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Microscale Sensors for CO2 Level Monitoring

Purdue University

Building- Integrated Microscale Sensors for CO2 Level Monitoring

Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$1,533,407
Location: 
West Lafayette, IN
Project Term: 
04/16/2018 to 04/15/2021
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) consumes a significant portion of the energy used in buildings. Much of this is wasted energy, used when buildings are either not occupied at all, or occupied well under their maximum design conditions. Traditional motion sensors are often used in buildings to adjust lighting levels, but they cannot provide advanced quantitative information about the environment. New classes of sensor systems used to enable advanced control of HVAC levels can include human presence sensors, people counting sensors, and low-cost CO2 sensors. Their improved accuracy and reliability can reduce energy consumption for homes and commercial environments.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Purdue University will develop a new class of small-scale sensing systems that use mass and electrochemical sensors to detect the presence of CO2. CO2 concentration is a data point that can help enable the use of variable speed ventilation fans in commercial buildings, thus saving a significant amount of energy. There is also a pressing need for enhanced CO2 sensing to improve the comfort and productivity of people in commercial buildings, including academic spaces. The research team will develop a sensing system that leverages on-chip integrated organic field effect transistors (FET) and resonant mass sensors. Field effect transistors are chemical sensors that can transform chemical energy into electrical energy. The unique design allows the system to measure two distinct quantities as it absorbs CO2 from the environment - electrical impedance using the FET and added mass using the resonant mass sensors. The design will use low-cost circuit boards and off-the-shelf devices like commercial solar panels and batteries to reduce the cost of the system and enable easy deployment. By combining two unique sensing technologies into a single package, the team hopes to implement a solution for monitoring CO2 levels that could yield a nearly 30% reduction in building energy use.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, SENSOR projects will dramatically reduce the amount of energy needed to effectively heat, cool, and ventilate buildings without sacrificing occupant comfort.

Security: 

Lower electricity consumption by buildings eases strain on the grid, helping to improve resilience and reduce demand during peak hours, when the threat of blackouts is greatest.

Environment: 

Using significantly less energy could help reduce emissions attributed to power generation. In addition, improved interior air quality could help prevent negative effects on human health.

Economy: 

Buildings will require less energy to operate, reducing heating, cooling, and ventilation costs for businesses and families. In addition, better controlled ventilation may lead to improved indoor air quality (ensured by an accurate occupant count, and validated via widespread CO2 detection) may lead to improved worker productivity and academic performance.

Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Marina Sofos
Project Contact: 
Dr. Jeffrey Rhoads
Release Date: 
11/16/2017