Chemical Sensor with Real-Time, Remote Detection Capabilities and 3D Output

Technology #33957

New detection system can scan gas mixtures from a distance and provide quantifiable data about specific chemicals in the mixture.

Researchers from UCF and the United States Navy have invented an optical detection system designed to identify and quantify the chemicals in a gas mixture from a distance and in real time. The new system can provide a 3D mapping/readout of the mixture’s different chemical concentrations, volume and location. Able to detect chemicals over a broad spectral range, the system is also tunable and does not require cooling. Thus, it can be used under various conditions, such as high temperatures and pressures. For example, the system could be used to identify chemical gas leaks in submarines, spacecrafts, or the breathing system of a pilot’s air supply. The innovation is a less costly, simpler solution to achieving such capabilities compared to current technologies, which require customized instrumentation to detect specific chemicals.

Figure 1. Example application of the invention using a tunable silicon carbide (SiC) detector that operates in coordination with a booster laser.

Technical Details

The invention is a detection system for identifying and quantifying chemicals in a gas sample and methods for making and operating the system. It comprises a new hyperdoped semiconductor optical sensor with a laser for photoexcitation of the gas mixture, a reference laser source, and a processor. Other configurations may include a multi-core optical fiber that is coupled with the photodetectors.

In one example application of the invention, a distant chemical cloud is irradiated with a modulated pump laser beam of a specific wavelength. A doped crystalline silicon carbide (SiC) photodetector receives photons emitted from the photoexcited chemicals in the cloud. Then a probe laser beam sends a modulated optical signal to the photodetector, which then provides an output signal to a second photodetector. A variety of information about the chemical compounds is extracted from the measured data of the second detector and sent to a processor, which identifies the chemicals, their volume and concentrations. The processor also provides a 3D model of the gas sample.

Figure 2. Example setup for reading an optical signal from the SiC detector.


  • Enables the detection of multiple chemicals over a broad spectral range
  • Remote sensing capability eliminates the need for direct exposure to chemicals
  • Uncooled, tunable, wireless detection at room temperature or under harsh environments
  • Operates in real time without needing general instrumentation or customization
  • Simpler, more cost-effective fabrication process
  • Can provide quantifying information (such as a compound’s three-dimensional measurement of chemical concentration, its volume, and the location of the chemical cloud)


  • Military and defense systems
  • Spectroscopy
  • Chemical sensing
  • Biomedicine

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