Gas sensors developed in a European project now enable the implementation of
cheaper and smaller instruments with equal or higher speed and sensitivity
than current laboratory-grade instruments.
Production of super-sensitive and portable measuring devices is made possible
by a photo-acoustic gas sensor with innovative parts such as an interferometer
and a MEMS cantilever. While a laser is needed as infrared light source for
the highest sensitivity, novel IR LEDs are sufficient for measuring fairly
small gas concentrations in lower cost portable devices.
Sensitive, portable measuring devices can be used to detect trace gases in the
environment. There are a number of potential applications for the technology,
for example in health care and air pollution monitoring. The technology can
also be used in homeland security and work safety.
The MINIGAS project was financially supported by the European Community and
was coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. It involved
building two prototypes, one of which can be used to detect extremely low
levels of methane in the air and the other to accurately measure carbon
dioxide and water vapour levels in demanding Greenhouse gas flux monitoring.
The performance of the portable measuring devices matches that of existing
Several measurement industry companies are preparing to begin production based
on the new technology. Furthest advanced is Finland-based Gasera Oy, which
already uses the parts developed in the project in its current gas sensors.
The company hopes to be selling new products based on the technology within
three years. Measuring instrument companies Selex (Italy) and Dräger
(Germany), as well as LED component developer and manufacturer IoffeLED
(Russia), plan to use or further investigate parts of the developed
technologies for future products.
VTT’s role in the project was to develop LTCC packaging and integration
technologies suitable for miniature optical sensors.
The total budget for the MINIGAS project was EUR 2.6 million. In addition to
VTT, the other partners were Gasera Oy, University of Turku, Drägerwerk AG &
Co. KGaA, Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute RAS, Selex Sistemi Integrati Spa
and Doble Transinor AS.
MINIGAS project: www.minigas.eu