Could you please explain how the VZ-range of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) sensors are able to detect Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?
The modules incorporate SGX Sensortech’s novel metal oxide semiconductor sensing technology supported by a unique micro-electromechanical (MEMS) substrate. The technology which has been in use in demanding automotive applications for more than a decade, has been designed so as to be sensitive to a range of common air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds.
How does this differ from conventional means of monitoring the quality of air indoors?
A common means for measuring air quality is to monitor the concentration of carbon dioxide using infra-red technology. This technique works perfectly well if the poor air quality is likely to be generated by the respiration of humans, however there are many instances where air quality is impacted by other sources.
For example, food rotting in a waste bin will not be detected by traditional techniques, nor will cigarette smoke or solvent evaporating from recently decorated walls.
What are the major advantages of using the VZ-range of IAQ sensors?
Beyond the ability to sense a wide range of poor air quality conditions mentioned above, the sensor technology itself reacts very quickly to changing environmental conditions which allows the user to respond equally quickly.
The chemistry used inside the sensor has been designed deliberately to be non-specific which is to say that it a generates a signal in proportion to the widest possible range of VOCs allowing a response to the total VOC (or tVOC) concentration.
The modules are provided with a microcontroller programmed with a proprietary algorithm – this algorithm interprets the sensor’s raw response and converts it to a meaningful digital output either as a signal proportional to the concentration of VOCs in the environment or a signal equivalent to the level of carbon dioxide. The modules are available in a range of input voltages, and either pulse width modulated or I2C outputs.
How is the VZ-range of IAQ sensors unique?
They differ significantly from competitor products in that they have been designed with high volume usage in mind. The sensor component is fabricated at the wafer level and processed using industrial standard semiconductor manufacturing techniques.
This leads to an unprecedented level of quality, certified to automotive standards. It also follows that the VZ modules are very competitively priced and can be used to power detector designs in the most price sensitive of applications.
Besides monitoring air quality, are there any other applications for the VZ-range of IAQ sensors?
Whilst principally designed for the measurement of air pollution indoors or within car environments, the VZ modules are also finding utility in a range of other applications. We have customers using the products in bathroom fan controls, as part of feedback loops in air purifiers and some are even utilised in mobile devices such as digital tablets.
What industries will primarily benefit from using the VZ-range of IAQ sensors?
The sensor will benefit industries that require a quick but meaningful indication of the air pollution resulting from VOCs. Our primary focus is on intelligent building HVAC controls and air purification systems, but we believe the products will find use and generate value in a range of other applications besides.
For example, a number of large white-goods manufacturers are evaluating the technology for food freshness monitoring and we have a significant customer using the modules in a car cabin air quality application.
What are the main differences between the VZ-range of IAQ sensors and the previous versions?
We have made significant advances in the algorithm utilised on the VZ modules to the point where it is extremely simple for users to get up and running quickly. In addition, we have taken steps to ensure the cost effectiveness of the devices.
You announced the release of the VZ-range of IAQ sensors at Sensor and Test last week in Nuremberg. What did you gain from your presence at the event?
The launch went very well at the Sensor and Test exhibition and I think even we were surprised at the level of interest in the VZ modules. It was very clear that the monitoring of air quality is very high on the agenda of many key players engaged in the manufacture of air purifiers, mobile devices and white goods manufacturers. We believe there is a perfect match between the market requirements and the performance delivered by our new products.
What is the next stage of development for the VZ-range of IAQ sensors?
We will continue to innovate and develop the performance of our fundamental gas sensing technology. We still have great strides to make in reducing the size, and power requirement of our products and this is where we shall focus our efforts.
We will also continue to develop our firmware and software to ensure the seamless integration of our gas sensing technology into future designs of air quality monitoring products.
About Nicolas Moser
Nicolas Moser studied electrical engineering in Switzerland and received his third cycle degree from Besançon University (France) in 1993 with a focus on sensors and measurement systems.
He is Chief Technical Manager at SGX where aim is to develop and produce smart solutions for indoor/outdoor monitoring dedicated to automotive and building HVAC control units.
His developments are gas micro-sensors based on MEMS structure for MOS, NDIR, thermal conductivity and catalytic technologies, algorithms for pollution monitoring with MOS gas sensors.
He has been WP leader in GROWTH Project GRD2-2001-50034 “CleanRcab” European project for air cleaning system for automotive application.
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