MicroGC: Of Detectors and their Integration

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Virginia Tech


Gaseous phase is a critical state of matter around us. It mediates between the solid crust on earth and inter-stellar vacuum. Apart from the atmosphere surrounding us where compounds are present, natively, in a gaseous phase, they are also trapped within soil and dissolved in oceanic water. Further, those that are less volatile do enter the gaseous phase at high temperatures. It is this gaseous phase that we inhale every second. It is thus critical that we possess the tools to analyze a mixture of gaseous compounds. One such method is to separate the components in time and then identify, primarily based on the retention times, also known as gas chromatography.

This research focuses on the development of gas detectors and their integration, in different styles, primarily for gas chromatography. Utilizing fabrication techniques used in semiconductor industry and exploiting scaling laws we investigate the ability to improve on conventional gas separation and identification techniques. Specifically, we have provided a new spin to the age-old thermal conductivity detector enabling its monolithic integration with a separation column. A reference-less, two-port integration architecture and a one-of-its-kind released resistor on glass are some of its salient features. The operation of this integrated device with a preconcentrator and in a matrix array was investigated. The more unique contribution of this research lies in the innovative discharge ionization detector. An ultra-low power, sensitive, easy to fabricate detector, it requires more investigation for a thorough understanding and will likely mature to replace the thermal conductivity detector, as the detector of choice for universal detection, in time to come.



micro gas chromatography, gas detector, thermal conductivity, ionization