Types and characteristics of gas sensors


Gas sensor play a crucial role in various industries and applications, enabling the detection and monitoring of hazardous gases in the environment. They are essential for ensuring safety, preventing accidents, and maintaining a healthy working environment. This article will provide an in-depth exploration of different types of gas sensor, their working principles, and their characteristics.

Gas Sensor

I. Catalytic Gas Sensors:

Catalytic gas sensors, also known as combustion sensors, are widely used for detecting flammable gases. They work based on the principle of catalytic oxidation. These sensors consist of a catalyst-coated wire coil or bead made of platinum or palladium. When a combustible gas comes into contact with the catalyst, it undergoes an exothermic oxidation reaction, causing a change in resistance or heat generation. The change in resistance or heat is then measured to determine the gas concentration.


Highly sensitive to flammable gases such as methane, propane, and hydrogen.
Quick response time and fast recovery after exposure to gases.
Can operate at high temperatures.
Can detect a wide range of gas concentrations.
Susceptible to poisoning by certain contaminants like silicones, lead, and sulfur compounds.

II. Electrochemical Gas Sensors:

Electrochemical gas sensor are commonly used for detecting toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and chlorine. These sensors employ an electrochemical cell that consists of two electrodes separated by an electrolyte. Target gas molecules diffuse through a gas-permeable membrane and react electrochemically at the sensing electrode, resulting in a current flow that is proportional to the gas concentration.


High selectivity and sensitivity to specific gases.
Low power consumption.
Wide dynamic range.
Long lifespan.
May require periodic calibration and replacement due to electrolyte depletion.

Gas Sensor

III. Photoionization Detectors (PID):

Photoionization detectors utilize ultraviolet (UV) light to ionize gas molecules, creating a measurable electrical current. They are commonly used for detecting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in industrial settings, laboratories, and environmental monitoring. The ionization potential of the target gas determines the energy of UV light required for detection.


High sensitivity to a wide range of VOCs.
Real-time monitoring capability.
Fast response time.
Portable and handheld options available.
May require calibration for accurate measurements.

IV. Infrared Gas Sensors:

Infrared gas sensors detect gases by measuring the absorption of infrared radiation at specific wavelengths. These sensors are effective in detecting various gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrocarbons. They typically employ two types of technologies: Non-dispersive Infrared (NDIR) and Dispersive Infrared (DIR).


High selectivity and specificity to target gases.
Long lifespan.
Minimal drift and low maintenance requirements.
Immune to poisoning.
Can measure multiple gases simultaneously with multi-gas infrared sensors.

V. Solid-State Gas Sensors:

Solid-state gas sensors are based on semiconducting metal oxides that change their electrical properties when exposed to target gases. These sensors are widely used for detecting combustible gases, toxic gases, and air quality monitoring. The resistance or conductivity of the metal oxide changes when gas molecules are adsorbed onto its surface, enabling gas detection.


Low cost and compact size.
Fast response time.
Good stability and repeatability.
Suitable for low-power applications.
Limited selectivity and sensitivity to specific gases.


Gas sensors are essential devices for detecting and monitoring various gases in industrial, commercial, and residential environments. Understanding the different types of gas sensors and their characteristics is crucial for selecting the most appropriate sensor for specific applications. Whether it’s catalytic sensors for flammable gas detection or electrochemical sensors for toxic gas monitoring, each type has its own advantages and considerations. By harnessing the power of gas sensors, industries can enhance safety, minimize risks, and create a healthier environment for workers and the general public.

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