Microsemi, Honeywell et al Leveraging SOI to Curb CO2 Emissions

The furnace in your home’s basement might not be as sexy as your smartphone, but when it comes to making a difference to the planet, it’s awfully important. That’s why Microsemi and Honeywell have teamed up with Cissoid, Cambridge CMOS Sensors and several top universities like UCL, Cambridge and Warwick in a €4 million ($5.3 million) 3-year European research program called SOI-HITS that’s developing high-temperature smart gas sensors to make furnaces more efficient.

Furnaces? Well, consider that in the average UK home, 85% of the energy consumed is by the boiler (the British term for a home furnace). It turns out there are about 40 million domestic boilers in the EU with a growth rate of 15% per year. This project aims to save 15% in energy consumption in the domestic boiler industry, which will save 3.6 billion Euros per year – a nice ROI.

Sensors in general are a high-growth market – currently growing at 79%, enroute to hit $43 billion in the next two years (per Markets and Markets).

The sensor tech developed in this program can reach far beyond the furnace.  As high-temp specialist CISSOID’s CTO, Pierre Delatte, points out, “Thanks to the results of the SOI-HITS project, high temperature sensors will soon benefit from highly integrated and accurate electronic interfaces, offering unmatched reliability and reducing the cost of ownership in industrial, aerospace and automotive systems.”

To do this, you’ve got to use SOI. Long-time ASN readers will know that high-temp apps were one of the original drivers of SOI decades back, and Honeywell was one of the pioneers.  If you want to understand why SOI is so good for high-temp, Honeywell has a really good, clear explanation here.

SOI-HITS Proposal
(Courtesy: Microsemi and Honeywell)

To reduce both energy consumption and waste gas emissions, the SOI-HITS partners are developing innovative CMOS-compatible, SOI integrated smart microsensor systems, capable of multi-measurement (water vapour, temperature, gas, flow, UV/IR) and detection under harsh environment conditions (to 225oC, high water vapour level).  That means extending operating temperature to a minimum of 175oC (targeting 225oC), extending operation life to minimum 10k hours (targeting 50k hours) – all while reducing the cost of packaging and assembly methods to under $10.

According to the project summary, “The smart multisensor chip will comprise multiple micro-hotplates with tungsten micro-heaters onto which selective nanostructured and thin film metal oxide sensing layers have been deposited. For the gas sensors (CO2 (concentration 6-10%, CO (0-1000ppm), and H2S (0-100ppm)), we will achieve fast thermal response time of a few ms and loss per micro-hotplate below 0.2mW/oC. Water vapour sensors, flow sensors (for liquid & gas) and precision on-chip temperature controllers will be also integrated. On-chip processing electronics, including drive circuitry, filters, amplifiers, processing circuits and analogue to digital interfaces, operating at 225oC, will be developed. The extension of the SOI platform to optical detectors, such as UV photodiode flame detectors and IR combined sources/detectors, will be explored. Finally development of a High Temperature SIP (system in a package) will enable real-world demonstrators.”

The program finishes up next year, but this summer the partners presented an update during a workshop at the Transducers conference in Barcelona.  The presentations are all available here.

It’s very cool (or hot!) stuff. And good for the planet.

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