Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > With carbon nanotubes, a path to flexible, low-cost sensors: Potential applications range from air-quality monitors to electronic skin

Flexible, high-performance gas sensors (left) were made by spraying a solution of carbon nanotubes (right) onto a plastic backing.

Credit: Uli Benz/TUM
Flexible, high-performance gas sensors (left) were made by spraying a solution of carbon nanotubes (right) onto a plastic backing.

Credit: Uli Benz/TUM

Abstract:
Researchers at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) are showing the way toward low-cost, industrial-scale manufacturing of a new family of electronic devices. A leading example is a gas sensor that could be integrated into food packaging to gauge freshness, or into compact wireless air-quality monitors. New types of solar cells and flexible transistors are also in the works, as well as pressure and temperature sensors that could be built into electronic skin for robotic or bionic applications. All can be made with carbon nanotubes, sprayed like ink onto flexible plastic sheets or other substrates.

With carbon nanotubes, a path to flexible, low-cost sensors: Potential applications range from air-quality monitors to electronic skin

Munich, Germany | Posted on September 25th, 2013

Carbon nanotube-based gas sensors created at TUM offer a unique combination of characteristics that can't be matched by any of the alternative technologies. They rapidly detect and continuously respond to extremely small changes in the concentrations of gases including ammonia, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxide. They operate at room temperature and consume very little power. Furthermore, as the TUM researchers report in their latest papers, such devices can be fabricated on flexible backing materials through large-area, low-cost processes.

Thus it becomes realistic to envision plastic food wrap that incorporates flexible, disposable gas sensors, providing a more meaningful indicator of food freshness than the sell-by date. Measuring carbon dioxide, for example, can help predict the shelf life of meat. "Smart packaging" - assuming consumers find it acceptable and the devices' non-toxic nature can be demonstrated - could enhance food safety and might also vastly reduce the amount of food that is wasted. Used in a different setting, the same sort of gas sensor could make it less expensive and more practical to monitor indoor air quality in real time.

Not so easy - but "really simple"

Postdoctoral researcher Alaa Abdellah and colleagues at the TUM Institute for Nanoelectronics have demonstrated that high-performance gas sensors can be, in effect, sprayed onto flexible plastic substrates. With that, they may have opened the way to commercial viability for carbon nanotube-based sensors and their applications. "This really is simple, once you know how to do it," says Prof. Paolo Lugli, director of the institute.

The most basic building block for this technology is a single cylindrical molecule, a rolled-up sheet of carbon atoms that are linked in a honeycomb pattern. This so-called carbon nanotube could be likened to an unimaginably long garden hose: a hollow tube just a nanometer or so in diameter but perhaps millions of times as long as it is wide. Individual carbon nanotubes exhibit amazing and useful properties, but in this case the researchers are more interested in what can be done with them en masse.

Laid down in thin films, randomly oriented carbon nanotubes form conductive networks that can serve as electrodes; patterned and layered films can function as sensors or transistors. "In fact," Prof. Lugli explains, "the electrical resistivity of such films can be modulated by either an applied voltage (to provide a transistor action) or by the adsorption of gas molecules, which in turn is a signature of the gas concentration for sensor applications."

And as a basis for gas sensors in particular, carbon nanotubes combine advantages (and avoid shortcomings) of more established materials, such as polymer-based organic electronics and solid-state metal-oxide semiconductors. What has been lacking until now is a reliable, reproducible, low-cost fabrication method.

Spray deposition, supplemented if necessary by transfer printing, meets that need. An aqueous solution of carbon nanotubes looks like a bottle of black ink and can be handled in similar ways. Thus devices can be sprayed - from a computer-controlled robotic nozzle - onto virtually any kind of substrate, including large-area sheets of flexible plastic. There is no need for expensive clean-room facilities.

"To us it was important to develop an easily scalable technology platform for manufacturing large-area printed and flexible electronics based on organic semiconductors and nanomaterials," Dr. Abdellah says. "To that end, spray deposition forms the core of our processing technology."

Remaining technical challenges arise largely from application-specific requirements, such as the need for gas sensors to be selective as well as sensitive.

This research was partially supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) through the Cluster of Excellence Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM), and by the Bavarian State Ministry for Science, Research and the Arts under the initiative Solar Technologies Go Hybrid.

Publications:

Fabrication of carbon nanotube thin films on flexible substrates by spray deposition and transfer printing. Ahmed Abdelhalim, Alaa Abdellah, Giuseppe Scarpa, Paolo Lugli. Carbon, Vol. 61, September 2013, 72-79. DOI: 10.1016/j.carbon.2013.04.069

Flexible carbon nanotube-based gas sensors fabricated by large-scale spray deposition. Alaa Abdellah, Zubair Ahmad, Philipp Köhler, Florin Loghin, Alexander Weise, Giuseppe Scarpa, Paolo Lugli. IEEE Sensors Journal, Vol. 13 Issue 10, October 2013, 4014-4021. DOI: 10.1109/JSEN.2013.2265775

Scalable spray deposition process for high performance carbon nanotube gas sensors. Alaa Abdellah, Ahmed Abdelhalim, Markus Horn, Giuseppe Scarpa, and Paolo Lugli. IEEE Transactions on Nanotechnology 12, 174-181, 2013. DOI: 10.1109/TNANO.2013.2238248

