Nano Chem Sensors

Nanotechnology offers the ability to work at the molecular level, atom by atom, to create large structures with fundamentally new molecular organization. It is essentially concerned with materials, devices, and systems whose structures and components exhibit novel and significantly improved physical, chemical and biological properties, phenomena, and process control due to their nanoscale size.

A nanosensor technology has been developed at NASA Ames using nanostructure, single walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs), combined with silicon-based microfabrication and micromachining process. The nanosensors have achieved low detection limit of chemicals in the concentration range of ppm to ppb. More than 16 chemicals have been tested and differentiated. Due to large surface area, low surface energy barrier and high thermal and mechanical stability, nanostructured chemical sensors offer higher sensitivity, lower power consumption and a more robust solution than most state-of-the-art systems making them attractive for space and defense applications, as well as a variety of commercial applications. Leveraging the micromachining technology, the light weight and compact sensors can be fabricated, in wafer scale for mass production, with high yield and at low cost.

An example of a sensor module, the first space flown nano device, and a smartphone-sensor will be introduced in this presentation. Such sensors have drawn attention from space community for global weather monitoring, space exploration, life search in the universe, and launch pad fuel leak detection and in-flight cabin air and life support system monitoring, and engine operation monitoring. Additionally, the wireless capability of such sensors can be leveraged to network mobile and fixed-base detection and warning systems for civilian population centers, military bases and battlefields, as well as other high-value or high-risk assets and areas in industry.
In this presentation, lessons learned and future direction will be discussed for utilizing the technology for real world applications.

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