Apparatus for sensing a load or pressure applied to a surface


Loads and pressure distributions on surfaces have traditionally been measured using mechanical load cells, pressure sensors or piezoelectric films. However these methods may require significant modifications to the surface as well as wiring of optical fibre connection to every measurement location. This limits the achievable resolution and drives up the cost of applications.

New technology has been developed which enables high-resolution load and pressure measurements on a large surface while eliminating the need for wiring and optical fibre connections. The design does not alter the surface and allows for measurements in environments where there is movement or fluid flow. The novel pressure and load-sensing technology significantly lowers the cost of previously used methods for pressure sensing.

Technology transfer

This technology is available for licensing, or for further development through a collaborative research agreement with NRC. The business opportunity may be referred to by its NRC ID: 11013

Market applications

This technology is of particular interest to marine operators, construction companies, scientific measurement equipment manufacturers, bridge, roads and other infrastructure owners and maintenance companies.

How it works

Loads and pressure distributions on surfaces have traditionally been measured using mechanical load cells for the force on the whole surface and pressure sensors incorporated into the surface for local force and pressure measurement. The load cells deform under load and the strain is monitored using an attached strain gauge. Pressure sensors are generally mechanical in design. One type of pressure sensor is the piston/diaphragm design where load is transmitted through the piston to the diaphragm causing a deflection. Piezoelectric films are also available for measuring dynamic load and pressure. Other pressure sensors use optical fibers sensitive to bending or connections between fibers.

However, these existing technologies often require extensive modification of the surface and are only suitable for certain kinds of loads. In addition, every sensor must have an electrical or optical fiber connection, making them impractical for large areas at high spatial resolution because of the costs and demands on the data acquisition system.

New technology which cost effectively senses load information over a large area and at high resolution has now been developed. The apparatus for sensing loading applied to a surface consists of continuous, stiff base, a flexible load receiving sheet over the base, and a layer of deformable material separating and capable of contacting both the base surface and the load receiving sheet. The load receiving sheet is compressed when loads are applied. The deformable layer has regularly spaced holes or gaps, and the deformable material bulges into these voids when compressed. Gap area reductions are observed using a video camera and measured. The technology allows for remote monitoring and measurements while eliminating the need for optical fibre connections. The design does not alter the surface and allows for measurements where there is movement or fluid flow between the base and the measurement apparatus. Moreover, the technology provides load information at high resolution, over a large area, at significantly lower cost than previous methods.

The patent has been issued in the United States


The technology provides reliable, high resolution, remote measurements of loads or pressures over a large surface. The design does not alter the surface measured and allows for movement of fluid flow between the base and the measuring apparatus. The technology eliminates the need for electric wires or optical fiber connectivity at each measurement point, significantly reducing the cost of pressure and load measurements over a large area.


  • NRC file 11013: Patent issued in the US
  • Patents


To inquire about this technology, please contact:

Mark Murphy, Business Advisor
Telephone: 709-772-2105

Express Licensing

NRC makes research & development licenses for this technology available under its Express Licensing program. To purchase such a license, please complete the Express Licensing order form.

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