Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a low-cost, printed, flexible sensor that can wrap around power cables to precisely monitor electrical loads from household appliances to support grid operations. Using an inkjet printer, researchers deposited wires on a flexible plastic substrate, then wove in a magnetic strip to channel the flux produced by an electric current, making the sensor suitable to install in tight spaces. When tested on conductors in the lab and on a building HVAC unit, the sensor measured responses of up to 90 amps of electrical current, and is expected to exceed 500 amps in larger applications. “These inexpensive sensors provide crucial, real-time usage data needed to monitor and control devices such as smart HVAC and water heaters for better power grid efficiency and resilience,” said ORNL’s Pooran Joshi. The team is currently testing new materials, electronics and packaging to increase the sensor’s range and applications while keeping costs low.