Liquid Crystal-based Sensors for Detection of Airborne Toxic Chemicals for Integration with Unmanned Robotic Systems

Period of Performance: 09/27/2013 - 03/31/2014


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Platypus Technologies, LLC
5520 Nobel Drive Suite 100
Madison, WI 53711
Principal Investigator
Firm POC

Research Institution

University of Wisconsin, Madison
2100 Main Street
Madison, WI 53706
Institution POC


We aim to develop lightweight and rugged liquid crystal (LC)-based sensors suitable for integration into small unmanned vehicles, including hand-launched UAVs and throwable robots. For Phase I proof of concept, we propose to develop sensors that detect DMMP, H2S, NO2 and NH3. These gases include simulants of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals, selected for their relevance to DoD and civilian security. The sensors will be fabricated and tested through a collaboration between Platypus Technologies LLC and University of Wisconsin. We will (i) optimize the design of chemically functionalized surfaces to enable sensitive LC-based detection of the target gases; (ii) perform infrared spectroscopy to advance our understanding of the intermolecular interactions that underlie the response of the LC sensors to the targeted gases, so that we will be better able to design further improvements and broader detection capabilities in Phase II; and (iii) design and fabricate simple microstructures that host LCs in a manner suitable for fabrication of LC sensors for deployment in small UMVs. Benefits of these sensors include their robustness and uniquely low power and weight parameters, which facilitate their use in small UMVs. Commercial applications extend to civilian markets such as monitoring gas pipelines, wells, mines.