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Application Note

Sensor technologies for harsh environments

Characteristics of sensor technologies in harsh environment

Many test and measurement solutions are required in a wide spectrum of highly demanding industries including process control, heavy plant, defence and motorsport to name a few. Sensing devices for liquid level and position measurement are put through their paces in environments subject to heavy vibration, shock, dirt ingress and extreme temperatures.

It is because of this, sensor technology and its design has to deliver reliable, versatile and cost-effective measurement data. Typical characteristics of liquid level and position sensors capable of delivering high performance and reliability combine a number of factors.

Device characteristics

Highly reliable: Heavy duty environments such as agricultural machinery, off-highway and defence vehicles operate in extremely dusty conditions which can cause issues for some sensor types. Non-contact, solid-state sensor technology is commonly used as a reliable solution due to their proven robustness and resistance to contamination. Solid-state sensors reduce the likelihood of mechanical failures as there are no mechanical components for dust ingress to build-up or clog.

Accurate: Accuracy is a key factor when measuring liquid level and position data in fast-paced environments. Delivering highly accurate measurement readings under extreme operational conditions is difficult to achieve, however capacitive and induction sensor technologies are some of the most accurate ways of measuring within these parameters, each having their own individual advantages. Sensor accuracy is dependent on a variety of factors such as high quality electronics and robust sensor components, stability over the temperature range and well-engineered manufacturing. Sensing technologies combining these characteristics such as the Gill product range deliver greater accuracy in the most demanding installations.

Robust: Devices constructed from strong materials provide a higher tolerance to heavy vibration, temperatures ranging from -40°C to +170°C and shock reaching 50g in 60m/s. Sensors manufactured in a fully-sealed durable housing such as aluminium or engineering polymers deliver higher quality and long-term reliability compared to those made from cheaper, plastic or flimsy materials. On the other hand, lightweight sensors are often required in applications where size and weight is restricted. Ensuring a sensor is light enough for the application – while being durable and resilient to the harshness of the application – can be problematic for sensors which have not been proven in extensive environmental testing.

Simulation tested: Simulation analysis of the sensor in its application environment is key to ensuring long-term reliability. Using sophisticated systems to test the sensor design and mechanical weak points, potential failure modes are eliminated, thereby ensuring the sensor is optimised for the harsh demands placed upon it.

Heat protected: High temperature operation is a common cause of sensor failure, due to the electronics restricting the maximum operational limits of the technology utilised in the sensor. Gill produces sensors which incorporate advanced, high-temperature circuit boards – which can also be remotely positioned away from the heat source – to ensure accuracy and reliability in extreme or fluctuating temperatures.

Utilising over 25 years’ experience, we have become specialists in developing sensors for harsh environments, providing some of the most reliable solutions in a variety of uncompromising operating conditions.

Sensor technologies for harsh environments
Level Sensor technologies for harsh environments