Environmental sensors are small, eco-friendly devices that can be used to monitor a variety of factors depending on where they are deployed. In agriculture, for example, they enable farmers to monitor weather, water, irradiation, and soil moisture levels to improve field management and prevent disease.
Another place where environmental sensors can be used is in electronics, specifically in data centres where operators are tasked with delivering more information processing, all while reaching and maintaining optimal levels of efficiency.
With data centre power consumption increasing year-on-year, talks surrounding climate change continuing to grow, and pressure groups becoming progressively respected, science and technology are committed to finding and developing new solutions that can tackle environmental concerns.
There are several areas and industries that could benefit hugely from the development of environmental sensors—sensors that will play a vital role in the transition to the ‘circular economy’ worldwide and are essential for achieving greater sustainability.
A handheld environmental sensor being used to measure pollution levels in an agricultural area. Its screen displays a PM (particulate matter) reading of 2.5. Image Credit: Bigstock.
Why Environmental Sensors Will Overtake Traditional Ones
In a world where climate change is front and centre, dedicated environmental sensors and monitoring systems may well replace standalone and integrated sensors and systems. Market research certainly seems to suggest this, too: by 2023, it is estimated that the environmental sensor market will be worth a whopping $2.19 billion.
Environmental sensors facilitate strategic decision making. Whilst each environmental sensor differs in terms of its function, they all deliver valuable data that can be used by industry operators to behave in a more efficient way.
Returning to the above examples of agriculture and data centres, the former can use environmental sensors to measure and tackle pollution levels and the latter can use environmental sensors to monitor temperatures and decide when additional cooling hardware needs to be integrated. Both of these use cases have positive knock-on effects for the environment and also help to improve their overall efficiency.
Plus, because so many environmental sensors are highly accurate, eco-friendly, small, and discreet, they may be deployed with minimal disruption to collect and deliver information that can be relied on without a shadow of a doubt.
Dedicated environmental systems that form part of a bigger environmental monitoring system are powerful solutions that can help industrial and commercial operators meet modern demands concerning both energy efficiency and carbon neutrality. They are capable of far more than standalone sensors and solutions that have invariably limited scope.
An indoor air quality sensor on a windowsill. Image credit: Bigstock.
Developing Environmental Sensors
To create environmental sensors for different purposes, such as the detection of airflow, water, temperature, and humidity (to name just a few), engineers can use a large variety and combination of materials.
These materials include graphene oxide, zeolites, and metal-organic frameworks; plus, sensors made from them could be used for a variety of purposes.
Graphene-based sensors, for example, could potentially be used for environmental monitoring of nitrous dioxide (aka NO2)—with additional applications in environmental pollution monitoring, portable monitors, as well as automotive and mobile sensors for a global real-time monitoring network.
Another example of environmental sensors made from some of the above materials (namely porous zeolites and metal-organic compounds that are both thermally and chemically-durable) are environmental purification or water quality monitoring sensors. Researchers at Brown University have recently shown how composite materials can be used as a sensor in the ocean during an oil spill.
The Future of Environmental Sensors
The environmental sensors industry is rapidly growing, and the sensors that are being developed are of huge importance to wide-ranging environmental applications. Monitoring oceans, keeping air quality in check, and helping the biggest power consumers to both reach and maintain optimal levels of efficiency are just a few examples of how they can be used.
As the world becomes more tuned in to the dire issues that our planet faces due to climate change, environmental sensors will become a staple component of commercial and industrial settings of the future.