Semi Conducting Metal Oxide Gas Sensors: Development And Related Instrumentation
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A sensor is a technological device or biological organ that detects, or senses, a signal or physical condition and chemical compounds. Technological developments in the recent decades have brought along with it several environmental problems and human safety issues to the fore. In today's world, therefore, sensors, which detect toxic and inflammable chemicals quickly, are necessary. Gas sensors which form a subclass of chemical sensors have found extensive applications in process control industries and environmental monitoring. The present thesis reports the attempt made in development of Zinc oxide thin film based gas sensors. ZnO is sensitive to many gases of interest like hydrocarbons, hydrogen, volatile organic compounds etc. They exhibit high sensitivity, satisfactory stability and rapid response. In the present work the developed sensors have been tested for their sensitivity for a typical volatile organic compound, acetone. An objective analysis of the various substrates namely borosilicate glass, sintered alumina and hard anodized alumina, has been performed as a part of this work. The substrates were evaluated for their electrical insulation and thermal diffusivity. The microstructure of the gas sensitive film on the above mentioned substrates was studied by SEM technique. The gas sensitive Zinc oxide film is deposited by D.C reactive magnetron sputtering technique with substrate bias arrangement. The characterization of the as-deposited film was performed by XRD, SEM and EDAX techniques to determine the variation of microstructure, crystallite size, orientation and chemical composition with substrate bias voltage. The thesis also describes the development of the gas sensor test setup, which has been used to measure the sensing characteristics of the sensor. It was observed that the ZnO sensors developed with higher bias voltages exhibited improved sensitivity to test gas of interest. Gas sensors essentially measure the concentration of gas in its vicinity. In order to determine the distribution of gas concentration in a region, it is necessary to network sensors at remote locations to a host. The host acts as a gateway to the end user to determine the distribution of gas concentration in a region. However, wireless gas sensor networks have not found widespread use because of two inherent limitations: Metal oxide gas sensors suffer from output drift over time; frequent recalibration of a number of sensors is a laborious task. The gas sensors have to be maintained at a high temperature to perform the task of gas sensing. This is power intensive operation and is not well suited for wireless sensor network. This thesis reports an exploratory study carried out on the applicability of gas sensors in wireless gas sensor network. A simple prototype sensing node has been developed using discrete electronic components. A methodology to overcome the problem of frequent calibration of the sensing nodes, to tackle the sensor drift with ageing, is presented. Finally, a preliminary attempt to develop a strategy for using gas sensor network to localize the point of gas leak is given.
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