Innovators at NASA’s Glenn Research Center have developed advanced hydrogen and hydrocarbon gas sensors capable of detecting leaks, monitoring emissions, and providing in situ measurements of gas composition and pressure. These compact, rugged sensors can be used to optimize combustion and lower emissions, and they are designed to withstand harsh, high-temperature environments (e.g., silicon carbide (SiC) sensors can operate at 600 °C). NASA Glenn is actively seeking industrial partners to develop and apply these cutting-edge sensors cooperatively in new applications.
The microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)-based and SiC-based microsensor technologies are well suited for many applications. The suite of technologies includes hydrogen and leak detection sensors, emissions sensor arrays, SiC high-temperature pressure sensors, and high-temperature contact pads for wire bond connections.
Currently used to protect astronauts on the International Space Station, the hydrogen and leak detection sensors have many Earth-based applications as well. They can function as a single-sensor unit or as part of a complete smart sensor system that includes multiple sensors, signal conditioning, power, and telemetry. The system can comprise sensors for hydrocarbons, oxygen, temperature, and pressure. The emissions sensor array features a gas-sensing structure that detects various combustion emission species (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, oxygen, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides) over a wide range of concentrations. In addition, the emissions sensor array remains highly sensitive and stable while providing gas detection at temperatures ranging from 450 to 600 °C, as does the SiC high-temperature pressure sensor. These new sensors provide a combination of responsiveness and durability that offers great value for a wide range of applications and industries.
Potential applications include leak detection for hydrogen-powered vehicles, rapid inspection of valve and seal integrity, storage tank headspace monitoring, system health monitoring, engine emissions monitoring and control, industrial process monitoring, safety monitoring, alarms for high-temperature pressure vessels and piping, fire detection and environmental monitoring, and high-frequency pressure measurements in combustion environments.