Insights into the Sensing Mechanism of a Metal-Oxide Solid Solution via Operando Diffuse Reflectance Infrared Fourier Transform Spectroscopy

Nanomaterials (Basel). 2023 Oct 5;13(19):2708. doi: 10.3390/nano13192708.


Recently, the influence of Nb addition in the oxide solid solution of Sn and Ti was investigated with regard to the morphological, structural and electrical properties for the production of chemoresistive gas sensors. (Sn,Ti,Nb)xO2-based sensors showed promising features for ethanol monitoring in commercial or industrial settings characterized by frequent variation in relative humidity. Indeed, the three-metal solid solution highlighted a higher response level vs. ethanol than the most widely used SnO2 and a remarkably low effect of relative humidity on the film resistance. Nevertheless, lack of knowledge still persists on the mechanisms of gas reaction occurring at the surface of these nanostructures. In this work, operando Diffuse Reflectance Infrared Fourier Transform spectroscopy was used on SnO2- and on (Sn,Ti,Nb)xO2-based sensors to combine the investigations on the transduction function, i.e., the read-out of the device activity, with the investigations on the receptor function, i.e., compositional characterization of the active sensing element in real time and under operating conditions. The sensors performance was explained by probing the interaction of H2O and ethanol molecules with the material surface sites. This information is fundamental for fine-tuning of material characteristics for any specific gas sensing applications.

Keywords: DRIFT spectroscopy; chemoresistive gas sensors; metal-oxide solid solution.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.