Surface acoustic wave devices as passive buried sensors

Abstract : Surface acoustic wave (SAW) devices are currently used as passive remote-controlled sensors for measuring various physical quantities through a wireless link. Among the two main classes of designs-resonator and delay line-the former has the advantage of providing narrow-band spectrum informations and hence appears compatible with an interrogation strategy complying with Industry-Scientific-Medical regulations in radio-frequency (rf) bands centered around 434, 866, or 915 MHz. Delay-line based sensors require larger bandwidths as they consists of a few interdigitated electrodes excited by short rf pulses with large instantaneous energy and short response delays but is compatible with existing equipment such as ground penetrating radar (GPR). We here demonstrate the measurement of temperature using the two configurations, particularly for long term monitoring using sensors buried in soil. Although we have demonstrated long term stability and robustness of packaged resonators and signal to noise ratio compatible with the expected application, the interrogation range (maximum 80 cm) is insufficient for most geology or geophysical purposes. We then focus on the use of delay lines, as the corresponding interrogation method is similar to the one used by GPR which allows for rf penetration distances ranging from a few meters to tens of meters and which operates in the lower rf range, depending on soil water content, permittivity, and conductivity. Assuming propagation losses in a pure dielectric medium with negligible conductivity (snow or ice), an interrogation distance of about 40 m is predicted, which overcomes the observed limits met when using interrogation methods specifically developed for wireless SAW sensors, and could partly comply with the above-mentioned applications. Although quite optimistic, this estimate is consistent with the signal to noise ratio observed during an experimental demonstration of the interrogation of a delay line buried at a depth of 5 m in snow.
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Jean-Michel Friedt, Thibault Retornaz, Sébastien Alzuaga, Thomas Baron, Gilles Martin, et al.. Surface acoustic wave devices as passive buried sensors. Journal of Applied Physics, American Institute of Physics, 2011, 109 (3), pp.034905. ⟨10.1063/1.3504650⟩. ⟨hal-00577141⟩

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