Improved fire detection with new ultra-sensitive, ultraviolet light sensor

February 17, 2015

A new study published today in Scientific Reports has discovered that a material traditionally used in ceramics, glass and paint, can be manipulated to produce an ultra-sensitive UV light sensor, paving the way for improved fire and gas detection.

Researchers at the University of Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute manipulated , producing nanowires from this readily available material to create a ultra-violet light detector which is 10,000 times more sensitive to UV light than a traditional zinc oxide detector.

Currently, photoelectric smoke sensors detect larger found in dense smoke, but are not as sensitive to small particles of smoke from rapidly burning fires.

Researchers believe that this new material could increase sensitivity and allow the sensor to detect distinct particles emitted at the early stages of fires, paving the way for specialist sensors that can be deployed in a number of applications.

"UV light detectors made from zinc oxide have been used widely for some time but we have taken the material a step further to massively increase its performance. Essentially, we transformed zinc oxide from a flat film to a structure with bristle-like nanowires, increasing surface area and therefore increasing sensitivity and reaction speed," said Professor Ravi Silva, co-author of the study and head of the Advanced Technology Institute.

The team predict that the applications for this material could be far reaching. From fire and gas detection to air pollution monitoring, they believe the sensor could also be incorporated into , such as phones and tablets, to increase speed, with a response time 1000 times faster than traditional zinc oxide detectors.

"This is a great example of a bespoke, designer nanomaterial that is adaptable to personal needs, yet still affordable. Due to the way in which this material is manufactured, it is ideally suited for use in future flexible electronics, a hugely exciting area," added Professor Silva.

Explore further: Nanotechnology changes behavior of materials

Related Stories

Nanotechnology changes behavior of materials

January 23, 2015

One of the reasons solar cells are not used more widely is cost—the materials used to make them most efficient are expensive. Engineers are exploring ways to print solar cells from inks, but the devices don't work as well.

Image: Agricultural fires in Indochina

February 2, 2015

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite collected this natural-color image which detected dozens of fires burning in Indochina on February 02, 2015.

Researchers develop battery-less chemical detector

April 6, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Unlike many conventional chemical detectors that require an external power source, Lawrence Livermore researchers have developed a nanosensor that relies on semiconductor nanowires, rather than traditional ...

New sensor passes litmus test

October 29, 2013

(Phys.org) —Edith Cowan University researchers have drawn on their expertise in nanotechnology to update the humble pH sensor, replacing traditional glass electrode devices that have been in use since the 1930s with a new ...

Predicting fatigue: Nanocrystals reveal damaged material

November 29, 2012

A small crack in a metal wheel caused Germany's worst-ever rail accident—the 1998 Eschede train disaster. The problem: it was practically impossible to detect damage of that nature to a metal by inspecting it externally. ...

Recommended for you

Chinese fans trash blackout as Google AI wins again

May 25, 2017

Chinese netizens fumed Thursday over a government ban on live coverage of Google algorithm AlphaGo's battle with the world's top Go player, as the programme clinched their three-match series in the ancient board game.

Shedding light on how humans walk... with robots

May 24, 2017

Learning how to walk is difficult for toddlers to master; it's even harder for adults who are recovering from a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other condition, requiring months of intensive, often frustrating physical ...

0 comments

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.