A sensitive, affordable sensor to detect tiny amounts of CO2

Feb 04, 2013

Researchers at the Universities of Toronto and St. Francis Xavier are developing an affordable, energy efficient and ultra-sensitive nano-sensor that has the potential to detect even one molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Current sensors used to detect CO2 at surface sites are either very expensive or they use a lot of energy. And they're not as accurate as they could be. Improving the accuracy of measuring and monitoring stored CO2 is seen as key to winning of and storage as a greenhouse gas mitigation method.

With funding from Canada (CMC), Dr. Harry Ruda of the Centre for Nanotechnology at the University of Toronto and Dr. David Risk of St. Francis Xavier are working on single nanowire transistors that should have unprecedented sensitivity for detecting .

CMC, a national network that supports game-changing research to reduce CO2 emissions in the industry as well as from other large stationary emitters, is providing Ruda and his team $350,000 over three years. The grant is part of CMC's third round of funding which saw the network award $3.75 million to Canadian researchers working on eight different projects.

The needed to monitor and validate the amount of CO2 being emitted has not kept pace with the development of other technologies required for carbon capture and storage (CCS), says Ruda.

"This is especially true when it comes to surface monitoring verification and accounting (MVA)," he says. "Improving MVA is essential to meet the potential of carbon capture and storage."

And that's where the ultra-sensitive sensor comes in. "It's good for sounding the alarm but it's also good from a regulatory point of view because you want to able to tell people to keep things to a certain level and you need sensors to ensure accurate monitoring of industrial and subsurface environments," Ruda says.

The sensors could provide complete topographic and temporal mapping of , which would help in the design of new protocols for carbon storage and recovery systems as well provide the means for enforcing regulations—all of which will enable markedly reduced emissions. Risk's role will be in testing and translational work that will help embed the sensors in these real-world application environments.

"The way things behave at that nano scale is different than the traditional or micron scale," says Ruda. "We've been working in this area for nearly 20 years and we are among the leaders in developing the know-how for nano sensors."

Ruda says the project will initially prove the sensor is capable of detecting very small amounts of carbon, but eventually it could be used to detect other emissions in a variety of industries.

Explore further: Pact with devil? California farmers use oil firms' water

Related Stories

Unique CO2 monitoring technology streamlines process

Dec 13, 2012

A made-in-Nova Scotia technology to allow for long-term automated monitoring of greenhouse gases is transforming the task into a practical process, even underground. Developed by Professor David Risk, of St. Francis Xavier ...

Carbon study could help reduce harmful emissions

Feb 14, 2008

Earth scientists at The University of Manchester have found that carbon dioxide has been naturally stored for more than a million years in several gas fields in the Colorado Plateau and Rocky Mountains of the United States.

EU carbon capture projects lost: MEP

Dec 06, 2012

All European projects this year for the capture and storage of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas blamed for global warming, have fallen through, EU sources said Thursday.

Pricing can cut CO2 emissions from electric generators

Apr 28, 2008

Levying a price on carbon dioxide released by electric generators could considerably reduce greenhouse gas emissions — even before the deployment of any environmentally friendly technology — according to scientists in ...

Recommended for you

Gimmicks and technology: California learns to save water

Jul 03, 2015

Billboards and TV commercials, living room visits, guess-your-water-use booths, and awards for water stinginess—a wealthy swath of Orange County that once had one of the worst records for water conservation ...

Cities, regions call for 'robust' world climate pact

Jul 03, 2015

Thousands of cities, provinces and states from around the world urged national governments on Thursday to deliver a "robust, binding, equitable and universal" planet-saving climate pact in December.

Will climate change put mussels off the menu?

Jul 03, 2015

Climate change models predict that sea temperatures will rise significantly, including in the tropics. In these areas, rainfall is also predicted to increase, reducing the salt concentration of the surface ...

As nations dither, cities pick up climate slack

Jul 02, 2015

Their national governments hamstrung by domestic politics, stretched budgets and diplomatic inertia, many cities and provinces have taken a leading role—driven by necessity—in efforts to arrest galloping ...

User comments : 0

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.