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Low Power, Lightweight Nanoparticle-based Gas Sensor


Laboratory: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Technology: Nanomaterials-based hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas sensor by heating a network of tungsten oxide nanoparticles with an on-chip micro-hotplate and monitoring network conductance, which would change in the presence of H2S. The result is a sensor fast and practical enough to be used for regular H2S monitoring to better ensure worker safety. The device can be heated with short pulses to lower power consumption without diminishing the sensor response.

The sensor platform can be used for other gases by tailoring the sensing nanomaterials to the analyte of interest. In addition, nanostructured gas sensors can be fabricated on silicon wafers to take advantage of existing manufacturing technologies.

Although H2S can be detected unaided at very low concentrations, it paralyzes the olfactory nerve at concentration levels around which H2S begins to have damaging health effects. Therefore, regular, convenient monitoring of H2S in industrial settings where it is present, such as oil and natural gas extraction and distribution and wastewater treatment, is critical to worker safety. Current sensors are electrochemical-based; although power requirements are low, they do not operate well in harsh conditions such as high or low temperature or humidity. Metal oxide sensors and those operating on the principle of photoluminescence have been developed to address this concern, but are too large and consume too much power to be handheld. The Berkeley Lab gas sensor is both low power and handheld, and can operate in extreme conditions.

Potential Applications:

Monitoring harmful hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas emissions from:

  • Oil and natural gas extraction and distribution
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Environmental cleanup sites


  • Small and lightweight for handheld use
  • Fast response time—within a few seconds
  • Low power requirement
  • Scalable

Opportunity: Available for licensing or collaborative research.

Contact: Complete Berkeley Lab’s Licensing Interest Form for more information about this opportunity. (Cite reference number JIB-3068)

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