Chalmers scientists have built the fastest hydrogen sensor in the world.
According to the scientists, the plastic encapsulated sensor is said to meet all future performance targets pertaining to hydrogen-powered vehicles.
The sensor works based on an optical phenomenon – a plasmon – which occurs when metal nanoparticles are illuminated and capture visible light.
This allows it to simply change color when the amount of hydrogen in the environment changes.
According to the scientists, the plastic around the tiny sensor is not just for protection but also functions as a key component.
It increases the sensor’s response time by accelerating the uptake of the hydrogen gas molecules into the metal particles where they can be detected.
It further acts as an effective barrier to the environment, preventing any other molecules from entering and deactivating the sensor.
This enables the sensor to work both highly efficiently and undisturbed, enabling it to meet the rigorous demands of the automotive industry – to be able to detect 0.1 percent hydrogen in the air in less than a second.
“We have not only developed the world’s fastest hydrogen sensor, but also a sensor that is stable over time and does not deactivate,” says physics researcher Ferry Nugroho.
“Unlike today’s hydrogen sensors, our solution does not need to be recalibrated as often, as it is protected by the plastic.”
Detecting hydrogen is challenging in many ways. The gas is invisible and odourless, but also volatile and extremely flammable.
It requires only four percent hydrogen in the air to produce oxyhydrogen gas, sometimes known as knallgas, which ignites at the smallest spark.
In order for hydrogen cars and the associated infrastructure of the future to be sufficiently safe, sensors have to detect extremely small amounts of hydrogen in the air.
They also need to be quick enough to detect leaks before a fire occurs.
Image and content: Ella Marushchenko/Chalmers