Material scientists at ETH Zurich and the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam have developed a new type of sensor that can measure carbon dioxide (CO2).
Compared with existing sensors, it is much smaller, has a simpler construction, requires considerably less energy and has an entirely different functional principle. The new sensor consists of a recently developed composite material that interacts with CO2 molecules and changes its conductivity depending on the concentration of CO2 in the environment. ETH scientists have created a sensor chip with this material that enables them to determine CO2 concentration with a simple measurement of electrical resistance.
The basis of the composite material is a chain-like macromolecule (polymer) made up of salts called ionic liquids, which are liquid and conductive at room temperature. The name of the polymers is slightly misleading as they are called «poly(ionic liquid)s» (PIL), although they are solid rather than liquid.
Scientists worldwide are currently investigating these PIL for use in different applications, such as batteries and CO2 storage. From their work it is known that PIL can adsorb CO2. "We asked ourselves if we could exploit this property to obtain information on the concentration of CO2 in the air and thereby develop a new type of gas sensor," says Christoph Willa, doctoral student at the Laboratory for Multifunctional Materials.
Willa and Dorota Koziej, a team leader in the laboratory, eventually succeeded by mixing the polymers with specific inorganic nanoparticles that also interact with CO2. By experimenting with these materials, the scientists were able to produce the composite. "Separately, neither the polymer nor the nanoparticles conduct electricity," says Willa. "But when we combined them in a certain ratio, their conductivity increased rapidly."
Chemical changes in the material
It was not only this that astonished the scientists. They were also surprised that the conductivity of the composite material at room temperature is CO2-dependent. "Until now, chemoresistive materials have displayed these properties only at a temperature of several hundred degrees Celsius," explains Koziej. Thus, existing CO2 sensors made from chemoresistive materials had to be heated to a high operating temperature. With the new composite material, this is not necessary, which facilitates its application significantly.
Exactly how the CO2-dependant changes in conductivity were produced is not yet clear; however, the scientists have found indications that a chemical change induced by the presence of CO2 occurs foremost at the interface between the nanoparticles and the polymers at the nanometre scale. "We think that CO2 effects the mobility of the charged particles in the material," says Koziej.
Breathing gauges for scuba divers
With the new sensor, scientists are able to measure CO2 concentration over a wide range - from a concentration of 0.04 volume percent in the earth's atmosphere to 0.25 volume percent.
Existing devices that can detect CO2 measure the optical signal and capitalise on the fact that CO2 absorbs infrared light. In comparison, researchers believe that with the new material much smaller, portable devices can be developed that will require less energy. According to Koziej, "portable devices to measure breathing air for scuba diving, extreme altitude mountaineering or medical applications are now conceivable".
Willa C, Yuan J, Niederberger M, Koziej D: When Nanoparticles Meet Poly(Ionic Liquid)s: Chemoresistive CO2 Sensing at Room Temperature. Advanced Functional Materials 2015, 25: 2537-2542, doi: 10.1002/adfm.201500314
Dr. Dorota Koziej | EurekAlert!
New gel-like coating beefs up the performance of lithium-sulfur batteries
22.03.2017 | Yale University
Pulverizing electronic waste is green, clean -- and cold
22.03.2017 | Rice University
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences