New ultra sensitive fire detector

An Indian origin scientist has developed a new ultra-violet light detector that is several folds more sensitive to UV light than the traditional zinc oxide detector. Being 10,000 times more sensitive than previous equipments, the new detector can sense small smoke particles easily found in fire that conventional detectors couldn’t detect. Thus, the device can significantly enhance the fire safety in buildings, researchers claimed.

“UV light detectors made from zinc oxide have been used widely for some time, but we have taken the material a step further to increase its performance massively,” said study co-author Professor Ravi Silva from the University of Surrey in Britain.

Earlier, photoelectric smoke detectors detect larger smoke particles emitted from dense smoke. Thus, they could only catch fire when a lot of damage has already been done. However with the new highly sensitive device fire could be detected in its initial stages.

To increase the sensitivity, researchers used a technique that has been known for years but none used it. The study authors increased the surface area of the device that acted as a catalyst in the reaction that further increased the sensitivity of the instrument.

“We transformed zinc oxide from a flat film to a structure with bristle-like nanowires, increasing surface area and therefore increasing sensitivity and reaction speed,” said Silva.

The study authors believe that the technology has many applications in various fields including gas detection and air pollution monitoring. Nanowires could be used to make smaller equipments making it fit for personal devices like smartphones and cars.

“Due to the way in which this material is manufactured, it is ideally suited for use in future flexible electronics, a hugely exciting area,” said Silva.

The study appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.

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