The Use of Calixarene Thin Films in the Sensor Array for VOCs Detection and Olfactory Navigation

This work is dedicated to the development of a sensor array for detection of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in pre-explosive concentrations as well as for olfactory robotic navigation in the frame of two EU projects. A QCM (quartz crystal microbalance) sensor array was built utilising quartz crystals spun-coated with thin films of different amphiphilic calixarene molecules to provide a base for pattern recognition of different volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). Commercial Metal-oxide semiconductor (MOS) sensors were also used in the same array for the benefit of comparison. The sensor array was tested with a range of organic vapours, such as hydrocarbons, alcohols, ketones, aromatics, etc, in concentrations below LEL and up to UEL (standing for lower and upper explosion limit, respectively); the sensor array proved to be capable of identification and concentration evaluation of a range of VOCs. Comparison of QCM and MOS sensors responses to VOCs in the LEL-UEL range showed the advantage of the former. In addition, the sensor array was tested on the vapours of camphor from cinnamon oil in order to prove the concept of using the "scent marks" for robotic navigation. The results showed that the response signature of QCM coated with calixarenes to camphor is very much different from those of any other VOCs used. Adsorption and de-sorption rates of camphor are also much slower comparing to VOCs due to a high viscosity of the compound. Our experiments demonstrated the suitability of calixarene sensor array for the task and justified the use of camphor as a "scent mark" for olfactory navigation. Copyright © 2010 IFSA. Keywords: QCM & MOS sensors, VOCs, Pattern recognition, ANN, Olfactory navigation.

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