JST  Vol.7 No.1 , March 2017
Sol-Gel Relative Humidity Sensors: Impact of Electrode Geometry on Performance in Soil Suction Measurements
Abstract: This paper describes the experimental procedure followed to fabricate and validate sol-gel based RH sensors which will be incorporated in soil specimens for standard laboratorial tests. It is the first time such sensors were used for soil suction measurement. They are microfabricated relative humidity sensors (footprint area 11,000 μm × 22,000 μm) operating based on changes in electrical resistivity detected by a cerium doped silica titania film deposited using a sol-gel technique. Their design required gathering experts in several engineering specialties. The working principle of the sensors is based on water vapour equilibrium between the air in the soil and in the sol-gel pores, due to the contact between the two porous materials. The spacing between interdigitated aluminium electrodes was optimized to improve the sensing properties of the sol-gel. The calibration of the different prototypes was done against compacted clay, varying the spacing between 100 and 700 μm. The sensors were also incorporated in soil samples for suction measurement during wetting and drying paths. They were validated by comparing the readings with those from a water dew point potentiometer. From this study it was possible to determine the optimum electrodes spacing of 200 μm. Error was explained by sol-gel heterogeneity effect and by the resolution of the sensing area provided by the electrodes spacing. When comparing with other sensors operating inside soil specimens in standard laboratorial tests, these sol-gel sensors extend the operation range available with the alternative technologies: while conventional tensiometers measure suction ranges from 0 to 1.8 MPa, our sensors demonstrate good results between 1 to 10 MPa (and higher).
Cite this paper: Cardoso, R. , Sarapajevaite, G. , Korsun, O. , Cardoso, S. and Ilharco, L. (2017) Sol-Gel Relative Humidity Sensors: Impact of Electrode Geometry on Performance in Soil Suction Measurements. Journal of Sensor Technology, 7, 1-23. doi: 10.4236/jst.2017.71001.

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