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Artificial sensors and probes enable us to overcome the limitations of our human senses and extend them in novel and useful ways, using the scientific concepts of electricity and waves.

This resource provides explanations of the key concepts encountered when exploring artificial-sensors – the ‘basics’ that every student should understand.

Sense

A means of receiving and interpreting external stimuli by the brain. The stimuli can be perceived by special sensory cells in the body. This process may involve the senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch.

Sensor

An electrical device for gathering information, such as data about movement, temperature, light, sound and so on.

Robot

An electrical and mechanical machine that is programmed electronically to do specific tasks. It may have sensors to perceive and process data and to respond to different stimuli. It can have different degrees of being autonomous or self-controlled.

Electricity

A general term that encompasses a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge.

Electronic

Relating to electrical devices that work by controlling the flow of electrons especially using semiconductors.

Battery

More than one electrical cell connected together. It stores chemical energy that can be converted into electrical energy.

Electrical circuit

A complete route that electrons can follow. Unless there is at least one complete path, no electric charges will flow. A circuit usually consists of a power source, other electrical components and an unbroken pathway for the conduction of electricity.

Conductor

A material that has low resistance and allows electric current to travel through. Conductors are used to make wires and electronic components. Examples are carbon and metals such as copper.

Semiconductor

Material that has conductive properties that are between good conductors and insulators. Semiconductor devices have low resistances when a certain voltage is placed across them. At this voltage, they begin to conduct electricity easily.

Resistance

A measure of the difficulty for electric charges to flow through a substance. Conductors have low resistances, insulators have very high resistances and semiconductor devices have resistances that drop when a certain voltage is across them. The changing resistance of a component is put to use in some devices, for example, thermistors change their resistance with temperature.

    Published 2 September 2010 Referencing Hub articles