New sensor chip 'sniffs' dangerous gases

Scientists at three European universities have developed a chip that can "sniff" dangerous gases, paving the way for wallet-card-sized sensing devices. The prototype, which integrates three different kinds of gas sensors on a single chip, could be used to detect organic solvents leaking from containers, or for safety monitoring in the chemical industry, the researchers said in an article published in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature.

The sensor technology is implemented on a single 7 millimeter by 7 millimeter silicon chip, making it suitable for low-cost mass production using facilities which already exist for microelectronics fabrication, said a statement from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, which teamed on the project with the universities of Tübingen, Germany, and Bologna, Italy.

The prototype is part of a project to develop a palm-sized gas analysis device, the Institute said.

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