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Sensors are the devices that detect or measure
physical and chemical quantities such as
temperature, pressure, sound, and concentration.
The main requirements of a good sensor are high
sensitivity, fast response, low cost, high volume
production, and high reliability.
Miniaturized sensors can lead to reduced weight,
lower power consumption, and low cost.
CNT due to their inherent properties such as small
size, high strength, high electrical and thermal
conductivity, and high specific surface area has the
potential to revolutionizing the sensor industry.


CNTs are hexagonal networks of carbon atoms of
approximately 1 nm diameter and 1 to 100 microns
of length.
They can essentially be thought of as a layer of
graphite rolled-up into a cylinder.
Depending on the arrangement of their graphene
cylinders, there are two types of nanotubes :
single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs)
multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs).

SWNTs have only one single layer of graphene

MWNTs have many layers (approximately50)
the lms of synthesized CNT scan be aligned or
random in nature.




Generally, three techniques are being used

Carbon arc-discharge technique
Laser-ablation techniques
Chemical vapor depositions (CVD)


2 Electrodes used to generate an arc by DC current
Vacuum chamber and inert gas is supplied
Inert gas to increase speed of C deposition
Once pressure is stabilized, power supply is turned on
+ve electrode brought near to ve electrode to strike arc
On arcing, electrodes become red hot & a plasma forms

As arc stabilizes, rods kept 1mm apart,while CNT

deposits on ve electrode
Then power is cut off
2 important parameters:
a) control of arcing current
b) optimal selection of inert gas pressure

Presence of catalyst

Dia~ 1nm
10 torr pressure
Methane inert gas

No catalyst required
obtained by controlling
pressure of inert gas &
arcing current
Dia~ 2-20 nm
500 torr
helium inert gas


Intense laser pulses are utilized to ablate a carbon
Pulsed laser ablation of graphite ,pressure of gas &
catalyst forms CNT
C for nanotube formation comes from direct
ablation and from C particles suspended in reaction
Confinement of nanotube in reaction zone, within
laser beam allows NT to be purified & annealed
during formation process by laser heating

Parameters deciding CNTs produced:

amount and type of catalyst, laser power,
wavelength, temperature, pressure, type of inert
gas, fluid dynamics
For the formation of SWNTs high UV laser intensity
is required @500 torr & 1150degree celcius


By imparting energy to hydrocarbons
Energy breaks molecule into reactive radical
species in temperature range 550-570 deg. cel
Reactive species diffuse down to substrate which is
heated & coated in a catalyst where it remains
Source of hydrocarbon: Methane , ethylene,
Source of Energy: e- beam & resistive heating

Key Parameters:
a) Nature of hydrocarbon, catalyst & the growth
temperature(rate of synthesis proportional to
Ethylene and acetylene used for MWNTs
a)Arc discharge and laser ablation method
produce high yields of SWNTs
b)Arc discharge is a cheaper process

Nanotubes come with a number of impurities, which
depend on the technique used
Most common impurities are carbonaceous
materials and metals
The impurities can be purified by oxidation in the
carbon arc-discharge technique as the
carbonaceous impurities have high oxidation rates
For purification by oxidation, generally two
approaches are followed: (i) gas phase
purification(Low yield) and

(ii) liquid phase purification(liquid phase oxidation

for more homogeneous oxidation)

CNTs can be used as filters for filtration of bacterial
contaminants such as E. coli and heavy
hydrocarbons from petroleum because of their
exceptional thermal and mechanical stability and
high surface area
Carbon nanotubes are highly anisotropic
conduct current without change for extended
Electrical and electronic properties of nanotubes
are affected by distortions like bending and twisting

Mechanically CNT are strongest known fibres

Multilayered CNTs are very strong in nature and are
remarkably flexible and resistant to fracture when
subjected to large strain
Because of their low density (1.3 g/cm3), materials
made of nanotubes are lighter and also more
Tensile strength of CNTs is about 13 to 52 Gpa
CNTs show good load transfer characteristics



Properties required: small size, highly sensible, non


Various properties possessed by CNT:

Resistance of a SWCNT is very responsive to
adsorption of molecules, hence excellent sensible
Fast response time
High selectivity and reversibility
Intrinsic strength and resilience helps ultra small
sensors to exist, so has small size
Due to Strong sp2 bonding & perfect hexagonal
network, they are stable and hence non reactive


Immersion into chemical/biological environment
change in properties
Only way to overcome: Enhance sensing capability
Route to improvement: Functionalization of CNT
side walls, generally with metal nanoparticles
Advantages of functionalization:
a)Better chemical bonding between CNT
b)Improve selectivity of adsorption

Entire nanoparticle becomes a part of sensor

Since metal clusters have a broad range of diverse
structures, they can provide a full range of reactivity
with different molecules and can be easily
functionalized for high selectivity by attaching
specific receptors
Carbon nanotube-metal cluster composite acts as
the sensing unit, where cluster surface is the
reactive cite.

