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Sensing the extreme

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Alton Horsfall, Professor Nick Wright


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The small, light, and inexpensive semiconductor sensors offer a very attractive alternative to collect data even in harsh conditions. The sensors are without any moving parts and can be reliably manufactured and integrated with complex circuits to be deployed in the same volume as one mass spectrometer. The use of silicon carbide in place of silicon in the semiconductor sensors has allowed the sensors to be used at much higher temperatures. Silicon carbide has a wider bandgap of 3.23 eV at room temperature compared with 1.12 eV for pure silicon. Radiation cannot damage the the crystal structure of silicon carbide as the binding energy between the carbon and silicon in the lattice is stronger than the silicon atoms in the silicon crystal. Silicon carbide is put into gas sensors that could be used to monitor pollutants released in car exhaust gases and jet engines, and to make measurements in planetary atmospheres and inside the vents of volcanoes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Horsfall A, Wright N

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Physics World

Year: 2006

Volume: 19

Issue: 5

Pages: 34-39

ISSN (print): 0953-8585

ISSN (electronic):