Mobile Electronic Devices Learn to Smell

Sep 16, 2004
Mobile electronic devices learn to smell

Siemens researchers have succeeded in developing novel mini-sensors that can detect gases and smells. Mobile electronic devices will be used in future to measure the ozone level in the air and warn if it exceeds the limits, or emit a signal in reaction to the smell of burning or leaking gas. A possible application would be a portable warning device for travelers that would wake them up in case of danger when they were asleep.

“We’ve discovered new functional principles and then developed new materials to exploit these principles industrially using all the potential offered by nanotechnology,” says Siemens researcher Dr. Maximilian Fleischer, explaining the concentrated high tech packed onto a tiny area. It takes highly advanced scanning electron microscopes to reveal the structures of the new materials. The tiny sensors developed from these materials can effectively trace even the smallest quantities of gas. “Our ceramic sensor chips are less than a millimeter in size,” states Fleischer. “Although you can barely see them with the naked eye these sensors incorporate a large number of miniaturized functions in which chemical reactions take place.”

Different sensor types have been developed for the different gases. FET gas sensors operate at normal room temperature, whereas metal oxide gas sensors detect the presence and concentration of individual gases as soon as they are heated to several hundred degrees C. The gases react with the sensor material which is combined with silicon technology. This system reads out the chemical changes electronically, amplifies the electronic signal and further processes it. If the sensor material is subsequently exposed to the ambient air again it regenerates itself. These sensors can also be used in contaminated environments. “We have sensors that are extremely stable due to the high local temperatures and can automatically burn off any contamination,” said Fleischer.

Thanks to their small size, low production costs and economical energy consumption – anything between a few 100mW and less than 1mW depending on the design of the sensor – the new gas sensors are of interest for a large number of applications for which no technical solution has existed before. Mobile electronic devices can indicate the ozone level in the air for people doing sports and emit a warning signal if the officially recommended limits are exceeded. Or if you’re out in the evening, the handy device can be used to measure the alcohol level in a person’s breath. The sensors can detect gas leaks in the home, at the work place or when traveling. Another area of application is as a fire detector. “Present day fire detectors measure the temperature or the smoke density,” explained Fleischer. “Our sensor gives a warning before the fire really breaks out. Just like the human nose, it can sense early on if something is smoldering or starting to burn. I’m certain that in future many people will have their own personal warning device at home or take one with them when they travel.”

Source: Siemens

Explore further: Festo has BionicANTs communicating by the rules for tasks

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The welding system of the future is self-learning

Mar 20, 2015

Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) is developing an entirely new kind of welding system, one which solves quality and productivity problems related to automated and mechanised welding. The system ...

Precision gas sensor could fit on a chip

Feb 27, 2015

Using their expertise in silicon optics, Cornell engineers have miniaturized a light source in the elusive mid-infrared (mid-IR) spectrum, effectively squeezing the capabilities of a large, tabletop laser onto a 1-millimeter ...

Recommended for you

DARPA seeks new positioning, navigation, timing solutions

5 hours ago

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), writing about GPS, said: "The military relies heavily on the Global Positioning System (GPS) for positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT), but GPS access is easily blocked by methods such as jamming. In addition, many environments in which our mil ...

Future US Navy: Robotic sub-hunters, deepsea pods

9 hours ago

The robotic revolution that transformed warfare in the skies will soon extend to the deep sea, with underwater spy "satellites," drone-launching pods on the ocean floor and unmanned ships hunting submarines.

Festo has BionicANTs communicating by the rules for tasks

20 hours ago

Germany-based automation company Festo, focused on technologies for tasks, turns to nature for inspiration, trying to take the cues from how nature performs tasks so efficiently. "Whether it's energy efficiency, ...

Intel in talks with Altera on tie-up

21 hours ago

US tech giant Intel is in talks with rival Altera on a tie-up to broaden the chipmaker's product line amid growth in Internet-connected devices, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

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.