Gas Sensors: The Heart of the System

Gas sensor

A H2S (hydrogen sulfide) gas sensor.

The heart of any kind of hazardous gas detection system is the gas sensors. Gas sensors are the actual component that detects the presence of a toxic or otherwise hazardous gas and, depending on the sensor, measures it’s concentration.

A gas detector might be capable of detecting several different types of gases, because inside it has several different gas sensors. A gas detection system might be made up of many different gas detectors — each with several gas sensors — all of which communicate with each other and to a central (or multiple) gas monitoring stations.

Gas Sensor Uses

Gas sensors are of course at the heart of an industrial hazardous gas detection system and are made use of throughout manufacturing plants. However, industrial and even hazardous gas detection applications are not the only uses for gas sensors.

Some common areas in which gas sensors are used include:

Breathalyzers: gas sensors make up the heart of most breathalyzer systems, used to measure the alcohol concentration on breath.

Home Safety: gas sensors are used in residential and consumer applications in hazardous gas detectors, typically to detect high levels of carbon monoxide, or possibly the presence of natural gas to alert of gas leaks.

Environmental: scientists in the environmental field make use of gas sensors that can detect ozone concentrations to determine environmental air quality.

Gas Sensor Calibration & Maintenance

Gas sensors require regular calibration to properly report accurate gas concentrations. Think of the sensor like a fire extinguisher — it must be regularly checked so that this important safety system is in working order when it’s needed. Another way to think of it is like a scale: you must calibrate a scale by setting it to the zero point when nothing is on it, otherwise it will report the wrong weight. Similarly gas sensors must be calibrated to report the correct concentrations of the gases they are designed to detect.

Over time the calibration of gas sensors slowly falls out of line. Regular calibration of gas sensors is a must — it is not optional. A gas detection system will fail without regular gas sensor calibration.

Gas calibrator

A calibration gas delivery system

How often sensors must be calibrated depends on the specific sensor and the manufacturer. Very high quality gas sensors can have incredibly long calibration periods — up to six months between calibration. Lower quality models might require calibration monthly.

Calibrating a gas sensor requires a special tool, and proper training in how to use the tool. Large plants often have engineers in charge of the gas detection systems that handle calibration internally, while smaller manufacturing facilities or operations requiring relatively few gas detectors often contract an outside company to handle their routine maintenance and calibration of gas sensors, as well as the rest of the gas detection system.

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