What is a Sensor?

Sensors can be found in almost every electronic device today.  The number of sensors in our everyday life is growing rapidly - whether in medical technology, smartphones or in the emerging field of autonomous driving. There is a huge variety of sensors available that complement or enhance the human senses of hearing, smell, taste, sight and touch.

In the world of electronics, a sensor is seen as the interface between the circuit and its environment. One of the characteristics of silicon as a semiconductor material, is its ability to convert light radiation into electrical voltage. This property is used in photovoltaics to generate electricity. In microelectronics both transistors and photodiodes can be integrated on the silicon wafer as equal circuit elements. An optical coating on the wafer surface above the finished circuit allows sensors to identify colors, ultraviolet or infrared light. The sensor can thus become part of the integrated circuit, with all the advantages of microelectronics: small, robust, inexpensive and mass producible.

What role do sensors play in corona tests?

The medical laboratory in your pocket: With the help of ams sensor solutions, complex medical test procedures can be carried out quickly. Not only COVID-19 tests, but also tests for HIV, cholesterol or even pregnancy tests can be completed much easier and faster.

Blood tests are one of the most important diagnostic procedures in medicine, detecting not only pregnancies and different blood counts such as cholesterol, but also pathogenic viruses in the blood. A test that can be carried out in the comfort of your own home and not in a laboratory would be ideal especially in the face of a pandemic.

ams is working on a technology for the development of rapid decentralized "point-of-care" antibody tests for Covid-19. With the Lateral Flow Test, which is coupled with a spectral sensor from ams, blood tests can be carried out quickly, accurately and cost effectively. The test provides objective results, which require no user interpretation, via Bluetooth to a smartphone app. Find out more in our video (in German).

Measure your pulse, ECG and blood pressure with the touch of a finger?

Smart health-monitoring is becoming a reality! A simple touch of the finger on our biosensor is all it takes for an application to display pulse, ECG signals and blood pressure measurements. Our biosensors enable the visual measurement of vital signs. Simply touch the biosensor with a finger and the app will display pulse, ECG signal and blood pressure results. 

This demonstration shows how blood pressure can be measured without an arm cuff with the help of a visual biosensor developed by ams. The biosensor only needs the touch of a finger. The ECG can also be measured using the same sensor by touching three electrodes. The blood pressure is then calculated from the measured data. The app displays your heart rate, ECG signals and blood pressure measurements. There is also an option to enter data such as height, age and weight into the app to get an even more accurate result.

Important: Even though the blood pressure calculation was checked for accuracy in a clinical study with over 100 participants, these values are meant as reference values only and cannot be used as a medical reference. Find out more in our video (in German).

If Natalie were a sensor
Discover in this short video which sensor Natalie would be and why.

Do you know what your clothes are made from? Do you know what is in your food?

It’s easy to find out and you don't even need an expensive microscope; you only need an ams sensor and your smartphone! Just place the samples on the sensor and the answer is displayed on your smartphone! The sensor can determine substances, tissue types, or the ingredients in your food. Sounds strange? Watch our video to learn more (only available in German).

This sensor uses infrared technology to measure the colors (spectra) of the scanned food and materials. Would you like to know, for example, whether you are looking at sugar or salt? Just put the samples on the sensor and your smartphone will disclose what it really is. The sensor scans the medium using infrared light and measures the spectra to determine the correct answer. How is this possible? Everything is made up of individual chemical and molecular compounds. These compounds emit a certain spectrum of light which can then be used to determine the respective water, fat, carbohydrate, sugar or protein content. As a result you can see the breakdown of what you just measured. The same principle can also be applied to fabrics and skin tissue.

If Jim were a sensor
Discover in this short video which sensor Jim would be and why.

Do you also prefer the red candy?

For all those who care about the color of their candy, this sensor detects the color of an object at lightning speed, and a sophisticated mechanism sorts the candy based on color. So everyone can get their favorite! Check out the video that uses a candy sorter to show you how this sensor works. 

This ams color sensor measures the reflected light and can detect the amount of red, green and blue color transmitted - just like the human eye does. This works in fractions of a second, with the information about the color of each individual candy transferred immediately to a microcontroller, which then adjusts the conveyor belts so that each color takes its own path.

If Pierre were a sensor
Discover in this short video which sensor Pierre would be and why.

Would you have thought that almost 1,400 people work at our Headquarters in Premstätten?

One of them is Robert,  an engineer and musician who landed a chart hit with his Austrian band "Alle Achtung". People living in Austria, and particularly in Germany recognize the song "Marie", that just makes you want to dance. Enjoy an exclusive unplugged version of the chart hit 'Marie' which has been recorded in our ams castle courtyard in Premstaetten, Austria.

Robert has been working for ams in the corporate software division since 2013. He is the Technical Project Lead for SAT (Sensor Application Toolkit), also known as software frameworks, providing libraries and tools for GUIs (graphic user interface) and firmware development. "Computer science and music have accompanied me all my life. There were often times when I solely focused on one and neglected the other. I now realize that I simply need both in my life," says Robert. "I appreciate the flexible working hours at ams, and my managers and team colleagues who are always there to help and support me. 

Have you ever wondered how a semiconductor is made?

Whether computers, smartphones or other electronic devices, sand is at the heart of these everyday devices. Silicon is extracted from normal quartz sand, and processed into raw wafers from which the microchips that surround us are ultimately cut. How does that work?
In the periodic table silicon (Si) belongs to the group of semiconductors. This means that Si is an insulator in the high-purity state and can become an n- or p-type semiconductor if it is deliberately contaminated (doped) with electrically active materials. Very high doping makes silicon a metallic conductor. The starting product for semiconductor production is a high-purity silicon crystal, which is cut into slices, polished and called "wafer".

In a photographic process, the microscopically small structures are transferred from a template to the wafer surface. With this photomask, those parts of the wafer surface that are not covered by the mask can now be processed. Covered parts remain unprocessed. During the manufacturing process, the wafer passes through 20 to 40 mask steps, depending on the technology, until the fully functional circuit is completed. A wafer today typically contains between 500 and 10,000 integrated circuits or sensors. In further processing steps, the wafers are cut into the individual circuits and packaged in housings. These chips are then mounted on circuit boards.

What happens in a Cleanroom?

The cleanest air in the world is not found in the open air, but in hermetically (airtight) sealed rooms called "clean rooms". The concentration of airborne particles in these spaces is kept as low as possible ensuring that there are no bacteria, pollen or other influences that could affect the functionality and quality of the wafers.

Cleanrooms are used in many different ways in industrial production, for example, in the manufacture of foodstuffs, and in the pharmaceutical and microelectronics industries. The clean room provides the perfect conditions needed to produce circuits free of particles, ensuring consistent product quality.

What does this mean for the manufacturing of microelectronics and sensors? The dimensions of the electrical switching elements on an integrated circuit are much smaller than pollen, bacteria or grains of dust. Under the microscope, a "defect" in the circuit looks like a boulder blocking a country road. To avoid such defects, the surface of the silicon wafer must be protected by ultra-pure air. The air in the cleanroom is filtered in four stages and the temperature and humidity are constant. The wafers are located in sealed boxes and loaded fully-automatically into the production machines. The most critical production step is photolithography. It is critical that the production machines do not vibrate and this is the reason why the production level is elevated.