Pulsed-Temperature Metal Oxide Gas Sensors for Microwatt Power Consumption


Metal Oxide (MOX) gas sensors rely on chemical reactions that occur efficiently at high temperatures, resulting in too-demanding power requirements for certain applications. Operating the sensor under a Pulsed-Temperature Operation (PTO), by which the sensor heater is switched ON and OFF periodically, is a common practice to reduce the power consumption. However, the sensor performance is degraded as the OFF periods become larger. Other research works studied, generally, PTO schemes applying waveforms to the heater with time periods of seconds and duty cycles above 20%. Here, instead, we explore the behaviour of PTOsensorsworking under aggressive schemes, reaching power savings of 99% and beyond with respect to continuous heater stimulation. Using sensor sensitivity and the limit of detection, we evaluated four Ultra Low Power (ULP) sensors under different PTO schemes exposed to ammonia, ethylene, and acetaldehyde. Results showthat it is possible to operate the sensors with total power consumption in the range of microwatts. Despite the aggressive power reduction, sensor sensitivity suffers only a moderate decline and the limit of detection may degrade up to a factor five. This is, however, gas-dependent and should be explored on a case-by-case basis since, for example, the same degradation has not been observed for ammonia. Finally, the run-in time, i.e., the time required to get a stable response immediately after switching on the sensor, increases when reducing the power consumption, from 10 minutes to values in the range of 10-20 hours for power consumptions smaller than 200 microwatts.

IEEE Access