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GRAPHENE SENSORS TO IMPROVE 10 TIMES GAS DETECTION
A research team at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Shenyang National Laboratory for Materials Science have found a way to use nanostructures to create a much more sensitive explosive gas detector compared to those available on the market.

An innovative graphene sensor capable to detect explosive gases ten times more effectively than any device on sale was created at the labs of the American Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in co-operation with the Chinese Shenyang National Laboratory for Materials Science.

Several studies had already demonstrated that individual nanostructures (e.g. nanotubes or graphene sheets) are extremely sensitive to a variety of gases. However, the tiny size of such elements made it almost impossible to create a true detector.

The new system, conceived by Professor Nikhil Koratkar alongside his colleague Hui-Ming Cheng, managed to overcome this barrier. How? The researchers produced a larger graphene structure using a sort of nickel sponge. They “grew” graphene on the metal surface and, once their goal was achieved, removed the nickel frame, thus obtaining a three-dimensional, strong and flexible graphene lattice – roughly as large as a post stamp – ideal to resist to time wear.

Despite its size, this graphene foam (as it is called) behaves just like an individual nanostructure: it is, in fact, a seamless, continuous complex, where electrons can move freely without resistance.

The sensor absorbs the gases easily (in the tests ammonia and nitrogen dioxide were used as the by-products of a number of explosives), and changes its electric resistance, highlighting any hazards in a simple, cheap, and much more accurate way compared to any devices available to date. The achieved results are consistent, repeatable, and very promising.

Lastly, the structure is extremely easy to clean: applying a 100 mA current (quite strong) is enough to eliminate all the absorbed compounds. This process does not alter the functionality of the system, and makes it completely reversible.
Click here for the complete study.

The Editorial Staff
Published on Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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