Tech Briefs

Pd/CeO2/SiC Chemical Sensors

Nanostructured interfacial CeO2 layers contribute to thermal stability and transfer of electrons.

The incorporation of nanostructured interfacial layers of CeO2 has been proposed to enhance the performances of Pd/SiC Schottky diodes used to sense hydrogen and hydrocarbons at high temperatures. If successful, this development could prove beneficial in numerous applications in which there are requirements to sense hydrogen and hydrocarbons at high temperatures: examples include monitoring of exhaust gases from engines and detecting fires.

Sensitivity and thermal stability are major considerations affecting the development of high-temperature chemical sensors. In the case of a metal/SiC Schottky diode for a number of metals, the SiC becomes more chemically active in the presence of the thin metal film on the SiC surface at high temperature. This increase in chemical reactivity causes changes in chemical composition and structure of the metal/SiC interface. The practical effect of the changes is to alter the electronic and other properties of the device in such a manner as to degrade its performance as a chemical sensor. To delay or prevent these changes, it is necessary to limit operation to a temperature <450 °C for these sensor structures.

The present proposal to incorporate interfacial CeO2 films is based partly on the observation that nanostructured materials in general have potentially useful electrical properties, including an ability to enhance the transfer of electrons. In particular, nanostructured CeO2, that is CeO2 with nanosized grains, has shown promise for incorporation into hightemperature electronic devices. Nanostructured CeO2 films can be formed on SiC and have been shown to exhibit high thermal stability on SiC, characterized by the ability to withstand temperatures somewhat greater than 700 °C for limited times. The exchanges of oxygen between CeO2 and SiC prevent the formation of carbon and other chemical species that are unfavorable for operation of a SiC-based Schottky diode as a chemical sensor. Consequently, it is anticipated that in a Pd/CeO2/SiC Schottky diode, the nanostructured interfacial CeO2 layer would contribute to thermal stability and, by contributing to transfer of electrons, would also contribute to sensitivity.

This work was done by Weijie Lu and W. Eugene Collins of Fisk University for Glenn Research Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Physical Sciences category.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Commercial Technology Office, Attn: Steve Fedor, Mail Stop 4-8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-17332.