Glass sensors measure weathering effects

Sep 26, 2004

The corrosiveness of a specific atmosphere can be established in a few weeks by thin slices of special glass. The sensors are capable of monitoring the outdoor environment as well as indoors, for instance in sensitive production processes such as chip fabrication.


Where does a Landrover develop rust faster: in the dusty Sahara or parked in front of an English stately home? The answer’s obvious: In rainy Britain of course. But the rate at which corrosion sets in is not only dependent on precipitation. It also involves other factors like humidity and temperature, and the concentration of air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur compounds. Traditionally, each of these parameters is measured separately, making it difficult to predict their corrosive effect, because this depends on the interaction of all variable factors. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC have developed a glass sensor that allows the complex effect to be calculated even before the vehicle starts to rust. The manufacturing process for the glass sensor has been validated according to German VDI guideline 3955/2.

The glass plates have a polished surface that is highly sensitive to corrosion. “This allows us to detect changes long before the exposed materials or objects show any signs of damage,” explains Hannelore Römich, head of the department for conservation of historical artifacts. The researchers place the glass sensors in small holders at the site in question. A few weeks later, they collect the plates and analyze them using infrared spectroscopy. This allows them to quantify any changes in the composition of the glass. From these data, they can extrapolate the probable damage to other inorganic materials such as stone or metal, and identify the specific pollutants responsible for the corrosion. By examining the plates under a microscope, the scientists can also tell whether microorganisms play a role in the weathering process.

“The sensor has already been employed to good effect on historic monuments, stained-glass windows and in museums,” reports Hannelore Römich. “In each case, the thin glass plates were extremely useful in helping to improve the conditions needed to preserve the works of art.” The researchers recently took measurements at the DaimlerChrysler site in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart, to determine whether the air in the vicinity of the carmaker’s world-largest production plant is too corrosive. A false assumption, as the sensors proved. The inventors of this simple test also see other potential applications, for instance monitoring the air in chip-fabrication facilities, where a corrosive atmosphere would damage the delicate components. To make this possible, the researchers have improved the sensitivity of the sensor. Special coatings make it three to ten times more sensitive and hence faster.

Source: Fraunhofer-Institut für Silicatforschung

Explore further: Research promises innovations in secure communications technology

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Magic Leap moves beyond older lines of VR

Oct 24, 2014

Two messages from Magic Leap: Most of us know that a world with dragons and unicorns, elves and fairies is just a better world. The other message: Technology can be mindboggingly awesome. When the two ...

5G is NOT 4G+1

Nov 05, 2014

Recently, Spaniards had to re-tune all television sets as a result of the introduction of 4G mobile networks. Their data transmission speed (10 times higher than the 3rd generation's) required a release of ...

Measuring nano-vibrations

Nov 05, 2014

In a recent paper published in Nature Nanotechnology, Joel Moser and ICFO colleagues of the NanoOptoMechanics research group led by Prof. Adrian Bachtold, together with Marc Dykman (Michigan University), report ...

Recommended for you

Senators get no clear answers on air bag safety

3 hours ago

There were apologies and long-winded explanations, but after nearly four hours of testimony about exploding Takata air bags, senators never got a clear answer to the question most people have: whether or ...

'Call of Duty' blasts past $10 bn in sales

4 hours ago

Blockbuster military shooter video game "Call of Duty" has blasted past $10 billion in lifetime sales, propelled by demand for the latest installment in the 11-year-old franchise.

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.