Metal-polymer composite sensors for volatile organic compounds: Part 1. Flow-through chemi-resistors

Philip J. W. Hands, Paul J. Laughlin, David Bloor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A new type of chemi-resistor based on a novel metal-polymer composite is described. The composite contains nickel particles with sharp nano-scale surface features, which are intimately coated by the polymer matrix so that they do not come into direct physical contact. No conductive chains of filler particles are formed even at loadings above the percolation threshold and the composite is intrinsically insulating. However, when subjected to compression the composite becomes conductive, with sample resistance falling from >= 10(12) Omega to <0.001 Omega. The composite can be formed into insulating granules, which display similar properties to the bulk form. A bed of granules compressed between permeable frits provides a porous structure with a start resistance set by the degree of compression while the granules are free to swell when exposed to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The granular bed presents a large surface area for the adsorption of VOCs from the gas stream flowing through it. The response of this system to a variety of vapours has been studied for two different sizes of the granular bed and for different matrix polymers. Large responses, Delta R/R-0 >= 10(7), are observed when saturated vapours are passed through the chemi-resistor. Rapid response allows real time sensing of VOCs and the initial state is recovered in a few seconds by purging with an inert gas stream. The variation in response as a function of VOC concentration is determined. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-408
Number of pages9
JournalSensors and Actuators B: Chemical
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2012


  • Chemi-resistor
  • Metal-polymer composites
  • Vapour sensing


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