You’ll need sensors to complete your new appliance, building automation product or automated manufacturing system. You may need customization for a specific sensor assembly. While price and delivery are critical decision factors, other considerations determine a successful sensor selection. Here are some essential facts about sensor choices and four crucial questions whose answers should carry significant weight in your decision process.

Magnetic detection sensors for proximity detection, positioning and control
Reed switches have two ferromagnetic blades (reeds) hermetically sealed in a tubular glass envelope. The contacts on each reed have a thin layer of precious metal to provide a low resistance electrical connection. The glass envelope is filled with nitrogen gas to eliminate oxygen and prevent contact oxidation. Reed switches can be activated by either a permanent magnet or an electromagnet. The relative stiffness of the reed blades, the small gap and the overlap between the two contacts determine the switch’s sensitivity, defined by the intensity of the magnetic field required to change the state of the contacts. Unlike an integrated circuit sensor, a reed switch does not require power to operate. Thus, a reed switch is an excellent control element in battery-powered products.

Hall effect sensors generate a voltage when exposed to a magnetic field intensity and when supplied by a source current. The sensor is a semiconductor-based material. Hall voltages are microvolt and millivolt levels; thus, a Hall effect sensor requires signal conditioning. In addition, the semiconductor element requires temperature compensation and EMC/ESD protection. Hall effect sensors monitor proximity and provide continuous rotary or linear positioning.

Reed relays combine a reed switch and control coil. As with other relays, this provides galvanic isolation between the coil control circuit and the controlled load. The reed relay’s small size and high magnetic efficiency enable lower coil drive power than other relay types. Other advantages include high insulation resistance, low contact resistance and long contact life.

TMR switches integrate tunneling magneto resistance (TMR) and CMOS technology to provide a magnetically triggered digital switch with high sensitivity and ultra-low power consumption. It contains TMR magnetic sensor and CMOS signal processing circuitry within the same package, including an on-chip TMR voltage generator for precise magnetic sensing, a TMR voltage amplifier and comparator plus a Schmitt trigger to provide switching hysteresis for noise rejection. An internal bandgap regulator provides a temperature compensated supply voltage for internal circuits, permitting a wide range of supply voltages.

Temperature sensors
Thermistors are thermally sensitive resistors whose resistance is a function of their temperature. Negative temperature coefficient (NTC) thermistors decrease their resistance when the temperature rises, and positive temperature coefficient (PTC) thermistors increase their resistance when the temperature rises. Thermistors provide high accuracy over a narrow range of approximately -50° C to 100° C. Thermistors have highly predictable characteristics and excellent long-term stability; they’re ideal sensors for temperature measurement and control applications.

Read more: Common sense about sensors: 4 questions to ask before selecting sensors for your next design