Critical Thinking

Abstract—In as a short response time, small hysteresis

Abstract—In this work I present three types of
humidity sensors and their field of applications. Most commonly used humidity
sensors are based on capacitive or resistive measurement. All these types of
humidity sensors has a comparable design, which uses an insulated substrate,
electrode structures, and a sensing material. The choice of a suitable sensor
fabrication (in case of technical specification) depends on the operating
conditions. 

                                                                                                                                                           
I.       
Introduction

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The impact of humidity plays an important
role in all areas of human life such as biology or automated industrial
processes because water vapor is a natural component of the air 1,4. Humidity
sensors are used in intelligent systems for monitoring soil moisture in the
field of agriculture or for the monitoring of corrosion and erosion in
infrastructures. Furthermore, humidity sensors are used for the human comfort
problems in household applications 1. Due to the various fields of
application of humidity sensors and the associated different requirements, there
are various sensor principles 1,2. Table 1 shows five examples of the areas
of application and the associated operating temperature and humidity range in
these areas 2. Based on the measuring units, these sensors are divided into
two main groups: Relative Humidity (abbreviated RH) sensors and Absolute
Humidity (abbreviated AH) sensors. These sensor types are called hygrometric
sensors. However, in many humidity measurement applications, relative humidity measurement
is preferred because the measurement of relative humidity is simpler and thus
less expensive and is widely used in the areas of indoor air quality and
comfort problems 1. To make the humidity sensors flexible for a wide range of
application, the following requirement, such as a short response time, small
hysteresis and a good sensitivity over a wide range of humidity and temperature
are set for these sensors 4.

TABLE I.          
Examples of the application areas 2

 
Application

Operating
Temperature °C

Humidity
range RH%

Automobile: car
windowa

-20 – 80

50-100

Domestic
electric appliance: Drier for clothing

80

0-40

Industry: Electric
device manufacturing

5-40

0-50

Medical service:
Medical apparatus

10-30

80-100

Measurement: Hygrometer

-5-100

0-100

                                                                               
a. Prevention of dew condensation

                                                                                                                                                                  
II.      
Theory

Since the most commonly used method is the
relative humidity measurement, the relative humidity is explained in the
following. In general, the humidity is defined as the amount of water vapor in
an atmosphere of air 1. Since the relative humidity is a temperature
dependent variable, it is customary in hygrometry to measure the humidity
together with the temperature. The relative humidity is given in percent and
determined as follows: 1,4

                                                      (1)

where: pw: water vapor
pressure, ps: saturation pressure at the same given temperature in
Bar 1,4.

 

 

                                                                                                                                          
III.     
Types of
humidity sensors

Humidity sensors
based on the change of their electrical properties are divided into two groups:
resistive-type and capacitive-type 3. The construction of capacitive sensors
and resistive sensors are comparable, but the measuring principle is different.
The capacitive-type sensors are based on the change of their dielectric
properties, whereas the resistive- type sensors are based on the change of
their conductivity. 4 Both sensor types have a pair of electrodes on a
substrate coated with a humidity sensitive layer. The adsorption of water vapor
causes a change in the dielectric constant of the material (capacitive-type)
and this leads to a change in the capacitance between the electrodes, or a
change in the conductivity of the material (resistive-type) whereby the
resistance changes. 5

A.  
Resistive-type
humidity sensor

A thin-film resistive-type
humidity sensor is presented in 6. Figure 1 shows the schematic structure of
the sensor. As substrate, an alumina substrate was selected. On this substrate
are the electrodes, for this an interdigital structure (or comb structure) with
intervals of 0.15 mm was chosen. The humidity-sensitive layer consists of a
mixed aqueous solution of styrene-sulfonate monomers, crosslinking agents and
vinyl polymers which are spin-cast onto the substrate. Since styrene-sulfonate
are polymerized and crosslinked by ultraviolet irradiation, the coated film is
irradiated with ultraviolet light in a nitrogen atmosphere. For protection, the
humidity-sensitive layer is covered with a moisture-permeable film. This
protective film serves to suppress the influence, such as cigarette smoke, oil
and other impurities, and to protect the humidity-sensitive film from them. The
size of the sensor is 5 mm x 7 mm 6.

