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Chemical Species Gas Sensors




The NASA Glenn Chemical Species Gas Sensor Team is developing gas sensing technology for aeronautic and space applications. The same technology also has a variety of commercial applications. The sensors presently being developed will allow the detection of a range of species including hydrogen, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, oxygen, and carbon dioxide in a variety of ambient gas conditions and temperatures. The sensors are microfabricated and micromachined using Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) based technology to minimize size, weight, and power consumption. Nanomaterials and structures are used to improve the sensor response and stability, ad can be integrated into microstructures. A temperature detector and a heater are also included in the structure to allow stable sensor operation at a variety of temperatures. The sensor technology development also depends on the use of silicon carbide (SiC) as an electronic semiconductor. Mass fabrication of the sensors using silicon-processing technology is envisioned to minimize the cost per sensor.

The program develops three different types of sensor platforms for chemical sensing. One platform is a Schottky diode sensor structure for use in very sensitive measurements. The detection of low concentrations of hydrogen and hydrocarbons can be achieved by using this basic structure. Two other platforms, resistive-based techniques and electrochemical cells, are used depending on the gas and concentration range to be detected. The use of these platforms to produce sensor arrays is an on-going activity of this group. For example, one goal of this gas sensor research is to create a microfabricated gas sensor array operable at high temperatures such as in emissions stream. Since one sensor will not be able to characterize multiple species in such an environment, an array of high temperature sensors is necessary. This array, effectively a high temperature electronic nose, would be a dramatic step in allowing the monitoring and/or control of emissions produced by an aeronautic engine. The signals produced by this nose could be analyzed to determine the constituents of the emission stream. This information could then be used to control those emissions. Sensor arrays have also been developed for other applications.


The gas sensors being developed by the Chemical Species Gas Sensors team at NASA Glenn Research Center were designed with NASA's primary objective of advancing aeronautic and aerospace technology in mind, but can be used in a variety of commercial applications. Makel Engineering, Inc., through the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Program, is commercializing a next generation gas sensor technology for use in aerospace as well as a variety of commercial applications. Other applications for the sensors being developed include fuel cell monitoring, combustion process and catalytic reactor monitoring, alarms for high-temperature pressure vessels and piping, polymer production, and volatile organics detection. Gas sensors intended for emissions monitoring can also be used for breath monitoring to help determine a person's health based on exhaled breath.


The NASA Glenn Chemical Species Gas Sensors Team is actively involved in developing chemical species gas sensor technology for a variety of aeronautic and aerospace applications which can be used in commercial applications. The sensors being developed include hydrogen, hydrocarbon, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, oxygen, and carbon dioxide sensors, as well as other species. These sensors are used in a variety of sensor arrays for leak, fire, and emission sensor applications. A number of commercial applications exist and the combination of these sensors with actuators and miniature power supplies, for example, is envisioned. For more information, feel free to contact any member of the NASA Glenn Chemical Species Sensors Team.

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Last Updated: 04/19/2019