Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tiny 'gas-flow' sensor has industrial, environmental applications

06.02.2007
Researchers at Purdue University have shown how to create a new class of tiny sensors for applications ranging from environmental protection to pharmaceutical preservation.

Although similar "gas-flow sensors" are currently being used for a variety of industries, the new sensor is the first that works on the scale of micrometers and nanometers, or millionths and billionths of a meter, respectively, said Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering.

Gas-flow sensors currently used, including those in residential gas meters to determine how much to charge customers, operate on a principle known for at least 100 years. According to that principle, as gas flows over a surface, such as the wall of a pipe or an object flying through the air, molecules of gas nearest the surface remain stationary. The molecules farther away from the surface move progressively faster.

"That model works really well in many situations, including aerodynamics and applications where the scale of the flow is large compared to the size of the molecules," Wereley said.

This principle, however, does not apply to gas flowing through channels on the scale of micrometers or nanometers, meaning ordinary designs will not work for sensors needed for applications on those scales. In such applications, gas molecules immediately adjacent to the wall of a tube do flow and are said to "slip."

"This exception to the model carries important design implications," Wereley said.

Findings will be detailed in a research paper to be published in the February issue of the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering. The paper was written by Wereley and Jaesung Jang, a postdoctoral research associate in Purdue's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The paper describes how the sensor is designed.

As gas flows through a tiny channel, some of it is diverted into a reservoir, where it pushes against a silicon diaphragm coated with metal. As the diaphragm balloons outward from the pressure of the gas, it comes close to an electronic device called a capacitor, which stores an electric charge. The closer it comes to the capacitor, the more it affects the capacitance in the device. The changing capacitance is related to a difference in pressure, and a mathematical model is then used to precisely measure how much gas is flowing through the sensor based on the changing pressure.

Because of the channel's diameter, which is 128 microns, barely wider than a human hair, it is extremely sensitive to small gas flows, Wereley said.

Gas-flow sensors that operate on the scale of micrometers and nanometers could have applications in environmental protection, particularly to measure the leakage of hydrocarbon fumes from fuel tanks in new cars on the manufacturing line. Federal environmental guidelines specify how much leakage is allowable.

Automakers currently test empty fuel tanks by pressurizing them with a gas, such as helium, and then measuring whether the pressure drops, indicating leakage. The test is limited because, while it can determine whether a tank is leaking, it cannot reveal how severe the leak is. Using a sensor capable of measuring gas flow on small scales would make it possible to yield more accurate data.

An accurate test also could be applied to the pharmaceutical industry, which preserves drugs in packages filled with a gas free of the molds and impurities of ambient air. Pharmaceuticals are shipped and stored in the packaging, and the industry tests packages for leakage, but gas-flow sensors could be used to test them more accurately.

The Purdue researchers worked with industry to develop the sensors, which currently are too costly to be manufactured profitably. The research is associated with the Microfluidics Laboratory at the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Purdue's Discovery Park.

The research, which has concluded, was funded by the Indiana 21st Century Research and Technology Fund and Advanced Test Concepts Inc. in Indianapolis.

Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709, venere@purdue.edu

Source: Steven Wereley, (765) 494-5624, wereley@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

Emil Venere | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Heating quantum matter: A novel view on topology
22.08.2017 | Université libre de Bruxelles

nachricht Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form
18.08.2017 | Cornell University

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: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Meter-sized single-crystal graphene growth becomes possible

22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells

22.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>