National Physical Laboratory

Big steps for small sensors

Big steps for small sensors

Alex Cuenat (NPL) and Victor Higgs (Applied Nanodetectors)
discuss the use of Atomic Force Microscopy

SME benefits from access to measurement facilities to progress the development of novel sensors.

The Challenge

Small-scale sensors are a crucial part of many security systems, for example those requiring detection of bio-hazards, explosives, or poisonous gases. The sensors currently available are of limited value as these very sensitive detectors often give rise to an incorrect reading, known as a ‘false positive’, triggering a false alarm. This obviously limits the use of such systems and improved reliability is therefore vital in order to enable these systems to achieve their full potential.

The Solution

An SME, Applied Nanodetectors, has devised a novel sensor array using chemically modified nanomaterials that has the combined advantage of greater sensitivity with no false positive signals in a device that is physically smaller than those currently available. However, in order to take forward some of their ideas they required access to specialist measurement facilities in order to gain an improved understanding of the measurement issues.

Victor Higgs, MD of the company, was able to benefit from a consultancy and a secondment. At NPL Victor gained first hand experience of how metrology of nanomaterials could be used to accelerate the development of his products and Intellectual Property. In addition Victor gained access to NPL’s environmental facilities and was able to confirm the high sensitivity of the material to different analytes.

The Impact

The encouraging results, and Victor’s improved understanding of the measurement issues resulting from access to NPL’s facilities and expertise, has greatly strengthened his application for MOD funding to further develop the gas sensors, with NPL as the collaborating metrology partner.

"The support we have received from NPL has been invaluable and will enable us to produce state-of-the-art products with a much faster time to market" Dr Victor Higgs, Managing Director, Applied Nanodetectors Ltd

Find out more about NPL's research in Advanced Materials

Do you have a measurement challenge that you'd like NPL's help with? If so, why not apply for NPL's Technology Innovation Fund?

Last Updated: 23 Jul 2012
Created: 30 Sep 2010

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