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How It Works

How it works – Carbon Monoxide Detectors

By Megan Tung

Carbon monoxide detectors are devices installed to protect individuals from this deadly gas.

Types of Carbon Monoxide Detectors and how they work
Carbon Monoxide Detector
There are three types of carbon monoxide detectors: a biomimetic sensor, a metal oxide semiconductor, and an electrochemical sensor. A biomimetic sensor contains a gel that changes color when it absorbs carbon monoxide. When the gel changes color it triggers an alarm to go off. A metal oxide semiconductor detector has a silica chip with circuitry that lowers its electrical resistance when it detects carbon monoxide, triggering an alarm. Finally, an electrochemical sensor has electrodes immersed in a chemical solution that senses change in electrical current when carbon monoxide is present, which triggers the alarm.

These devices ideally should be inexpensive, foolproof, and portable so anybody can purchase and work the detector. They also need to be extremely selective and sensitive. It needs to be selective to a very specific substance/molecule and sensitive enough to detect the substance from a distance and/or when there are low concentrations.
Megan Tung is a summer intern at Jameco Electronics and a freshman at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Her interests include photography, music, business, and engineering.