The centimeter-sized sensors are based on mid-infrared photonic millimeter-sized integrated circuits in which discrete components are replaced by on-chip equivalents. This makes them easier to use and reduces cost by a factor of ten.
The sensors consume less than 10W in continuous operation. They can be operated in a slow pulse-burst mode for infrastructure monitoring and when leaks are detected, the pulse frequency of the sensor automatically increases. This keeps average power consumption low so the sensors can be battery-operated or powered by an ambient energy harvester, or solar cell.
The sensors are intended for applications in process gas analysis in refineries, gas leak detection in petrochemical plants and pipelines, and protein analysis in liquids for the dairy industry.
"The big picture is that the miniaturization of photo-acoustic spectroscopy based on quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) is entering the stage of mass production,” said instrumentation engineer Jean-Guillaume Coutard, an instrumentation engineer at Leti, who coordinated the project. "To develop these chemical sensors, the Redfinch consortium overcame the challenge of implementing their capabilities in the important mid-infrared region, where many important chemical and biological species have strong absorption fingerprints."
"This allows both the detection and concentration measurement of a wide range of gases, liquids and biomolecules,” Coutard said.
The Redfinch consortium members include: Cork Institute of Technology, Université de Montpellier, Technische Universität Vienna, mirSense SA, Argotech as, Fraunhofer IPM and Endress+Hauser.
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