Figure 1.   
Schematic
structure of a thin-film resistive-type humidity sensor. 6

Figure
2 shows the response characteristics of the sensors at 25 °C with an operating
frequency of 1 kHz. Using a thermostatic humidity generator, the resistance was
measured at various relative humidities. For the measurement, the sensor was
connected to a load resistor and an AC voltage of less than 3 V was applied. The
accuracy of the generated humidity in the thermostatic test chamber is better
than 2% RH. The sensor shows a high sensitivity over the relative humidity and
as expected a logarithmic behavior and has the advantage of being linear in the
range from 30 % to 100 %. Since many sensors were produced on the same
substrate in 6, the response characteristics are comparable and show the same
behavior 6.

Figure 2.   
Response
characterics of the sensor (at 25 °C and 1 kHz).6

Figure
3 shows the response curves for two kinds of samples. The curve with the solid
line shows the response for the sensor with a protective layer and the curve
with the dotted line shows the response for the sensor without a protective
layer. The response time is measured for a quick change of relative humidity
from 30% to 90% and vice versa. For the sensor with a protective layer, the
response time for adsorption and desorption is a few seconds. For the sensor
without a protective layer, the response time is 100 seconds for adsorption and
150 seconds for desorption 6.

Figure 3.   
Response curves
for two kinds of samples (solid line : Sensor with protective film, dotted line:
Sensor without protective film).6

 

B.  
Capacitive-type
humidity sensor

A thin-film
capacitive-type humidity sensor is presented in 1 and 2. Figure 4 shows the
schematic structure of the sensor. This sensor is called ‘Humicape’ and was developed
by Vaisala in Finland and is used in many humidity-measuring instruments, such
as radio-sondes. As substrate, a glass substrate was selected. On this
substrate, the lower twin electrodes are attached by indium evaporation. The
thin-film humidity-sensitive material used is cellulose acetat with a thickness
of about 1 µm. On top is the upper electrode which is made by gold evaporation.
This upper electrode has a thickness of about 10 nm to 20 nm and is porous
enough for the transport of water vapor 1,2. The upper electrode, which acts
as a counter electrode to the lower twin electrodes, results in a series
connection of two capacitances. This construction has the advantage that the
difficulties in contacting the thin upper electrode are eliminated. 2.

Figure 4.   
Schematic
structure of a thin-film capacitive-type humidity sensor. 2

Figure 5 shows the response
characteristics of the sensor for different frequencies. The capacitance is
approximately proportional to the ambient humidity in the range from 0% to 100%
2. The sensor has a good accuracy and a response time of about 1 s to reach
90% of the steady-state value 1,2.

Figure 5.   
Response
characteristics of the ‘Humicape’ humidity sensors for different frequencies.
2

C.  
Impedance-type humidity sensor

An impedance-type
humidity sensor is presented in 7. Figure 6 shows the schematic structure of
an impedance-type humidity sensor. As substrate, an alumina substrate was
selected. On this substrate are the electrodes, for this an interdigital gold
structure (or comb structure) with a thickness of 8 µm to 10 µm was chosen. The
humidity-sensitive layer was prepared in 7 with different mixing ratios of
GTMAC (glycidyl trimethyl ammonium chloride), PPGDE (polypropylene glycol
diglycidyl) and MTHPA (methyl tetrahydrophthalic anhydride) 7.

Figure 6.   
Schematic
structure of a impedance-type humidity sensor. 7

Figure 7 shows the
response characteristics of the sensor at 25 °C and 1 kHz for a mixed ratio of
GTMAC/PPGDE/MTHPA = 100/0/70. For the measurements, an AC voltage of 1 V was
applied between the electrodes. The impedance of the sensor was measured in the
range from 30% to 100%.  The curve for
absorption and desorption shows a proportional behavior. For the determination
of the hysteresis, two dotted lines in the range of +- 2% RH are

Figure 7.   
Response
characteristics of the sensor. Filled circle: absorption curve, non-filled
circle: desorption curve, dotted lines: range of +- 2% RH (at 25 °C and 1 kHz).
7

shown in figure 2.
For the hysteresis of the sensor, this results in a value of 100 s

capacitive

0-100

1 s

impedance

30-90

x

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