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A very small sensor with physical dimensions in the submicrometer to millimeter range. A sensor is a device that converts a nonelectrical physical or chemical quantity, such as pressure, acceleration, temperature, or gas concentration, into an electrical signal. Sensors are an essential element in many measurement, process, and control systems, with countless applications in the automotive, aerospace, biomedical, telecommunications, environmental, agricultural, and other industries. The stimulus to miniaturize sensors lies in the enormous cost benefits that are gained by using semiconductor processing technology, and in the fact that microsensors are generally able to offer a better sensitivity, accuracy, dynamic range, and reliability, as well as lower power consumption, than their larger counterparts.
Mechanical microsensors form perhaps the largest family of microsensors because of their widespread availability. Microsensors have been produced to measure a wide range of mechanical properties, including force, pressure, displacement, acceleration, rotation, and mass flow. Force sensors generally use a sensing element that converts the applied force into the deformation of the elastic element.
Applications for chemical and biochemical microsensors are environmental monitoring and medicine. Applications in the medical industry may involve monitoring blood, urine, and breath, which contain a wealth of information about the patient's state of health. Only a few such devices now exist. Examples include a glucose biochemical microsensor and ion-selective field-effect devices used to measure blood pH. The use of microsensors to gather medical diagnostic information is an attractive proposition, and eventually there may even be implanted microsensors to diagnose health problems, using smell-sensitive array devices. See Bioelectronics