How a Butterfly has Helped in Making an Upgraded Hydrogen Sensor?

Inspired by the surface of butterfly wings, a new light-activated hydrogen sensor produces ultra-precise results at room temperature.

Butterfly Hydrogen Sensor

Butterfly inspired Hydrogen Sensor (PC: RMIT University)

Inspired by the surface of butterfly wings, researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia have developed a light-activated hydrogen sensor that produces ultra-precise results at room temperature. This technology can detect hydrogen leaks well before the safety risks.

The reason behind the development of the prototype was that the Commercial hydrogen sensors only work at temperatures of 150oC or higher, but the prototype is powered by light not heat. As per the Co-lead researcher Dr. Ylias Sabri, the prototype is scalable, cost-effective and offered a total package of features that could not be matched by any hydrogen sensor present commercially. The other Co-lead researcher Dr. Ahmad Kandjani said that the hydrogen sensor is a full package as it is sensitive, selective, works at room temperature and can detect across a full range of levels. The sensor can detect hydrogen at concentrations from 10 parts per million molecules to 40,000 parts per million, this is the level where the gas becomes potentially explosive and so a massive accident could be saved.

  • Since Hydrogen has the potential to be the fuel of the future but the safety fears affect the public confidence in this renewable energy source and here this hydrogen sensor prototype can deliver precise and reliable sensing technology that can detect the tiniest of leaks and could contribute to advancing a hydrogen economy that can transform energy supplies around the world.

How does this work?

The core of the sensor is made up of tiny spheres known as photonic or colloidal crystals. These hollow shapes, similar to the minuscule bumps found on the surface of butterfly wings, are highly ordered structures that are ultra-efficient at absorbing light. 

The well-developed fabrication process for photonic crystals means the technology is easily scalable to industrial levels, as hundreds of sensors could be rapidly produced at once. To make the sensor, an electronic chip is first covered with a thin layer of photonic crystals and then with a titanium palladium composite. When hydrogen interacts with the chip, the gas is converted into water. This process creates an electronic current and by m

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