A Paper Based Milli-Cantilever Sensor for Detecting Hydrocarbon Gases via Smartphone Camera

Xingcai Qin, Tao Wu, Ying Zhu, Xiaonan Shan, Chenbin Liu, Nongjian Tao, Nongjian Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Hydrocarbon gases, especially toxic ones like benzene and xylene, pose threats to human health and the environment. But existing detection techniques, like bulky GC-MS or portable PID, cannot fulfill people's requirement of affordable and reliable hydrocarbons monitoring for the purpose of personal exposure assessment. Here, a simple, low cost, and light hydrocarbon gases sensor using a smartphone camera as a readout was developed based on the paper based milli-cantilever bending induced by polymer swelling. Its sensing cantilever was composed of three layers: functional layer of polyethylene film, adhesive layer of double-side tape, and a substrate of weighing paper. And the dimensions of the milli-fabricated sensing cantilever are 8 mm long, 0.5 mm wide, and 50 μm thick. The sensor response was the displacement of milli-cantilever free end. As proof of concept, its performance to typical hydrocarbons of xylene, hexane, and BTEX was carefully examined. For all of them, the sensor showed good performance of linear response to hydrocarbon concentrations, wide detection range, low detection, and fast response. Taking xylene for example, the sensor showed wide detection range of 15-140 ppm, low detection limit of 15 ppm, and fast response of 30 s. The sensor cross-sensitivity to other hydrocarbons was consistent with polymer swelling theory that the more carbons the hydrocarbon has, the higher the sensor sensitivity. Taking advantage of the rough materials chosen and simple fabrication procedure, the developed sensors also had high stability with time, low cost, and good uniformity. The developed sensor is affordable both physically and financially, has good performance, could meet hydrocarbons monitoring requirements for occupational safety or air pollution in petroleum industry, and would benefit people's health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8480-8486
Number of pages7
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 16 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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