Gas sensors could become the mobile “noses” of the future
KTH and a group of industrial partners will receive a grant of SEK 10 million from VINNOVA, the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems, for the large-scale development of the next generation of sustainable production systems for gas sensors. Asthma monitors worn by patients, non-contact alcolock devices in cars, and ventilation monitoring devices are some examples of how gas-sensor technology could be used in the future.
Gas sensors play a role similar to that of an artificial nose and transform a gas into an electrical signal.
As part of VINNOVA’s research programme entitled “Utmaningsdriven innovation etapp två, utveckling och integration” (Challenge-driven innovation stage two, development and integration), KTH and companies including Aerocrine, SenseAir and Silex will receive a total of SEK 10 million to develop sustainable solutions designed for use within areas such as health and medical care and industrial production. Seven partners are cooperating in the project, which has an overall budget of SEK 30 million.
The participants will develop sustainable and flexible forms of production together; systems that can fulfil various customer demands and also enable high-volume manufacturing for mass usage of gas sensors. KTH’s Department of Production Engineering will manage the work with flexible forms of production, known as evolvable production systems, while KTH’s Microsystem Technology Lab is responsible for developing the next generation of miniaturised gas sensors based on micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS).
To reduce costs and increase production volumes, the sensor solutions must be fully integrated and all of the functions must be placed on a single chip. The solutions must also be significantly smaller than the current 1cm sensors. The chips should be small enough – a couple of millimetres – to fit inside a mobile phone, for example.
Niclas Roxhed, MEMS research leader at KTH’s Microsystem Technology Lab and assistant project manager, says: “If you can get all of the functions onto the same chip, you avoid several mounting stages, and the sensors can be manufactured using batch production, where they are produced in parallel. This manufacturing technique considerably reduces the cost and enables application on a mass scale in, for example, mobile phones.”
Sweden already has several world-leading players within sensor technology and systems. Effective cooperation between these players is essential for Sweden to uphold its position internationally. In addition to sensor manufacturers SenseAir and Silex, which are contracted MEMS manufacturers, several systems manufacturers are included in the consortium: Aerocrine (nitric oxide sensors in devices worn by patients for the optimised treatment of asthma), Autoliv (sensors for non-contact ignition interlock devices in cars to improve traffic safety), Hök Instruments (alcohol sensors and carbon-dioxide sensors for emergency medical treatment) and Maquet Critical Care (oxygen sensors for real-time monitoring in life-support apparatus).
The project, which is entitled “Så kan gassensorer bli framtidens mobila näsor” (How gas sensors could become the mobile noses of the future) will continue until 2014. Each partner must part-finance its work with the same amount of funds as provided to it by the VINNOVA grant.
For more information, contact, assistant project manager, , +46-8-790 9143 or project manager , , +46-8-790 7787.