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Chemical Sensors

Chemical Sensor Technology Overview

Overview chart graphic sensing mechanisms sensor devices sensor systems measurement and control systems

The development bubble chart represents the range of PNNL capabilities and activities and covers the span from underlying science to the engineering developments required to deliver devices, instruments, and systems. Staff working in the application environment (i.e., delivering engineered solutions) are most commonly exposed to the client´s upcoming sensor needs and interests. At the same time, the existence of an integrated technology development team facilitates the transfer of information to staff working on the development or improvement of appropriate sensing mechanisms and devices.

Sensing/Interaction Mechanisms: Fundamental mechanisms and interactions that allow the detection and quantification of chemicals (e.g., optical absorption, specific affinity of a material for a chemical, frequency shift). A sensing/interaction mechanism is also known as a transduction mechanism that converts the chemical presence to some form of usable signal.

Sensing Capabilities

Sensor: A device that can detect the presence and/or quantify the concentration of a family of chemicals or a specific chemical exposed to the sensor. The sensor will rely on one or more sensing mechanisms and produce a signal that indicates the chemical's presence and/or concentration.

  • Types of chemical sensors developed at PNNL include the following: electrochemical sensors, mass sensors, thermal/calorimetric sensors, optical (including infrared) sensors, etc.
  • In addition, PNNL develops unique/specialized chemical sensors for clients when suitable sensors are not available to meet a client's demanding requirements.
  • Sensors for vapor phase, liquid phase, and solid material applications

Sensor Systems: Typically a sensor with associated components (frequently electronics and user input/output devices) that can convert the sensor's raw signal to usable information on a single target chemical (e.g., chemical concentration). These may be stand-alone instruments or a sensor module for incorporation in a more comprehensive system.

Measurement and Control Systems: Integrated systems developed to meet specific client application requirements that can include the following: single or multiple sensors, signal processing and data analysis functions, data monitoring and recording, and control functions.

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