Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Paper-Based Sensor Helps Detect Explosive Devices

31.10.2011
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a prototype wireless sensor capable of detecting trace amounts of a key ingredient found in many explosives.

The device, which employs carbon nanotubes and is printed on paper or paper-like material using standard inkjet technology, could be deployed in large numbers to alert authorities to the presence of explosives, such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

“This prototype represents a significant step toward producing an integrated wireless system for explosives detection,” said Krishna Naishadham, a principal research scientist who is leading the work at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). “It incorporates a sensor and a communications device in a small, low-cost package that could operate almost anywhere.”

Other types of hazardous gas sensors are based on expensive semiconductor fabrication and gas chromatography, Naishadham said, and they consume more power, require human intervention, and typically do not operate at ambient temperatures. Furthermore, those sensors have not been integrated with communication devices such as antennas.

The wireless component for communicating the sensor information -- a resonant lightweight antenna – was printed on photographic paper using inkjet techniques devised by Professor Manos Tentzeris of Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Tentzeris is collaborating with Naishadham on development of the sensing device.

The sensing component, based on functionalized carbon nanotubes (CNTs), has been fabricated and tested for detection sensitivity by Xiaojuan (Judy) Song, a GTRI research scientist. The device relies on carbon-nanotube materials optimized by Song.

A presentation on this sensing technology was given in July at the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Symposium (IEEE APS) in Spokane, Wash., by Hoseon Lee, a Ph.D. student in ECE co-advised by Tentzeris and Naishadham. The paper received the Honorable Mention Award in the Best Student Paper competition at the symposium.

This is not the first inkjet-printed ammonia sensor that has been integrated with an antenna on paper, said Tentzeris. His group produced a similar integrated sensor last year in collaboration with the research group of C.P. Wong, who is Regents professor and Smithgall Institute Endowed Chair in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech.

“The fundamental difference is that this newest CNT sensor possesses dramatically improved sensitivity to miniscule ammonia concentrations,” Tentzeris said. “That should enable the first practical applications to detect trace amounts of hazardous gases in challenging operational environments using inkjet-printed devices.”

Tentzeris explained that the key to printing components, circuits and antennas lies in novel “inks” that contain silver nanoparticles in an emulsion that can be deposited by the printer at low temperatures – around 100 degrees Celsius. A process called sonication helps to achieve optimal ink viscosity and homogeneity, enabling uniform material deposition and permitting maximum operating effectiveness for paper-based components.

“Ink-jet printing is low-cost and convenient compared to other technologies such as wet etching,” Tentzeris said. “Using the proper inks, a printer can be used almost anywhere to produce custom circuits and components, replacing traditional clean-room approaches.”

Low-cost materials – such as heavy photographic paper or plastics like polyethylene terephthalate -- can be made water resistant to ensure greater reliability, he added. Inkjet component printing can also use flexible organic materials, such as liquid crystal polymer (LCP), which are known for their robustness and weather resistance. The resulting components are similar in size to conventional components but can conform and adhere to almost any surface.

Naishadham explained that the same inkjet techniques used to produce RF components, circuits and antennas can also be used to deposit the functionalized carbon nanotubes used for sensing. These nanoscale cylindrical structures -- about one-billionth of a meter in diameter, or 1/50,000th the width of a human hair -- are functionalized by coating them with a conductive polymer that attracts ammonia, a major ingredient found in many IEDs.

Sonication of the functionalized carbon nanotubes produces a uniform water-based ink that can be printed side-by-side with RF components and antennas to produce a compact wireless sensor node.

"The optimized carbon nanotubes are applied as a sensing film, with specific functionalization designed for a particular gas or analyte,” Song said. “The GTRI sensor detects trace amounts of ammonia usually found near explosive devices, and it can also be designed to detect similar gases in household, healthcare and industrial environments at very low concentration levels."

The sensor has been designed to detect ammonia in trace amounts – as low as five parts per million, Naishadham said.

The resulting integrated sensing package can potentially detect the presence of trace explosive materials at a distance, without endangering human lives. This approach, called standoff detection, involves the use of RF technology to identify explosive materials at a relatively safe distance. The GTRI team has designed the device to send an alert to nearby personnel when it detects ammonia.

The wireless sensor nodes require relatively low power, which could come from a number of technologies including thin-film batteries, solar cells or power-scavenging and energy-harvesting techniques. In collaboration with Tentzeris’s and Wong’s groups, GTRI is investigating ways to make the sensor operate passively, without any power consumption.

“We are focusing on providing standoff detection for those engaged in military or humanitarian missions and other hazardous situations,” Naishadham said. “We believe that it will be possible, and cost-effective, to deploy large numbers of these detectors on vehicles or robots throughout a military engagement zone.”

Research News & Publications Office
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA
Media Relations Contacts: Kirk Englehardt (404-407-7280)(kirk.englehardt@gtri.gatech.edu) or John Toon (404-894-6986)(jtoon@gatech.edu).

Writer: Rick Robinson

John Toon | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.gatech.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Researchers measure near-perfect performance in low-cost semiconductors
18.03.2019 | Stanford University

nachricht Robot arms with the flexibility of an elephant’s trunk
18.03.2019 | Universität des Saarlandes

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

To proliferate or not to proliferate

21.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Magnetic micro-boats

21.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Motorless pumps and self-regulating valves made from ultrathin film

21.03.2019 | HANNOVER MESSE

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>