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Organic-Inorganic Gas Sensors for Better Air Quality

Science Daily released an article that shares a study made by Incheon National University that analyses how climate change and air pollution is triggering the necessity of efficient, low-cost and portable gas sensors that can detect toxic gases in real time. “Organic polymer-based sensors have the potential to fulfill all these requirements, but they're not durable at room temperature”. Experts now affirm that this durability problem can be resolved with “a hybrid organic-inorganic design” without compromising a high detection sensitivity.

“With air pollution on the rise, especially in densely populated urban areas, testing for air quality and the presence of pollutant gases, such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and carbon monoxide, have become more important than ever. Sensitive gas sensing and monitoring technologies are, therefore, a pressing need”.

Effect transistor-based (OFET) sensors are highly sensitive, flexible and lightweight portable gas sensors, however, OFETs are not durable at room temperature because of their instability. This limits their applicability and makes them inferior to existing inorganic sensors, which nonetheless, do not possess any of the flexibility and light weight of organic sensors”.

To solve this gap between organic and inorganic sensors, scientists from Incheon National University, in Korea, have created OFETs, “using an organic conjugated polymer and variations of an inorganic nanoporous material, zeolite”. The study was led by Prod. Yeong Don Park and they fabricated two OFET-based NO2 sensors by using a combination of polymer, poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) and one of two zeolite materials, PST-11 or Omega.

"The high degree of porosity in zeolite results in an exceptionally high specific surface area and, in turn, a strong adsorption response for small gas molecules. This also helps it absorb the molecules in air that oxidize (react with) the gas sensor to destabilize it and reduce its durability, explains Prof. Park. Their material boasts not only high durability, but also high sensitivity”.

The hybridization proved that the polymer provides an orderly structure, this allows an efficient interaction with gas molecules, which means that it is highly sensitive:

“Prof. Park explains: "Our approach represents a new way of conceptualizing the design and development of sensors. If our research is refined further, people can easily detect harmful gases in real time." Speaking of his vision, he says: "Our devices can be integrated with wearable devices such as smart watches and e-skins to allow people to know about air pollution levels in areas other than industrial sites".

Safety regarding environments has become a priority matter. The pandemic has inevitably triggered this, but the search for a pollution free world has a lot to do as well. Technology and sensors are evolving and the main goal is to take advantage of this in order to improve design and ensure well-being.

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