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Detecting VOCs with a quantum-tunneling composite

By Gerald Ondrey |

A sensor that detects volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at levels of 10–100 parts per million (ppm) is being developed by Peratech Ltd. (Richmond, U.K.; www.peratech.com), with collaboration from the University of Durham (U.K.; www.dur.ac.uk). The so-called Electronic Nose is based on the company’s quantum-tunneling composite (QTC) material — a composite of conductive nanoparticles and a non-conductive polymer. The polymer content of the granular QTC swells when exposed to VOCs, which brings the conductive particles close enough to allow electrons to flow between the particles — an effect known as quantum tunneling. The sensor is said to respond faster than alternative sensing technologies, and rapidly (within seconds) recovers once the VOCs have gone from the surroundings. An additional feature of the QTC technology is that it has very low power requirements, says the company. Peratech is now looking for companies interested in licensing the technology.
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