Visitors to the Sensor + Test 2008 exhibition and conferences in Nuremberg next month will be able to sample the wares of nearly 600 companies selling everything from the tiniest sensors based on nanotechnology to full-blown test and measurement systems for use in the automotive, aerospace and other industries.

New products on display at the exhibition — which will run 6–8 May — include what is claimed to be the world’s smallest and most precise absolute pressure sensor. Produced by VTI Technologies of Finland, the device is said to consume only 6 µA of current, which means that it could be integrated within a wristwatch or mobile phone to allow such devices to function as precision altimeters.

Fibre–Bragg gratings

A number of firms will be exhibiting sensor technologies based on optical fibres, including Belgium’s Fibre Optic Sensors and Sensing Systems. The firm offers a range of temperature, strain, displacement and pressure sensors that are all based on fibre–Bragg gratings. These are regions within an optical fibre with optical properties that are very sensitive to mechanical or temperature changes. Because such detection systems are based on the transmission of light — rather than electrical signals — they are immune to most electromagnetic interference, making them increasingly popular for use in cars and aeroplanes.

The exhibition also features an “Action Area” where more than 20 companies will offer hands-on demonstrations of their sensors and testing systems. Germany’s Microtech Gefell, for example, will be demonstrating its “acoustic camera”, which will be used to create images of the vibrational properties of vehicle engines. Future-Shape of Germany will invite delegates to try out its flooring and glass-pane products that have built-in sensors to help guide people with vision or mobility problems around their home. Stiegele Data Systems of Germany will be showing off its data acquisition and analysis software, which will be connected to a number of different sensors mounted on a mountain bike that will be ridden over a test course.

History of strain gauges

Delegates will also be treated to a history lesson on the invention and development of strain gauges in a retrospective exhibition sponsored by two German firms: ADDITIVE and imc Meßsysteme.

A little over 60% of exhibitors are from Germany, with most of the remaining firms hailing from the rest of Europe. Those coming from beyond Europe include more than 30 firms from North America and eight companies from China.

Sensor + Test includes two major conferences: the 8th OPTO conference on research and development in optical and optoelectronic sensors and the 10th International Infrared Sensors and Systems Conference.

Both meetings will run 6–7 May and each day will kick off with joint plenary talks aimed at delegates to both conferences. On the first day, Holger Vogel of Germany’s Carl Zeiss Optronics will talk about how to improve imaging systems by combining data from several different optical sensors. This will be followed by the second plenary talk by René Beigang, head of the ultrafast photonics and terahertz physics group at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, Germany (see “The terahertz revolution”). Beigang will talk about the rapidly expanding field of terahertz sensing, which has been used by NASA to improve the safety of the space shuttle and could soon be used in airport security scanners.

Plenary talks

On the second day of the conferences, one plenary talk will be given by Georg von Freymann of the Center for Functional Nanostructures at Karlsruhe University, Germany. Von Freymann’s research group is developing three-dimensional photonic crystals — materials comprising periodic nanostructures that have a number of distinct optical properties such as “optical band gaps”. Von Freymann will talk about the prospects for using photonic crystals in optical sensor systems.

The OPTO conference will also include sessions on optical sources and modules, fibre-optic sensing and optical measurement technologies. In addition to several sessions devoted to thermal imaging and temperature measurement, the Infrared Sensors and Systems Conference will also include a session on the latest developments in sensors and arrays.