Solar-powered nano sensor targets gases more polluting than carbon

May 30, 2011
Credit: Alexander Malaver

(PhysOrg.com) -- A solar-powered sensor station to monitor in real time the concentration of gases that are key culprits in climate change and air pollution has been installed on a QUT Gardens Point roof as part of an international study on solar-powered environmental nano sensors.

Alexander Malaver, a QUT School of Engineering systems master student, said the sensor was a prototype for a planned network of solar-powered sensors that would monitor the environmental concentration of three main pollutants: (NO2) from engines and combustion, (N2O) and ammonia (NH3) from manure and fertilisers.

"These gases are not commonly studied because they are found in low concentrations in the environment but nitrous oxide and ammonia are more polluting than carbon dioxide, and we are developing new cheap sensors able to detect them," Mr. Malaver said.

"The aim of this research is to be able to let people know in real time the concentration of these gases around roads and farms so that they can change their behaviour if necessary.

"Also when we know the concentrations we can find out if these gases are harmful to humans or affect only global warming."

Mr. Malaver said the network would be wirelessly connected so that every node could "speak" to the others and feed data in real time to a central monitoring station. He said the roof station was already providing precious data, which could be easily visualised by any computer within the QUT network.

"The new sensors are based on metal oxide nanowires and carbon nanotubes and are powered by third-generation - dye sensitized, which operate to capture in the same way plants do," he said.

"This form of solar power is ideal for this project because it costs less than conventional silicon-based technology and has less embodied energy in its manufacture. It also produces electricity more efficiently in low light conditions."

Mr. Malaver's study's principal supervisor is QUT's Professor Nunzio Motta with co-supervision from Professors Peter Corke and John Bell. The sensors are produced by QUT research partner, University of Brescia, the solar cells are produced by the University of Roma Tor Vergata using the Australian company, Dyesol's, patent, under the National and International Research Alliances Program Queensland Government Smart Futures Fund.

Explore further: Researchers study harmful particulates

Related Stories

Researchers study harmful particulates

February 26, 2007

Reducing barnyard emissions is one way to help reduce the harmful effects of tiny atmospheric air particles that can cause severe asthma in children, and lung cancer and heart attacks in some adults.

NASA Nanotechnology Space Sensor Test Successful in Orbit

June 18, 2007

NASA recently tested the first nanotechnology-based electronic device to fly in space. The test showed that the "nanosensor" could monitor trace gases inside a spaceship. This technology could lead to smaller, more capable ...

The future of solar-powered houses is clear

April 10, 2008

The future of solar-powered houses is clear. People could live in glass houses and look at the world through rose-tinted windows while reducing their carbon emissions by 50 percent thanks to QUT Institute of Sustainable Resources ...

New gas sensors for monitoring carbon dioxide sinks

May 8, 2008

A novel gas sensor system makes it possible to monitor large areas cost-effectively the first time. The patented gas sensor is based on the principle of diffusion, according to which certain gases pass through a membrane ...

Rainforest rehab in every sense

June 12, 2009

Sophisticated sensors that measure leaf wetness, soil moisture and temperature are helping rehabilitate rainforest in the Springbrook World Heritage precinct in south-east Queensland.

Waterways contribute to growth of potent greenhouse gas

December 20, 2010

Nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, has increased by more than 20 percent over the last century, and nitrogen in waterways is fueling part of that growth, according to a Michigan State University study.

Recommended for you

Tech leaders warn over 'killer robots' (Update)

July 28, 2015

A group of top tech leaders, including British scientist Stephen Hawking and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, on Tuesday issued a stern warning against the development of so-called killer robots.

Software turns smartphones into tools for medical research

July 27, 2015

Jody Kearns doesn't like to spend time obsessing about her Parkinson's disease. The 56-year-old dietitian from Syracuse, New York, had to give up bicycling because the disorder affected her balance. But she still works, drives ...

Where is solar power headed?

July 22, 2015

Most experts agree that to have a shot at curbing the worst impacts of climate change, we need to extricate our society from fossil fuels and ramp up our use of renewable energy.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Na_Reth
not rated yet May 30, 2011
what are gases?

edit:

I thought the only proper spelling was gasses...
gmurphy
not rated yet May 31, 2011
@Na_Reth, gases / gasses = American / British

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.