KAUST develops sensors to signal danger

KAUST scientists’ disposable mobile wireless sensor nodes can be used to give early warning of industrial leaks or forest fires. Reproduced with permission from ref 1.© Farooqui et al.

A team from KAUST is using 3D printing to develop a cheap, reliable system to signal danger1.

The system, developed by a team, works by saturating high-risk areas with disposable packages of sensors (sensor nodes) that are linked wirelessly to fewer fixed nodes that raise the alarm.

This proof-of-concept study designed small sensors that can pick up heat and low humidity, both hallmarks of forest fires, as well as hydrogen sulfide, a toxic industrial gas. These small sensors were inkjet-printed onto a 3D-printed, 2-cm3 node containing a battery and microelectronic circuit board along with an antenna that transmits in any direction.

Currently the nodes are built using a combination of 3D and inkjet printing because no 3D printer can accurately deposit all the materials into the complex design. However, they will soon be made by a single machine, which will drastically reduce manufacturing time.