NFPA Funded Research Developing Contaminant Sensor – Iowa State Tech Brief

Students at Iowa State University are working on a research project, Dielectric Spectroscopic Sensor Development for Hydraulic Fluid Contaminant Detection, funded by the NFPA Education and Technology Foundation. The goal of the project is to develop a practical dielectric sensor for detecting contaminants in hydraulic fluids.

The sensor was designed and fabricated to be low cost and capable of connecting inline. A hydraulic test circuit was built for the experiment and multivariate technique was used to investigate efficiency of the sensor. The result showed that the dielectric sensor was able to detect different levels of iron and ISO test dust contamination in hydraulic fluid.

Benefit to Industry

The dielectric sensor will benefit the Fluid Power industry by:

  • Providing a low cost means for detecting fluid contaminants on vehicles during operations,
  • Eliminating the need for a fluid sampling until a problem is detected,
  • Detecting potential problems early before catastrophic failure, and
  • Lowering maintenance cost and reducing downtime.

Take a look at a new video that features Professor Brian Steward and his students talking about their progress on the sensor project. It takes you inside the lab at Iowa State, where each year, 150 students use the equipment to study the basics of hydraulics. You’ll hear first-hand as they discuss the importance of fluid power and what it means to them.

  • Click here to read a two-page Technical Brief.
  • Click here to watch the video.
  • Click here to learn about other research projects.

For further information on the Iowa State project, contact Sue Chase at or (414) 778-3376.

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