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Sensitivity-Selectivity Trade-Offs in Surface Ionization Gas Detection

Department of Applied Sciences and Mechatronics, Munich University of Applied Sciences, D-80335 Munich, Germany
MIND Group—Departament d’Engiyeria Electrònica i Biomèdica, Universitat de Barcelona, C Martí i Franquès, 108028 Barcelona, Spain
IN2UB, Institut de Nanociència i Nanotecnologia de la Universitat de Barcelona, C Martí i Franquès, 108028 Barcelona, Spain
AIRBUS Central R&T, D-81663 Munich, Germany
National Institute of Optics (CNR-INO), National Research Council, Via Branze 45, 25123 Brescia, Italy
Department of Information Engineering, University of Brescia, Via Valotti 9, 25133 Brescia, Italy
NANO SENSOR SYSTEMS SRL—Via Valotti 9, 25133 Brescia, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nanomaterials 2018, 8(12), 1017;
Received: 20 November 2018 / Accepted: 29 November 2018 / Published: 6 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development of Semiconductor Nanomaterials for Gas Sensors)
PDF [6187 KB, uploaded 10 December 2018]


Surface ionization (SI) provides a simple, sensitive, and selective method for the detection of high-proton affinity substances, such as organic decay products, medical and illicit drugs as well as a range of other hazardous materials. Tests on different kinds of SI sensors showed that the sensitivity and selectivity of such devices is not only dependent on the stoichiometry and nanomorphology of the emitter materials, but also on the shape of the electrode configurations that are used to read out the SI signals. Whereas, in parallel-plate capacitor devices, different kinds of emitter materials exhibit a high level of amine-selectivity, MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical-systems) and NEMS (nanowire) versions of SI sensors employing the same kinds of emitter materials provide significantly higher sensitivity, however, at the expense of a reduced chemical selectivity. In this paper, it is argued that such sensitivity-selectivity trade-offs arise from unselective physical ionization phenomena that occur in the high-field regions immediately adjacent to the surfaces of sharply curved MEMS (NEMS) emitter and collector electrodes. View Full-Text
Keywords: surface ionization; gas detection; sensitivity; selectivity; corona discharge; secondary electron emission surface ionization; gas detection; sensitivity; selectivity; corona discharge; secondary electron emission

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Müller, G.; Prades, J.D.; Hackner, A.; Ponzoni, A.; Comini, E.; Sberveglieri, G. Sensitivity-Selectivity Trade-Offs in Surface Ionization Gas Detection. Nanomaterials 2018, 8, 1017.

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