It took millions of dollars and more than a decade of research and development, but a unique hydrogen sensor invented and patented in 1994 by scientists at Sandia National Laboratories is about to finally find its way into the commercial sector. What makes the Wide-Range Hydrogen Sensor unique is the fact that it was the first to incorporate a field effect transistor (FET) and a resistor on the same chip. The combination of these two components gives it the ability to sense a wide range of hydrogen concentrations from large amounts down to several parts per million.
Unfortunately that wasn't the only unique thing about it. It seems First-generation versions of the sensor also had a problem - when exposed to certain corrosive gases, such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and chlorine, they stopped working. The first company to license the technology, DCH Technologies, learned this the hard way. After investing four years of effort and approximately $7 million searching for a solution, DCH finally sold its assets to a company called H2scan. The license for the technology, meanwhile, reverted back to Sandia.
That might have been the end of the story had executives from Sandia and H2scan not refused to give up on the technology. Instead they worked out a creative Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) that combined the intellectual and scientific resources of Sandia with the financial resources of H2scan to solve the problem and make the new sensor technology commercially viable.