Scientists at MIT University have created digitally manufactured plasma sensors for orbiting spacecraft's that could help predict the weather more easily, as well as study climate change.
Better known as RPA’s, plasma sensors are used in satellites to determine both the chemical composition and ion energy distribution within our atmosphere, which is what helps us to be able to predict weather, using chemical analysis. However, in order to function adequately, the sensors must have an electrically insulating housing structure. They should also be able to withstand sudden changes in temperature, as well as incredibly durable.
To create their 3D-printed sensors, the MIT scientists used a material known as Vitrolite, which can withstand temperatures up to 800 degrees celcius. It is also printable and glass-ceramic. It is also more ‘durable’ than traditional sensor materials like silicon and thin-film coatings. This makes it the perfect candidate, as it meets the criteria to be able to function adequately.
The researchers then used a process known as vat polymerization, which helps to create smooth, pore-free, complex ceramic shapes. Out of the four designs that they created, the scientists found that each design had its own benefit. The sensors are both low-cost and quick to produce. Their creation technique also allowed for higher-resolution measurements.
However, this isn't the only use that sensors have within the technology industry. Sensors are currently being developed for a wide variety of usages, including tin gas sensors that can track nitrogen and sensors to track dangerous trends and habits developed by road users.