Peratech creates electronic nose using quantum tunnelling
14 May 2012
Yorkshire company Peratech is developing an electronic nose
using its award-winning, quantum tunnelling composite (QTC) material.
This new sensor technology detects the presence of volatile organic
compounds (VOCs) very rapidly and can recover in seconds.
QTC materials change their resistance when a force is applied
and, in this case, the polymer content of the composite swells when
exposed to VOCs. One form of Peratech's sensor uses a granular type
of QTC material that provides a high surface area for absorption,
enabling it to detect levels of VOCs in the region of 10-100 ppm.
The sensor rapidly recovers once the VOCs have gone from the
surrounding atmosphere and it is the speed of sensing and recovery
that marks the difference between QTC sensors and those using other
sensing technologies. An additional feature of the QTC technology is
that it has very low power requirements.
"The electronic nose application was developed in conjunction
with the Quantum Tunnelling Composite research group at the
University of Durham," explained David Lussey, CTO of Peratech. "We
are now looking for companies who are interested in licensing the
technology from us to develop products."
Professor David Bloor, who is involved in a long-term
collaboration with Peratech, added, "Quantum Tunnelling Composite is
unique in the area of materials science and a team of researchers
and students have been involved in the investigation of its
properties. These never cease to amaze and open up different ways in
which it can be used."
Peratech's Electronic Nose sensor
The conductive particles used in the QTC Electronic Nose have
nano-sized features and are distributed in a non-conductive polymer.
When a force is applied or swelling occurs, the particles move close
enough for the electron flow between the particles to alter due to
an effect called Quantum Tunnelling. The polymer used is selected
for its response to the particular VOCs to be monitored.