CES 2021: MEMS gas sensors raising the bar in miniaturization, measurement accuracy

Gas sensors based on the bulky, power-intensive, and expensive optical techniques are giving way to miniaturized, ultra-low-power air sensing devices that employ novel materials and MEMS process technologies to accurately detect CO2 in smart home, automotive, IoT, healthcare, and other applications.

The TCE-11101 CO2 gas sensor from InvenSense, a TDK Group company, displayed at the all-digital CES 2021 show, consumes less than 1 mW of power and can serve both fixed and robotic indoor air quality monitoring applications.

In the TCE-11101 sensor, while the MEMS enables smaller form factor and high accuracy measurements, ASIC provides automatic calibration, reporting, and a serial interface for data output and configuration. More specifically, the ASIC part encompasses background processing, user configurability, and digital I2C communication.

TDK also offers an evaluation kit with supporting software to enable developers quickly evaluate the TCE-11101 gas sensor and integrate it into their design.

TCE-11101 sensor is part of the company’s SmartEnviro sensor family. Source: InvenSense

While gas sensors are a growing presence in HVAC applications, according to Sreeni Rao, senior director of Emerging Business at InvenSense, other applications such as leakage detection and breath monitoring are increasingly incorporating gas sensors. “What matters the most at the system design level is the sensor’s easy integration and programmability features that help simplify the deployment.”

Marcellino Gemelli, director of Global Business Development at Bosch Sensortec, explained the role of MEMS in modern sensor designs while talking about the German firm’s new sensors launched at CES 2021, including the BME280 humidity sensor. “MEMS sensors are so small that they disappear into the objects while enhancing the sensing device’s capability to perform accurate measurements.”

Gas sensors employing sophisticated firmware and MEMS manufacturing techniques are now also used in cars for monitoring air quality and emission levels. And semiconductor-based air sensors like TCE-11101 are expected to accelerate this trend.

CO2 sensors are also integrated into sensor modules along with humidity and temperature sensors to provide HVAC systems with a full set of environmental data. In such modules, a gas sensor’s miniaturization enabled by advanced MEMS manufacturing techniques and its simplified access to digital electronics are vital advantages.

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