PITA Fiscal Year 2013 Projects

Metal Alloy Catalysts for Semiconductor-Based Chemical Sensors

Lead University: Carnegie Mellon University
PI: Lisa Porter, Materials Science and Engineering
Co-PI: Robert F. Davis, Materials Science and Engineering and James B. Miller, Dept of Chemical Engineering
PA Industry: SenSevere LLC

We propose to conduct science-based, high-throughput investigations of alloys of particular metals as catalysts for use in semiconductor chemical sensors for severe industrial environments. While the nitride semiconductors, on which these sensors are based, have proven stable within severe environments, the contacts and interconnects typically corrode, ultimately causing device failure. This proposal describes an approach for rapid characterization of a large number of different catalytic contact materials and determination of the most useful alloy compositions. It will be conducted by depositing composition gradients of alloys as the metal catalysts and subsequently fabricating and rapidly characterizing large numbers of sensors, each containing a unique alloy catalyst composition. The results of the project will directly benefit a Pennsylvania startup company: SenSevere LLC, founded in 2011. An outcome of the project is to hasten the product development timeline of sensors for SenSevere’s first market application (hydrogen sensing in the chlor-alkali process stream for the production of chlorine) and for future applications in other severe environments. The resulting effort would, by our estimate, result in an increase of at least two permanent technical jobs at SenSevere by the end of 2014.