Electrochemical sensors and heated metal oxide sensors (HMOS) are the two leading technologies for the low-cost measurement of ozone. Both sensor types have strengths and weaknesses which we will outline here, then let’s discuss which sensor type is suited to some common applications.
Ozone (O3) is an important gas in industrial applications, medical or viral sterilization, ground-level pollution monitoring, and atmospheric studies. The best-known method for ozone measurement has been to use an analyzer based on the ultraviolet absorption principle. Despite significant cost reductions in recent years an ozone analyzer remains an expensive piece of equipment with prices starting at USD4,000. The expense of such equipment has driven many to look for lower-cost ways of measuring ozone.
Measuring O3 is also key to ensuring the safety of biological life within a concentrated area. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. Ozone is identified as harmful to both.
Electrochemical ozone sensors
In an electrochemical (EC) sensor, ozone gas diffuses across a porous membrane into a cell containing electrolyte and electrodes. When ozone comes into contact with the electrolyte, a change in electrochemical potential occurs between the electrodes causing electrons to flow.
In zero air, little or no electron flow occurs. As the presence of ozone increases, the electrical signal increases proportionally. The sensor interprets this signal and outputs the ozone concentration in ppm (parts per million) or ppb (parts per billion).
- Linear Response
- Good repeatability and accuracy
- Fast response time – 1-2 Seconds
- Low power consumption
- Able to measure up to 20 ppm
- Limited cross-interference from VOCs
- Humidity can affect sensor readings
- Changes in temperature can affect sensor readings
- Sensitive to EMF/RFI
- Limited sensor life (often max of 12-18 months)
- Sensors age even when in storage
- Reduced accuracy at low ozone levels (below 0.1 ppm)
- Almost 100% cross sensitive to NO2
- Detecting ozone leaks
- Health and safety monitoring (above 0.1 ppm)
- Controlling alarms, ozone generators etc (above 0.1 ppm)
Heated metal oxide sensors (HMOS)
In heated metal oxide sensors a metal substrate is heated which allows it to become very sensitive to ozone gas. An electrical current passes through the metal substrate. The resistance of the current changes according to the mount of gas present. The sensor outputs the resistance in ppm or ppb.
There are several kinds of HMOS sensors on the market. Different metals and temperature management can have a significant impact on the overall performance of the sensor. Aeroqual’s proprietary technology is branded GSS (gas sensitive semiconductor) to distinguish it from other HMOS available.
The following strengths and weaknesses apply to a state of the art HMOS sensor.
- Very responsive to low levels of ozone (below 0.1 ppm)
- Excellent repeatability and accuracy
- Long sensor life if stored properly
- Very low cross-interference from NO2
- Requires time to warm up (10 minutes after first use)
- Slower response time (60 seconds)
- Higher power consumption
- Cross sensitive to VOCs
- Reduced linearity above 1 ppm
- Ambient (outdoor) ozone monitoring
- Health and safety monitoring (especially below 0.1 ppm)
- Portable ozone monitoring (especially below 0.1 ppm)
- Ozone control scenarios (especially below 0.1 ppm)
What are the best ozone sensors?
That really depends on the application.
Electrochemical sensors are less affected by VOC cross-interference than HMOS sensors, but they are extremely (almost 100%) sensitive to NO2 and Cl2. Therefore electrochemical sensors are best suited to indoor and industrial applications while less suited to ambient outdoor applications.
Reliability above 0.1 ppm makes electrochemical sensors a good choice for health and safety monitoring. The speed of response and wide range makes them a sensible option for leak detection.
HMOS like Aeroqual’s GSS O3 sensor shows excellent accuracy and stability below 0.1 ppm. Health and safety regulations around the world are moving towards lower and lower O3 thresholds. If the threshold is below 0.1 ppm then HMOS is really the only option.
In ambient outdoor air monitoring, ozone levels are often below 0.1 ppm (100 ppb) so again HMOS is the better choice – especially when you consider the cross-sensitivity of electrochemical sensors to NO2 which is nearly always present in ambient air monitoring.
Get the best of both worlds
Ideally, you should select the sensor technology that best suits your application. With that in mind, Aeroqual has an electrochemical and HMOS option on most of its portable and fixed monitor range.
The sensor is housed in a detachable cartridge and can be swapped easily. That way users have the flexibility to select the sensor technology that matches their needs. Click here for the full ozone monitoring range available from Aeroqual
St. John is responsible for supporting Aeroqual’s diverse international customers and representatives to provide each with tools to help them understand the air they breathe. With experience across a range of industries and an industrial design background, he regularly adds a bit of “colour” to the marketing and strategic direction for his range of products.