast. 1993. Long ride of growth predicted for sensor market worldwide. National Defense 73(Oct):4.
NRC (National Research Council). 1984. Assessment of Chemical and Biological Sensor Technologies. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1986a. Bioprocessing for the Energy-Efficient Production of Chemicals. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1986b. New Horizons in Electrochemical Science and Technology. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1986c. Automated Nondestructive Characterization and Evaluation in Metal and Ceramic Powder Production. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1987. Control of Welding Processes. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1989a. On-Line Control of Metals Processing. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1989b. Intelligent Process Control Systems for Materials Heat Treatment. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1992. Opportunities in Attaining Fully-Integrated Processing Systems. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Thome, J. 1992. Presentation by John Thome, Motorola Corp, on mass markets for low cost sensors to the Committee on New Sensor Technologies: Materials and Applications, Feb.