####

About Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) is one of Europe's leading universities. It has roughly 500 professors, 9,000 academic and non-academic staff, and 32,000 students. It focuses on the engineering sciences, natural sciences, life sciences, medicine, and economic sciences. After winning numerous awards, it was selected as an "Excellence University" in 2006 and 2012 by the Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat) and the German Research Foundation (DFG). In both international and national rankings, TUM is rated as one of Germany's top universities and is dedicated to the ideal of a top-level research-oriented entrepreneurial university. The university's global presence includes offices in Beijing (China), Brussels (Belgium), Cairo (Egypt), Mumbai (India) and São Paulo (Brazil). The German Institute of Science and Technology (GIST - TUM Asia), founded in 2002 in Singapore, is the first research campus of a German university abroad.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Patrick Regan

49-016-242-79876

Dr. Alaa Abdellah
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Institute for Nanoelectronics
T: +49 89 289 25335

W: http://www.nano.ei.tum.de/

Prof. Paolo Lugli
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Institute for Nanoelectronics
T: +49 89 289 25332

W: http://www.nano.ei.tum.de/

Copyright © Technische Universitaet Muenchen

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

A nanoscale wireless communication system via plasmonic antennas: Greater control affords 'in-plane' transmission of waves at or near visible light August 27th, 2016

Forces of nature: Interview with microscopy innovators Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber August 26th, 2016

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Graphene under pressure August 26th, 2016

Thin films

Self-cleaning, anti-reflective, microorganism-resistant coatings: Researchers at the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country are modifying surface properties of materials to obtain specific properties at a lower cost August 9th, 2016

Scientists find a way of acquiring graphene-like films from salts to boost nanoelectronics: Physicists use supercomputers to find a way of making 'imitation graphene' from salt July 30th, 2016

Cambridge Advanced Imaging Centre praises support film consistency and quality from EM Resolutions July 5th, 2016

New nanomaterial offers promise in bendable, wearable electronic devices: Electroplated polymer makes transparent, highly conductive, ultrathin film June 13th, 2016

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes

Tunneling nanotubes between neurons enable the spread of Parkinson's disease via lysosomes August 24th, 2016

McMaster researchers resolve a problem that has been holding back a technological revolution August 18th, 2016

'Second skin' protects soldiers from biological and chemical agents August 5th, 2016

Carbon nanotube 'stitches' make stronger, lighter composites: Method to reinforce these materials could help make airplane frames lighter, more damage-resistant August 4th, 2016

Sensors

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Down to the wire: ONR researchers and new bacteria August 18th, 2016

'Sniffer plasmons' could detect explosives: Scientists have proposed a graphene-based spaser that can detect even small amounts of various substances, including explosives August 16th, 2016

Perpetual 'ice water': Stable solid-liquid state revealed in nanoparticles: Gallium nanoparticles that are both solid and liquid are stable over a range of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit August 5th, 2016

Discoveries

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Graphene under pressure August 26th, 2016

Nanofur for oil spill cleanup: Materials researchers learn from aquatic ferns: Hairy plant leaves are highly oil-absorbing / publication in bioinspiration & biomimetics / video on absorption capacity August 25th, 2016

Unraveling the crystal structure of a -70° Celsius superconductor, a world first: Significant advancement in the realization of room-temperature superconductors August 25th, 2016

Announcements

A nanoscale wireless communication system via plasmonic antennas: Greater control affords 'in-plane' transmission of waves at or near visible light August 27th, 2016

Forces of nature: Interview with microscopy innovators Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber August 26th, 2016

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Graphene under pressure August 26th, 2016

Food/Agriculture/Supplements

Lab team spins ginger into nanoparticles to heal inflammatory bowel disease August 19th, 2016

The NanoWizardŽ AFM from JPK is applied for interdisciplinary research at the University of South Australia for applications including smart wound healing and how plants can protect themselves from toxins July 26th, 2016

Graphene-infused packaging is a million times better at blocking moisture July 15th, 2016

The use of nanoparticles and bioremediation to decontaminate polluted soils June 14th, 2016

Environment

Nanofur for oil spill cleanup: Materials researchers learn from aquatic ferns: Hairy plant leaves are highly oil-absorbing / publication in bioinspiration & biomimetics / video on absorption capacity August 25th, 2016

Researchers watch catalysts at work August 19th, 2016

Down to the wire: ONR researchers and new bacteria August 18th, 2016

SLAC, Stanford gadget grabs more solar energy to disinfect water faster: Plopped into water, a tiny device triggers the formation of chemicals that kill microbes in minutes August 15th, 2016

Industrial

New flexible material can make any window 'smart' August 23rd, 2016

Industrial Nanotech, Inc. Provides Shareholder Update August 22nd, 2016

Let's roll: Material for polymer solar cells may lend itself to large-area processing: 'Sweet spot' for mass-producing polymer solar cells may be far larger than dictated by the conventional wisdom August 12th, 2016

Quantum dots with impermeable shell: A powerful tool for nanoengineering August 12th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic