Sensor Sundays: Detecting Life, Fighting Pollution and the ISS Sensors

Last weeks, sensors dominated the Consumer Electronics Show. They showed up in everything from wearables to home automation. In fact, Jack Smith, managing partner and director of digital platforms at GroupM said to Adweek that “sensors will have bigger impact on marketing than the internet did.” 2015 is going to be an exciting year for the sensor industry, and even just a couple of weeks in, there are some amazing developments.

Searching for Life with the Tiniest of Sensors

nanosensor-et-life-2014-12-30-01

(source: PNAS paywall)

First, scientists from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland developed a tiny sensor that picks up on vibrations from even the smallest organisms. The team of researchers figure that all life must exhibit movement, so they used extremely sensitive devices called nano-mechanical oscillators. Tests with different bacteria have already proven successful and they hope that these devices will someday land on other planets to look for life.

(via Motherboard)

Sensors Triggered Aboard the International Space Station

Speaking of space, the international space station might have suffered from some sensor misfirings in the last week. The crew of the station were forced to seek quarantine in the Russian quarters while they worked out what to do about an indicated ammonia leak. Eventually, it was determined that the station was safe and the crew have since returned to business as usual.

(via MSN)

Higher Levels of Methane than Expected were Detected over LA

At NASA’s California Laboratory for Atmospheric Remote Sensing, NASA detected high levels of methane over Los Angeles. They use a spectromoter to measure levels of methane, carbon dioxide and other pollutants present in 28 sites across LA. In 2014, they found that methane emissions were at about 430,000 U.S. tons annually. This figure is well over what other estimates have calculated. Using sensors may give us a clearer picture of problem areas that will help scientists and engineers come up with a solution.

(via Space Daily)

Citizen Scientists Helping in the Fight Against Pollution

sensors for the people

(credit: Nature)

But it might not be just NASA doing the dirty work, plenty of technology is emerging for citizens to detect and fight air pollution. The various technologies haven’t been perfected. Scientists still doubt that devices like the DustDuino and Air Quality Egg will provide the robust pollution data and precise acquisition control needed in research. However, moves are being made by the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a feasible, low-cost system.

(via Nature)


Those are the highlights from this week. Stay tuned next Sunday for more updates on emerging technologies in the sensor industry and their applications.

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Math lover. Engineering communicator. Mad-lib enthusiast. Total nerd.

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