Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hydrogen sensors are faster, more sensitive

31.05.2005


The same kind of chemical coating used to shed rainwater from aircraft and automobile windows also dramatically enhances the sensitivity and reaction time of hydrogen sensors. Hydrogen sensor technology is a critical component for safety and other practical concerns in the proposed hydrogen economy. For example, hydrogen sensors will detect leaks from hydrogen powered cars and fueling stations long before the gas becomes an explosive hazard.



The discovery was made by a team led by Zhili Xiao, a physicist in the Materials Science Division at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and an associate professor of physics at Northern Illinois University. The scientists demonstrated that the enhanced sensor design shows a rapid and reversible response to hydrogen gas that is repeatable over hundreds of cycles. A report on the team’s research was published in May in Applied Physics Letters.

The sensor material is made by depositing a discontinuous palladium thin film on a glass slide coated with a grease-like self-assembled monolayer of siloxane anchored to the surface.


"By adding the siloxane self-assembled monolayer, we have changed the thin film dynamics," said Michael Zach, a chemist and holder of the Glenn Seaborg Postdoctoral Fellowship at Argonne. "Other sensors have a response time of several seconds upon exposure to 2 percent hydrogen; ours works in tens of milliseconds." Also, the scientists reported that the enhanced sensors are sensitive enough to detect hydrogen levels as low as 25 parts per million (ppm), far below hydrogen’s lower explosive limit around 40,000 ppm. Their sensitivity and speed are superior to any available commercial sensors.

Palladium is an ideal material for hydrogen sensing because it selectively absorbs hydrogen gas and forms a chemical species known as a palladium hydride. Thick-film hydrogen sensor designs rely on the fact that palladium metal hydride’s electrical resistance is greater than the metal’s resistance. In such systems, the absorption of hydrogen is accompanied by a measurable increase in electrical resistance.

However, a palladium thin-film sensor is based on an opposing property that depends on the nanoscale structures within the thin film. In the thin film, nanosized palladium particles swell when the hydride is formed, and in the process of expanding, some of them form new electrical connections with their neighbors. The increased number of conducting pathways results in an overall net decrease in resistance.

Palladium is good at "wetting" bare glass surfaces – it spreads across the glass in puddle-like clusters a few nanometers thick and tens of nanometers across. After pre-coating the glass with the siloxane monolayer, the Argonne scientists saw a remarkable shift in the size and spatial distribution of the palladium. Like water beading on the surface of a freshly waxed car, the palladium formed granular clusters just a few nanometers across. The gaps between neighboring palladium clusters on the siloxane-coated glass were more numerous and ten times smaller on average than the gaps between the much larger, spread-out clusters on the bare glass.

"The shorter gap distance is important for giving you a fast, sensitive response," said Tao Xu, a chemist and the first inventor of the submitted patent application on fast hydrogen sensors. Even a slight swelling of the clusters produces many more new electrical contacts between neighbors and links together many new pathways for an electrical current to travel.

The scientists also have evidence that the surface treatment of the glass reduces the adhesion – or "stiction" – between the metal and glass that hinders the expansion and contraction of the palladium nanoparticles on bare glass. This effect contributes to the increased speed of the sensor response.

The scientists spent nearly a year optimizing the procedure to make the palladium films on coated glass, and they developed a new test system that could inject hydrogen quickly enough to test the sensors on a millisecond time scale. They say their approach to making sensors is easily scalable to an industrial level. "We are using techniques that the semiconductor industry already uses," Zach said.

The sensor will be affordable too. Although palladium is an expensive precious metal, Zach estimated that the amount in each sensor is so small that the metal cost is less than a penny.

Several outstanding questions include whether the sensors can be made to withstand poisonous contaminants in the air and whether the sensors will stand up to long-term operation. Wai-Kwong Kwok, leader of the Superconductivity and Magnetism group in the Materials Science Division, expressed confidence that these issues can be handled on an engineering level. The sensors are being developed for commercial use by an industrial partner in collaboration with Argonne.

Catherine Foster | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.anl.gov

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>