Ultrasensitive sensors made from boron-doped graphene

Ultrasensitive sensors made from boron-doped graphene

9:52 AM, 6th November 2015
Ultrasensitive sensors made from boron-doped graphene
Ultrasensitive gas detection of boron-doped graphene.

UNIVERSTY PARK, US: Graphene is known for its remarkable strength and ability to transport electrons at high speed, but it is also a highly sensitive gas sensor. With the addition of boron atoms, the boron graphene sensors were able to detect noxious gas molecules at extremely low concentrations, parts per billion in the case of nitrogen oxides and parts per million for ammonia, the two gases tested to date.

This translates to a 27 times greater sensitivity to nitrogen oxides and 10,000 times greater sensitivity to ammonia compared to pristine graphene.

“This is a project that we have been pursuing for the past four years,” said Mauricio Terrones, professor of physics, chemistry and materials science at Penn State. “We were previously able to dope graphene with atoms of nitrogen, but boron proved to be much more difficult. Once we were able to synthesize what we believed to be boron graphene, we collaborated with experts in the US and around the world to confirm our research and test the properties of our material.”

Both boron and nitrogen lie next to carbon on the periodic table, making their substitution feasible. But boron compounds are very air sensitive and decompose rapidly when exposed to the atmosphere. One-centimetre-square sheets were synthesized in one-of-a-kind bubbler-assisted chemical vapour deposition system. The result was large-area, high-quality boron-doped graphene sheets.

“This multidisciplinary research paves a new avenue for further exploration of ultrasensitive gas sensors,” said Avetik Harutyunyan, chief scientist and project leader at Honda Research Institute USA Inc. “Our approach combines novel nanomaterials with continuous ultraviolet light radiation in the sensor design that have been developed in our laboratory by lead researcher Dr Gugang Chen in the last five years. We believe that further development of this technology may break the parts per quadrillion level of detection limit, which is up to six orders of magnitude better sensitivity than current state-of-the-art sensors.”

These sensors can be used for labs and industries that use ammonia, a highly corrosive health hazard, or to detect nitrogen oxides, a dangerous atmospheric pollutant emitted from automobile tailpipes. In addition to detecting toxic or flammable gases, theoretical work indicates that boron-doped graphene could lead to improved lithium-ion batteries and field-effect transistors, the researchers said.

©The Pennsylvania State University News

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