Proximity sensor

Proximity sensor

A proximity sensor is a sensor able to detect the presence of nearby objects without any physical contact. A proximity sensor often emits an electromagnetic or electrostatic field, or a beam of electromagnetic radiation (infrared, for instance), and looks for changes in the field or return signal. The object being sensed is often referred to as the proximity sensor's target. Different proximity sensor targets demand different sensors. For example, a capacitive or photoelectric sensor might be suitable for a plastic target; an inductive proximity sensor requires a metal target.

The maximum distance that this sensor can detect is defined "nominal range". Some sensors have adjustments of the nominal range or means to report a graduated detection distance.

Proximity sensors can have a high reliability and long functional life because of the absence of mechanical parts and lack of physical contact between sensor and the sensed object.

IEC 60947-5-2 defines the technical details of proximity sensors.

A proximity sensor adjusted to a very short range is often used as a touch switch.

Dealing with output from a proximity sensor

Conditioning the output of a proximity sensor is frequently difficult. Proximity sensor designers must confront linearity, hysteresis, excitation voltage instability, and voltage offset.

Types of sensors

*Photocell (reflective)
*Laser rangefinder
*Sonar (typically active or passive)
*Doppler effect (effect not a sensor)
*Passive thermal infrared
*Passive optical (such as charge-coupled devices)
*Reflection of ionising radiation


*Car bumpers that sense distance to nearby cars for parking
*Ground proximity warning system for aviation safety

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