Authors: R.R. Smardzewski, N.L. Jarvis, A.W. Snow, H. Wohltjen and R.A. Mackay
Affilation: Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, U.S. Army SBCCOM, United States
Pages: 163 - 164
Keywords: chemical detectors, metal-insulator-metal ensemble
A new class of nanometer-scale, low power, solid-state devices is being investigated for the detection of hazardous vapors. These chemical vapor sensors are comprised of nanometer-sized gold particles encapsulated by monomolecular layers of alkanethiol surfactant deposited as thin films on interdigitated microelectrodes (1). These new, alkylthiol-stabilized, gold nanocluster materials are appropriately categorized as metal-insulator-metal ensembles (MIME). When chemical (agent, hazmat) vapors reversibly absorb into these thin MIME films, a large modulation of the electrical conductivity of the film is observed (2). The measured tunneling current between gold clusters is extremely sensitive to very small amounts of monolayer swelling or dielectric alteration caused by absorption of vapor molecules. For chemical agent simulants, a large dynamic range (5-logs) of sensitivities is observed and extends down to well below sub-ppm vapor concentrations. Tailored selectivities of the sensors are accomplished by incorporation of chemical functionalities at the terminal structure of the alkanethiol surfactant or substitution of the entire alkane structure (3). Current research efforts are focused on examining the molecular mechanism(s) of conduction and mapping the selectivity and sensitivity of sensor elements. Targeted applications include: low-cost, low-power CB agent sensors, filter residual life indicators and orthogonal detector applications.