U.S. demand for chemical sensors is projected to grow 7.6 percent per year to $5.4 billion in 2012, with biosensors continuing to be the largest type of chemical sensor, according to a report by The Freedonia Group (www.freedoniagroup.com).

Freedonia predicts overall growth will also be boosted by technological advances that allow for price reduction, sensor miniaturization, and greater precision — all of which will expand the use of chemical sensors into new markets, as well as new applications within existing markets. Demand for chemical sensors based on emerging technologies, such as optical sensors, will see the fastest gains, according to Freedonia. The medical market is expected to remain the largest in terms of sales of chemical sensors, but strong growth is forecast in all chemical sensor outlets, which also include industrial and environmental monitoring applications.

The study, titled Chemical Sensors, says the development of multianalyte sensors and the use of biosensors in high-density arrays will also support
demand, while biosensors used outside of medical applications will continue to face considerable challenges from other existing detection and measurement methodologies. Optical sensors — including products based on infrared, fiber optic, photoionization, fluorescence, chemiluminescence, light-emitting diode, laser and ultraviolet technologies — are expected to continue to benefit from their high sensitivity, stability, immunity to interference and product improvements, such as smaller size and enhanced ruggedness.

The large automotive sensor market is also expected to post favorable growth through 2012, due to a rebound in motor vehicle production and the introduction of new sensor applications, such as cabin air quality control. The development of lower-cost, more durable and higher-performance chemical sensors is expected to drive demand in other markets as well, such as process industries, water and wastewater monitoring, and homeland security.