A pressure sensor is a device that detects a force exerted on a surface (pressure) and converts it to an electronic signal whose strength is relative to the strength of the force. Pressure sensors can also be used to measure the force exerted.
There are three main types of pressure sensors:
Absolute pressure sensors measure pressure relative to absolute zero, which only exists in a vacuum. These devices contain reference vacuums. Applications for absolute pressure sensors include measuring atmospheric pressure.
Gauge pressure sensors, which measure pressure relative to atmospheric pressure. As a rule, an element of the device is open to ambient conditions. Gauge pressure sensor applications include blood pressure measurement and tire pressure monitors.
Differential pressure sensors include more than one sensing element to enable capture and comparison of multiple force factors. These devices are most often used for machinery in industrial environments.
The term pressure sensor is sometimes used, imprecisely, to refer to pressure transducers and pressure transmitters.
To learn more about how these devices work, see our definition for pressure sensing.