VOC Sensor (26062)

The invention is a low power light assisted sensor to detect Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s).

BACKGROUND: Metal oxide gas sensors must normally operate at high temperatures. This is undesirable in applications where safety and power consumption are primary concerns. Moreover, sensors operating at high temperatures require periodic calibration to compensate for changes in microstructure properties over time.

By illuminating metal oxide surfaces with light, Northwestern has successfully demonstrated room temperature detection of a variety of gases. Tiny nano-patterned versions of these sensors have been tested at room temperatures covering a series of hazardous volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and inflammable gases. Results for the invention and a commercially available sensor are compared in Figure 1. Figure 2 demonstrates that the invention can simultaneously detect multiple gases with a high degree of selectivity. A lab prototype of the invention has detected Hydrogen levels as low as 250 ppm.

Because it operates at room temperatures, the invention is also capable to function with an improved Signal-to-noise ratio in contrast to heated sensors where charge carries are thermally agitated and can limit sensitivity. The invention also offers an interesting solution to alleviate sensitivity loss caused by sensor poisoning, which is a practical limitation in field applications of metal oxide sensors.


Safe – No heating element is required. Low power consumption Fast response and recovery Does not require periodic calibration (stable sensitivity) Reduced sensor poisoning (stable base line) Improved S/N ratio Simultaneous detection of multiple VOC’s APPLICATION FIELDS: Detection of gases susceptible to fire or explosion (such as Hydrogen and other inflammable hydrocarbons), environmental monitoring, homeland security, food and beverage quality control, favor & fragrances evaluation, disease detection via. breath analysis, airport quarantine, and so forth.

STATE OF DEVELOPMENT: Prototype & testing stage. Northwestern seeks to identify and investigate new applications (gases and environments) with industry partners. A patent application has been filed.

Inventor(s): Arvind K. Srivistava, Vinayak P. Dravid

Type of Offer: Licensing

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