A team of physicists from Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University (BFU), with colleagues from National Research Nuclear University MEPhl (NRNU MEPhl), have developed a tungsten oxide-based detector of hydrogen in gas mixes.

Hydrogen molecules have the smallest mass and size meaning the gas is difficult to keep in any vessel as it leaks from almost any opening. Hydrogen leakages are extremely dangerous in the industry, as when mixed with oxygen, hydrogen causes an explosive mix known as the detonating gas.

To prevent hydrogen leakages, its concentration in an industrial facility should be constantly monitored, this is usually carried out with gas detectors. Detectors are based on the ability of gases to change the electrical conductivity of metals upon contact with them.

In the course of measurements, fixed voltage is applied to the ends of a metal plate, and a device measures the strength of current going through the plate. The strength of current depends on the conductivity of a material, when the concentration of hydrogen increases, the current changes as well.

The BFU scientists with colleagues from NRNU MEPhl studied new materials based on tungsten oxide (WOx). One of which was obtained by means of depositing WOx on a silicon carbide (SiC) substrate. Another material was developed in the same manner, but the tungsten oxide layer was covered with additional platinum coating.

The scientists determined the sensitivity of the two films by applying voltage to them and putting them into an oxygen environment. After that, 2% of hydrogen was added. The material without the platinum coating demonstrated a 15 times increase in the current strength compared to pure tungsten oxide. When the same property was measured in the second material, it showed a 100 times increase.

“We have studied nanomaterials that may be used as a basis for hydrogen leakage sensors. In the course of our work we identified the requirements for the structural properties of these materials that should secure high gas detecting efficiency,” said Dr Alexander Goikhman, a co-author of the work and the head of Research and Educational Centre “Functional Nanomaterials.”

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