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HOME / NI PRODUCTS / SENSORS

What are Sensors?

Essential to any data acquisition application is a transducer sensor that converts real-world phenomena, such as temperature and pressure, into measurable currents and voltages. Let’s explore the types of things you want to measure and map them to the types of sensors you need to get there. Before we get started, you can also review sensor terminology such as sensitivity, range, precision, resolution, and more. Explore the following sections to learn about the types of sensors used for each measurement type.

Types of Sensors

Sound

Sound waves are created by pressure variations in the air. Microphones transform sound pressure into capacitive variations, which are then converted into an electrical voltage. Review the fundamentals of sound pressure, how microphones work, and how to choose the right type of microphone.

Strain

Strain gauges are used to measure the deformation of a material due to an applied force. The resistance of a strain gauge changes with small bends and pulls on the material. Explore basic strain concepts, how strain gages work, and how to select the right configuration type.

Pressure

Pressure is defined as force per unit area that a fluid exerts on its surroundings. The three most universal types of pressure transducers are the bridge (strain-gage based), variable capacitance, and piezoelectric. Explore basic pressure concepts and how different pressure sensors work.

Load and Torque

Load is a term frequently used to refer to the force exerted on a structure or body measured in Newtons (N). Torque is the tendency of a force to rotate an object about an axis. Explore the fundamentals of these measurements and how different sensor specifications affect performance.

Temperature

Thermocouples produce small changes in voltage in relation to temperature while resistance temperature sensors have resistance changes in relation to temperature. Learn more about the difference between thermocouples, RTDs, and thermistors and the environments that best suit them.

Vibration

Accelerometers are commonly used to measure vibration and contain piezoelectric crystals that generate an electric charge proportional to force from oscillations. Learn about the theory of vibration, accelerometer functionality, and considerations for choosing the right accelerometer.

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Sound
Strain
Pressure
Temperature
Vibration
Load and Torque
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