According to the recent IDTechEx report “Printed and Flexible Sensors 2022-2032: Technologies, Players, Markets,” low cost printed/flexible sensor technologies could play a significant role in adapting to climate change . Adapting could take various forms, from changing the areas in which specific crops are grown to building flood defense systems and even relocating cities in more extreme cases. Extensive sensor data could provide the justification for significant expenditures in different parts of the globe.
The data could include variables ranging from the well-known sea levels and climate measurements to soil fertility, water quality, agricultural output and more. Low-cost, wirelessly connected sensors provide a couple of key advantages. Instead of periodically sending a technician to make critical readings or collecting data at costly specialist monitoring stations, widely distributed and cheap wireless sensors can provide continuous data so a change can be observed quickly and an appropriate, timely response implemented.
Widely distributed sensing can quickly identify localized problems before they spread into a greater area. For example, the flow levels and water quality can be monitored throughout a catchment area, where shortages or pollutants can be identified at an early stage and remedial action taken quickly.
The widely distributed, low-cost sensing infrastructure required to track the effects of climate change can be provided by printed electronics including printed sensors. A variety of printed sensors can be produced extremely cost-effectively at high volumes using a continuous roll-to-roll manufacturing technique. These sensors can measure temperature, gas concentration, water quality, soil moisture and more.
IDTechEx cited one printed sensor company as specifically pursuing this market. Targeting water quality monitoring with its printed sensor technology, Brewer Science uses a functional printed material to detect specific analytes within a low-cost sensor . The data is sent to the cloud for subsequent processing, providing water suppliers with real-time water quality monitoring across their network. This approach could easily be applied to sensing for natural water courses, and even combined with printed capacitive sensors to monitor the volume of water.