concept of the nanotube/cluster sensor

Al13 assumes an icosahedral structure, is 1
electron short
Ammonia(electron donor) attacks the cluster

Electronically, SWNTs can behave as either metallic
or semiconducting, depending on the chirality of
their atomic arrangement.
They are highly elastic with a Youngs modulus in
the range of 1 TPa.
Pressure sensor based on carbon nanotubes as
piezoresistive strain gauges show state-of-the-art
piezoresistive pressure sensors
pressure sensor device based on SWNTs as active
elements for a pressure range of 0-130 kPa.
metallic SWNTs adhering to the alumina membrane
shows piezoresistive gauge factor of 210 which is
slightly Si-based strain gauges.


CO2 ,N2 ,NH3 can be remotely detected using MWNTs .

The transduction platform used is a planar, LC resonantcircuit. A thin layer of gas-sensitive MWNT-SiO2 composite is
placed upon the interdigital capacitor of the LC sensor; as the
permittivity and/or conductivity of the adjacent MWNT-SiO2
composite changes, so does the sensor resonant frequency
that remotely monitored through a loop antenna.
Conductivity of the MWNTs shifts lower when the sensor is
exposed to either CO2 or NH3 since both gases are reducing
,conversely conductivity MWNTs is higher when the sensor is
exposed to O2
The sensor shows both reversible and irreversible changes
when detecting NH3 due to the weak physisorption of NH3 that
causes the reversible change and the strong chemisorption of
NH3 that causes the irreversible change.



CNT-based nanosensors have advantages that they are

thousands of times smaller than even MEMS sensors
They consume less power
They are less sensitive to temperature variation
Therefore CNT-based nanosensors are highly suitable as
implantable sensors.
Implantable sensors can be used for monitoring pulse,
temperature, blood glucose, and diagnosing diseases.
They can also monitor hearts activity level and regulate heartbeats by working with an implantable defribulator.
CNTs can also be used for repairing damaged cells or killing
them by targeting tumors by chemical reactions.

CNT nanobiosensors may also be used to detect DNA

sequences in the body.
Biosensors can also be used for monitoring total cholesterol in
blood . They can also be used for blood analysis.
Pressure sensors incorporating CNTs can be used in eye
surgery, hospital beds, respiratory devices, patient monitors,
inhalers, and kidney dialysis machines.
CNT-Based flow sensors can be used in micromachines that
work in a fluidic environment such as heart pacemaker
Flow sensors can also be used for precise measurements of
gases utilized by respiratory apparatuses during surgery .

Automotive Industry
CNTs sensors are used to acquire information
about vehicle parameter such as pressure, vehicle
altitudes, flow, temperature, heat , humidity, speed
and torque.
A pressure sensor can be used to determine when
air filter is dirty.
In crash sensing fast response feature are required,
CNT-based sensors can be potentially applied.
CNT-based sensors can find application are ignition
control, headway control, transmission control,
vehicle navigation, tire condition, and cabin air
quality monitoring

Food Industry
CNT-based bio sensors can be used in meat
freshness evaluation.
CNT-based chemical sensor can be used to detect
undesired chemical residues resulting from animal
drugs, food additives, herbicides, pesticides, and
other environmental contaminants in raw and
processed foods.
CNT-based gas sensors can also be used for meat
freshness monitoring during shipment, storage, and

Environmental Monitoring
CNT-based gas sensors can offer improved
performance in real-time monitoring of combustible
gas alarms, gas leak detection/alarms, biowarfare,
environmental pollution monitoring, and cooking
controls, etc.
CNT-based carbon monoxide sensor can be used
to control ventilation system in car parks.
CNT-based optical sensors can provide useful tools
remote in-situ monitoring.
CNT-based biosensors can be used for wastewater

Agriculture and Fishing Industry

CNT-based humidity sensor can monitor humidity in
green house agriculture.
CNT-based CO2 sensor can be used to monitor the
concentration of CO2 within the green house
pressure sensor can be used for uniform spraying
of liquid fertilizer, insecticides , and herbicides.
CNT- based pH sensors can be used to determine
pH value

Manufacturing, Security and other industry

CNT- based hydrogen gas sensor can be used in
hydrogen monitoring and control for petroleum
transformation, welding, rocket engines, and fuel
CNT can also be used in IC industry for
performance evaluation.
Can be used for strain and pressure measurements
in manufacturing industries.
CNT sensors can be used to as electronic noses to
detect hidden bombs, chemical weapons in
luggage, vehicle and aircrafts
CNT acoustic and optical sensor can be used for
breath alcohol detection at room temperature.

Production of pure nanotubes are very costly.
Only few companies produces CNTs for commercial
Lack of detailed understanding of growth
mechanism of CNTs.
Dispersion of CNTs onto a polymer matrix is very
Control of diameter and chiral angle
Low dimensional geometry results in structural
instability toxicity