STTR Phase I: Carbon Nanotube Enabled High-Temperature Wireless Sensor System

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014

$225K

Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Engeniusmicro, LLC
1718 Peachtree Street Array
Atlanta, GA 30309
Principal Investigator, Firm POC

Research Institution

Auburn University
310 Samford Hall
Auburn, AL 36849

Abstract

This Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) Phase I project will develop innovative sensors based on vertically aligned carbon nanotube (CNT) diode structures to increase the range and performance of wireless microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) sensors in high-temperature environments. Currently, wireless sensors are limited by the need to protect the electronics from the sensor environment. This research will develop sensor architectures that utilize CNT structures with non-linear electrical behavior to improve sensor performance under harsh conditions. This effort will develop nanostructured materials that survive extended lifetimes in high-temperature environments, and affordable fabrication approaches that integrate these structures into high-temperature MEMS. The Phase 1 effort will investigate high-risk concepts including the performance limits of high-temperature CNT-based electronics in wireless sensing and the microfabrication techniques to integrate these structures onto a sensor device. A majority of the work proposed focuses on fabrication validation and experimental verification, where the remainder will include modeling and design of the CNT-based sensors. If successful, this research will enable new in-situ health monitoring capabilities at high-temperature. This technology is highly scalable and will provide these benefits at low capital cost and low ongoing cost. The broader impact/commercial benefit of this project lies in the extension of extension of wireless MEMS sensor technology to higher temperature operation and the cost savings and energy savings that can be gained through the resulting increase in industrial process efficiency. Because the target market is high-temperature industrial process and system monitoring, such as in the energy, oil and gas, and turbomachinery industries, these sensors would permit savings in terms of production time, reduced downtime, and the energy required to maintain process and equipment temperature. Within certain situations, this sensor technology would enable wireless point measurements that are currently not feasible or affordable. Relevant and affordable monitoring solutions for low- to medium-cost industrial equipment will be beneficial to rural facilities and small-scale manufacturers who tend to use older technology, maintain small capital budgets, and operate under tight cash-flow restrictions. The broader impacts of this technology to science and education include advancing existing micro- and nano-sensor technology and funding for continued research and education in RF sensors, electronic packaging, and nanostructured materials.