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Researchers at Tarbiat Modarres University together with their colleagues from the Islamic Azad University proposed aluminum nitride nanotubes as a potential sensing element for the poisonous and carcinogenic formaldehyde gas with the help of computer modeling and analysis.
Today, formaldehyde marks as a highly-used chemical compound in industrial applications though being proved carcinogenic. Carbon nanotubes, on the other hand, have been investigated as formaldehyde gas sensors, however there found to be difficulties in segregation of semiconductive and conductive CNTs as well as limited reactivity of the CNTs and the gas.
Nanotubular structure of aluminum nitride which exhibits semi-conductive properties - unlike the nonconductive bulk aluminum nitride - has attracted the attention of the mentioned researchers in this regard. The outcomes of the research work revealed that aluminum nitride nanotubes are promising in detection of the toxic formaldehyde gas.
"The results indicate that the adsorption of formaldehyde upon the aluminum nitride nanotubes is in favor of their electrical conductance. Therefore, provided that an AlN nanotube is placed in an electric circuit, we can read an electrical signal as soon as a few formaldehyde molecules are adsorbed," Ahmadi, a member of the research group, said , describing the conceptual sensor's mechanism.
Based on the findings of this research, the adsorption of formaldehyde on aluminum nitride nanotubes immediately causes charge transfer and narrows the energy gap which in turn increases the electric conductance of the tubes. A short response time, high selective operation, favorable degree of recovery, and being free of further treatments are among the advantages of this model sensor.
The researchers hope their study will motivate experimental efforts for the synthesis of AlN nanotube based formaldehyde sensors.
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