Several technologies are available for decreasing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from combustion sources, including selective catalytic reduction methods. In this process, ammonia reacts with nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). As the stoichiometry of the two reactions is different, electrochemical sensor systems that can distinguish between NO and NO2 in a mixture of these two gases are of interest. Since NO and NO2 can be brought to equilibrium, depending on the temperature and the surfaces that they are in contact with, the detection of NO and NO2 independently is a difficult problem and has not been solved to date. In this study, we explore a high surface area sonochemically prepared CuO as the resistive sensing medium. CuO is a poor catalyst for NOx equilibration, and requires temperatures of 500 C to bring about equilibration. Thus, at 300 C, NO and NO2 retain their levels after interaction with CuO surface. In addition, NO adsorbs more strongly on the CuO over NO2. Using these two concepts, we can detect NO with minimal interference from NO2, if the latter gas concentration does not exceed 20% in a NOx mixture over a range of 100–800 ppm. Since this range constitutes most of the range of total NOx concentrations in diesel and other lean burn engines, this sensor should find application in selective detection of NO in this combustion application. A limitation of this sensor is the interference with CO, but with combustion in excess air, this problem should be alleviated.
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