Piezoelectric wafer active sensors (PWAS) are non-intrusive transducers that can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy, and vice versa. They are well known for their dual use as either actuators or sensors. Though PWAS has shown great potential for active sensing, its capability for acoustic emission (AE) detection has not yet been exploited. In the reported work, we have explored the implementation of PWAS transducers for both passive (AE sensors) and active (in-situ ultrasonic transducers) sensing using a single PWAS network. The objective of the work presented in this paper is to adapt PWAS as AE sensors and compare it to the commercially available AE transducers such as PAC R15. An experiment has been designed to show how PWAS can be used for AE detection and the results were compared to a standard AE sensor, PAC R15I. Tests on compact tension specimens have also been conducted to show PWAS capability to pick up AE events during fatigue loading. PWAS field installation technology has been tested with packaging similar to that used for traditional strain gauges. The performance of packaged PWAS has been compared with that of conventional AE transducers R15I. We have found that PWAS not only can detect the presence of AE events but also can provide a wide frequency bandwidth. At this stage, PWAS underperforms the commercial AE sensors. To make PWAS ready for field test, signal to noise ratio needs to be significantly improved.© (2011) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.