monitor it.” – Paul Richardson, Oz Optics
strikes, bird strikes, etcetera,” she said.
“This condition-based monitoring can
lead to reduced maintenance times and
increased safety for aircraft and civil
The self-repairing polymer waveguide
sensor was described in a paper published
in June in Smart Materials and Structures.
Peters notes that, as with any sensor sys-
tem, further testing of the durability, long-
term performance and performance in dif-
ferent environmental conditions is needed
– a process that could take a few years.
The sensor was created thanks to a
combination of many technological advances including recent advances in self-writing waveguides and concepts from
self-healing materials in materials science.
Peters believes that these technologies
will deliver sensors with capabilities
beyond those demonstrated by conventional optical fibers.
assisted living, etcetera,” Stoppa said.
In this research field, the open chal-
lenges are to extend the sensor dynamic
range, to improve immunity to back-
ground light so that outdoor operation
becomes possible, to achieve higher mod-
ulation frequencies that improve the
distance measurement precision and to
further shrink the pixel dimension.
Smart sensors already are demonstrat-
ing new capabilities. They are solid-state
devices typically fabricated using CMOS
technologies. They can measure a physical
quantity (for example, light intensity, tem-
perature, humidity and pressure of the air)
and process the result with a certain
amount of “intelligence.”
“The extra functionality is achieved
thanks to the use of the CMOS technol-
ogy, which enables the implementation
of sophisticated processing functions such
as embedded analog-to-digital conversion,
calibration or communication interfaces
between the smart sensor and a network,”
said David Stoppa, a researcher in the
Smart Optical Sensors and Interfaces de-
partment at Fondazione Bruno Kessler,
a research organization in Trentino, Italy.
Some of the focus of Stoppa’s current research is on next-generation image sensors
such as lock-in pixels for time-of-flight 3-D
imagers. A time-of-flight 3-D camera system consists of a modulated illumination
module (laser or LED), an optical diffuser
to obtain a flood illumination of the scene,
an objective to collect the light echo and a
phase-sensitive photodetector array.
“This image sensor is able to provide
both the conventional 2-D information (
intensity map) and the depth map of objects
in the scene, opening the way to thousands
of new applications in virtual reality, gaming, security, cultural heritage, ambient
Smart sensors in development at Fondazione Bruno Kessler include this CMOS range-image sensor chip, seen
in micrograph with a magnified view of the pixel structure in the inset. Courtesy of Fondazione Bruno Kessler.
Smart-sensors research at Fondazione Bruno Kessler has resulted in this time-of-flight range camera system
prototype. Courtesy of Fondazione Bruno Kessler.