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Nanomaterial Synthesis

Metal oxide materials have been used for decades in the area of gas sensing. In order to place sensors into confined areas such as jet engines or to substantially cover critical areas including plane cabins or crew habitats; size, power requirements, response time and sensitivity must all be improved. By replacing current technology with nanosensors, these goals can be accomplished. For sensor applications nanomaterials present a wide array of advantages compared to materials in common use. Metal oxide nanorods, nanopods and nanoparticles provide an enormous increase in surface area per weight of 0-d and 1-d structures over the 2-d thin films currently in use as well as possibly providing quantum size effects. Scientists at USRA's National Center for Space Exploration Research are making a series of materials including carbon nanotubes by CVD, carbothermal reduction and electrospinning and have been working to better integrate them onto common sensor substrates. A complimentary effort includes chemical doping and surface manipulation that may increase sensing specificity and sensitivity. The synthesis and tailoring of these materials is integral to designing sensitive and reliable sensors that can be run at lower temperatures.