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Sensor technology gives portable gas detectors lab instrument performance

22 January 2013

Gas sensors developed in Finland enable the implementation of cheaper and smaller instruments with equal or higher speed and sensitivity than current laboratory-grade instruments.

Photo courtesy of Gasera Oy
Photo courtesy of Gasera Oy

These super-sensitive and portable measuring devices are made possible thanks to the development of a photo-acoustic gas sensor featuring an interferometer and a MEMS cantilever. While a laser is needed as the light source for the highest sensitivity, novel IR LEDs are sufficient for measuring fairly small gas concentrations in lower cost portable devices.

The 2.6 million euro MINIGAS project was financially supported by the European Community and was coordinated by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Two prototypes were built, one used to detect extremely low levels of methane in the air and another to accurately measure carbon dioxide and water vapour levels in greenhouse gas flux monitoring.

Several companies are in the process of producing instruments based on the new technology. Furthest advanced is Finland-based Gasera Oy, which already uses the parts developed in the project in its current gas sensors. The company hopes to be selling new products based on the technology within three years. Measuring instrument companies Selex (Italy) and Dräger (Germany), as well as LED component developer and manufacturer IoffeLED (Russia), plan to use, or further investigate, parts of the developed technologies for future products.

VTT’s role in the project was to develop LTCC packaging and integration technologies suitable for miniature optical sensors.

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