A sensitive resistor-based NO microsensor, with a wide detection range and a low detection limit, has been developed. Semiconductor microfabrication techniques were used to create a sensor that has a simple, robust structure with a sensing area of 1.10 × 0.99 mm. A Pt interdigitated structure was used for the electrodes to maximize the sensor signal output. Ntype semiconductor indium tin oxide (ITO) thin film was sputter-deposited as a sensing material on the electrode surface, and between the electrode fingers. Alumina substrate (250 μm in thickness) was sequentially used for sensor fabrication.

The resulting sensor was tested by applying a voltage across the two electrodes and measuring the resulting current. The sensor was tested at different concentrations of NO-containing gas at a range of temperatures. Preliminary results showed that the sensor had a relatively high sensitivity to NO at 450 °C and 1 V. NO concentrations from ppm to ppb ranges were detected with the low limit of near 159 ppb. Lower NO concentrations are being tested.

Two sensing mechanisms were involved in the NO gas detection at ppm level: adsorption and oxidation reactions, whereas at ppb level of NO, only one sensing mechanism of adsorption was involved.

The NO microsensor has the advantages of high sensitivity, small size, simple batch fabrication, high sensor yield, low cost, and low power consumption due to its microsize. The resistor-based thin-film sensor is meant for detection of low concentrations of NO gas, mainly in the ppb or lower range, and is being developed concurrently with other sensor technology for multispecies detection.

This development demonstrates that ITO is a sensitive sensing material for NO detection. It also provides crucial information for future selection of nanostructured and nanosized NO sensing materials, which are expected to be more sensitive and to consume less power.

This work was done by Jennifer C. Xu and Gary W. Hunter of NASA Glenn Research Center, José M. Gonzalez III of Gilcrest at NASA GRC, and Chung-Chiun Liu of Case Western Reserve University.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steven Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-18782-1.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the April, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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