Towards low-cost QEPAS sensors for nitrogen dioxide detection

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Abstract

Increasing awareness of the adverse health effects of air pollution leads to a demand of low-cost sensors for the measurement of pollutants such as NO2. However, commercially available low-cost sensors lack accuracy and long-term stability, and suffer from cross-sensitivity to other gases. These drawbacks can be overcome by the method of quartz-enhanced photoacoustic spectroscopy (QEPAS). In QEPAS modulated light is absorbed by the NO2 molecules, which results in the production of a sound wave. The sound wave is detected by resonance of a quartz tuning fork, which results in a measurable electric signal. Due to the small size of the tuning forks, the gas sensing element can be smaller than 1 cm3. We present the first bare fork QEPAS setup for the ppb-level detection of NO2, which is ideally suited for environmental trace gas detection without the need of using micro-resonators. Micro-resonators are commonly used to amplify photoacoustic signals. However, micro-resonators have different dependencies on environmental conditions than tuning forks, which makes them difficult to operate in changing conditions. In contrast, our bare fork QEPAS setup is more robust and easily adopted by the use of a low-cost temperature and humidity sensor. By using acoustic filters the integration time could be increased to offer higher sensitivity at a continuous flow rate of 200 std cm3 min−1. The 1σ noise equivalent concentration is determined to 21 ppb NO2 in synthetic air for 120 s measurement time, allowing detection which satisfies international health and safety standards thresholds.

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Breitegger, P., Schweighofer, B., Wegleiter, H., Knoll, M., Lang, B., & Bergmann, A. (2020). Towards low-cost QEPAS sensors for nitrogen dioxide detection. Photoacoustics, 18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pacs.2020.100169

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