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Communications of the ACM

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Printable Sensors to Detect Fingers Without Touching

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Fraunhofer Institute polymer sensor

Rather than responding to a directly applied force or acceleration, sensors developed at Fraunhofer Institute can recognize a finger as it approaches.

Credit: Fraunhofer Institute

The European Union 3Plast research consortium plans to develop sensors that can be printed onto plastic film and attached to everyday objects. The sensors are being designed to respond to changes in temperature and pressure, which would enable them to detect the movement of a finger. "The sensor is combined with an organic transistor, which strengthens the sensor signal," says project leader Gerhard Domann.

Researchers have already printed sensors onto film, and are now optimizing transistors that can amplify changes in temperature and pressure. "By providing everyday objects with information about their environment—for example, whether a person is approaching—by means of pressure and temperature sensors, we can create and market new devices that can be controlled just by pointing a finger," Domann says. It will likely take several years to print sensors on large surfaces, he says.

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