Apparently experts at the university have developed the first low-cost and reliable method of detecting nitrogen dioxide the type of air pollutant that has been linked to more than seven million deaths worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. Research has uncovered that the gas could increase the risk of respiratory disorders in children with the elderly being most at risk. The Projects leader Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, from RMIT’s Centre for Advanced Electronics and Sensors, said the negative impact of nitrogen dioxide could be prevented by access to personalised, highly selective, sensitive and reliable monitoring systems that could detect harmful levels of the gas early. Kalantar-zadeh stated the following
“The revolutionary method we’ve developed is a great start to creating a handheld, low-cost and personalised NO2 sensor that can even be incorporated into smartphones, not only would it improve the quality of millions of people’s lives, but it would also help avoid illness caused by nitrogen dioxide poisoning and potentially even death.”
The main contributors of nitrogen dioxide are the burning of fossil fuels, particularly in coal-fired power stations and diesel engines such as those highlighted in the recent emissions scandal, which can impact on the health of people in urban areas. The professor goes on to state:
“A lack of public access to effective monitoring tools is a major roadblock to mitigating the harmful effects of this gas but current sensing systems are either very expensive or have serious difficulty distinguishing it from other gases, the method we have developed is not only more cost-effective, it also works better than the sensors currently used to detect this dangerous gas.”
The sensor operates by physically absorbing nitrogen dioxide gas molecules onto flakes of tin disulphide, not only would this be a great solution for smartphones but apparently it can outperform any other nitrogen dioxide sensing solutions on the market! To create these sensors the researchers transformed tin disulphide into flakes just a few atoms thick. The large surface area of these flakes has a high affinity to nitrogen dioxide molecules that allows its highly selective absorption.