Fine-tuning Gas Sensing

May 16, 2018

Having sensitive, lightweight, and portable gas-sensing systems could be helpful for a variety of different users: people with asthma searching for their triggers, soldiers at risk of chemical attack, or industrial workers facing toxic gas exposures. Ideally, a sensor would not only be able to detect a threshold amount of gas but also distinguish whether that amount accumulated over a long time or came from a short, more concentrated burst.

Howard E. Katz, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and colleagues recently developed a sensor based on two semiconducting polymers that has this characteristic. Designed to detect nitrogen dioxide, a noxious gas that is a byproduct of some industrial processes, both polymers become more conductive when molecules of this gas attach to their surfaces. However, because one of these polymers has more of a response to nitrogen dioxide, using the two materials together can create a sensor that produces a dual readout on exposure time and concentration. The researchers are currently working on improving the stability of this device for practical use.

Originally published in the Summer 2018 edition of JHU Engineering Magazine

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