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MIT's 'electronic nose' could detect hazards
Date:11/9/2007

CAMBRIDGE, MAA tiny electronic nose that MIT researchers have engineered with a novel inkjet printing method could be used to detect hazards including carbon monoxide, harmful industrial solvents and explosives.

Led by MIT professor Harry Tuller, the researchers have devised a way to print thin sensor films onto a microchip, a process that could eventually allow for mass production of highly sensitive gas detectors.

Mass production would be an enormous breakthrough for this kind of gas sensing technology, said Tuller, a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE), who is presenting the research at the Composites at Lake Louise Conference in Alberta, Canada, on Oct. 30.

The prototype sensor, created by Tuller, postdoctoral fellow Kathy Sahner and graduate student Woo Chul Jung, members of MITs Electroceramics Group in MSE, consists of thin layers of hollow spheres made of the ceramic material barium carbonate, which can detect a range of gases. Using a specialized inkjet print head, tiny droplets of barium carbonate or other gas-sensitive materials can be rapidly deposited onto a surface, in any pattern the researchers design.

The miniature, low-cost detector could be used in a variety of settings, from an industrial workplace to an air-conditioning system to a cars exhaust system, according to Tuller. There are many reasons why its important to monitor our chemical environment, he said.

For a sensor to be useful, it must be able to distinguish between gases. For example, a sensor at an airport would need to know the difference between a toxic chemical and perfume, Tuller said. To achieve this, sensors should have an array of films that each respond differently to different gases. This is similar to the way the human sense of smell works, Tuller explained.

The way we distinguish between coffees and fishs odor is not that we have one sensor designed to detect coffee and one designe
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Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
thomson@mit.edu
617-258-5402
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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