Carbon nanotubes (CNT) – like other nanostructured materials – have high sensitivity to a large number of different gases and vapours which are important in areas as diverse as process monitoring in industry, environmental monitoring, agriculture, personal safety, medicine, or security screening. Gas sensors often operate by detecting the subtle changes that deposited gas molecules make in the way electricity moves through a surface layer. One advantage that carbon nanotubes offer for gas sensors, compared to metal oxide materials, is their fast response time and the fact that they react with gases at lower temperatures, sometimes even as low as room temperature.
In one promising application, researchers demonstrated the detection of specific odorous molecules with high resolution using a functionalized carbon nanotube based sensor. While the possibilities for CNT-based gas sensors are huge, the problem lies with the fabrication technologies, more specifically with a lack of technology for batch fabrication.