Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (MSEE)


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Mauricio Pereira da Cunha

Second Committee Member

Robert Lad

Third Committee Member

John Vetelino


The demand for sensors in hostile environments, such as power plant environments, exhaust systems and high-temperature metallurgy environments, has risen over the past decades in a continuous attempt to increase process control, improve energy and process efficiency in production, reduce operational and maintenance costs, increase safety, and perform condition-based maintenance in equipment and structures operating in high-temperature, harsh-environment conditions. The increased reliability, improved performance, and development of new sensors and networks with a multitude of components, especially wireless networks, are the target for operation in harsh environments. Gas sensors, in particular hydrogen gas sensors, operating above 200°C are required in the instrumentation, process control and general safety of a number of industries including coal, natural gas, and nuclear power generation facilities, the aerospace and automotive industries, metallurgical production and defense-related applications.

The surface acoustic wave (SAW) platform is a particularly promising option for high-temperature, harsh-environment gas sensing applications since the platform exhibits advantages, such as battery-free and wireless operation, small size, possibility for scale production using well-developed technologies from the semiconductor industry, and low cost of installation and operation.

In this work, one-port SAW resonators (SAWRs) operating along five different orientations on a commercially available langasite (LGS) wafer were designed, fabricated, and used as high-temperature H2 sensors. Two of the selected orientations were predicted and confirmed to have temperature-compensated operation above 150°C. A gas sensor test setup was developed, capable of gas cycling between N2, O2 and N2/H2 mixtures under extended high-temperature periods (up to 650°C for over 20 hours). Thin film Pt-Al2O3 was used as the electrode material for transducers and reflectors capable of high-temperature operation, and also as H2 sensing film. In addition, yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) thin films with Pt decoration were tested as sensing films aimed to enhance the SAWR sensor response to H2. The SAW devices were monitored in excess of 1700 hours in real-time during gas cycling sequences up to 600°C, leading to the following findings: i) the Pt-Al2O3 electrodes performed better for H2 sensing than the Pt-decorated YSZ sensing film, showing as much as 50% higher frequency response variation in the 200°C to 400°C range; ii) different crystallographic orientations operating on the same LGS wafer experienced different responses to H2 exposures up to 500°C; iii) the surface oxidation state of the SAWR sensors was shown to have an important impact on subsequent H2 exposure responses. Additionally, the feasibility of a sensor system capable of detecting H2 and determining the ambient temperature simultaneously by employing two different SAWR sensors operating along different LGS orientations was examined. Finally, wireless interrogation of a SAWR sensor was successful within the gas cycling test fixture, and successful wireless H2 detection was achieved above 400°C.

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