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New materials developed by IITs Jaipur and Hyderabad to detect hydrogen gas leaks

Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad and Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur have developed materials that can detect Hydrogen Gas Leaks with high sensitivity. The research team has synthesized a semiconductor material that can be used as a sensitive detector of hydrogen gas.

This work by the IIT Hyderabad and IIT Jodhpur team would help in the development of reliable and robust hydrogen gas sensors with high sensitivity and quick response, for domestic as well as industrial applications.

The seeds of this development were sown during the ‘National Frontiers of Science’ meeting organized by Indian National Young Academy of Sciences (INYAS) at IIT Hyderabad in December 2018.

During this meeting, Dr. Chandra Shekhar Sharma, Associate Professor, Creative and Advanced Research Based On Nanomaterials (CARBON) Laboratory, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Hyderabad, and his research team held discussions on collaborations with Dr. Mahesh Kumar, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Jodhpur.

The results of this collaborative research have been published recently in the reputed peer-reviewed journal Sensors and Actuators. The paper was co-authored by Dr. Chandra Shekhar Sharma and Dr. Mahesh Kumar and research scholars – Mr. Vijendra Singh Bhati, Mr. Akash Nathani and Mr. Adarsh Nigam.

Speaking about the importance of this research, Dr. Chandra Shekhar Sharma said, “In the past few decades, the importance of hydrogen has grown tremendously because of its promise as a primary energy source with the potential to become a panacea for clean energy generation.”

Despite the enormous promise of ‘hydrogen economy,’ there are two problems associated with the gas. One is that it is difficult to produce, and the second is that it is hard to detect, and because hydrogen is inflammable, leaks can be catastrophic if not detected immediately.

The latter problem is one that this collaborative research project between IIT Hyderabad and IIT Jodhpur attempts to solve.

Highlighting the need for this research, Dr. Mahesh Kumar, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Jodhpur, said, “The explosive range (4–75%) and low ignition energy of hydrogen make leaks very dangerous. Human beings can’t sense hydrogen because it is colorless and odorless, which makes it essential to develop tools and sensors to detect hydrogen.”

Many kinds of hydrogen sensors are being studied, including optical, electrochemical and electrical sensors.