A low operating temperature CO (carbon monoxide) sensor was fabricated from a nanometer-scale SnO2 (tin oxide) powder. The SnO2 nanoparticles in a size range 10–20 nm were synthesized as a function of surfactant (tri-n-octylamine, TOA) addition (0–1.5 mol%) via a simple thermal decomposition method. The resulting SnO2 nanoparticles were first screen-printed onto an electrode patterned substrate to be a thick film. Subsequently, the composite film was heat-treated to be a device for sensing CO gas. The thermal decomposed powders were characterized by field-emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM), X-ray diffractometry (XRD), and surface area measurements (BET). The CO-sensing performance of all the sensors was investigated. The experimental results showed that the TOA addition significantly decreased the particle size of the resulting SnO2 nanoparticle. However, the structure of the powder coating was crucial to their sensing performance. After heat-treatment, the smaller particle tended to cause the formation of agglomeration, resulting in the decline of surface area and reducing the reaction site during sensing. However, the paths for the sensed gas entering between the agglomerated structure may influence the sensing performance. As a CO sensing material, the SnO2 nanoparticle (~12 nm in diameter) prepared with 1.25 mol% TOA addition exhibited most stable electrical performance. The SnO2 coating with TOA addition >0.75 mol% exhibited sensor response at a relatively low temperature of <50°C.
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