Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Design and Optimization of All-Optical Hydrogen Sensors(ST8427-1)

SUNY Research Foundation


In the transition from fossil fuel to hydrogen based technologies there is a clear need for sensors to accurately, reliably and quickly monitor for hydrogen leaks in mobile and stationary fuel cells along with hydrogen based infrastructure. The proposed project will design and optimize an all-optical hydrogen sensor for use as a safety measure and control technology in fuel cell technologies.

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Project Description

Currently Pd or Pd based alloys are commonly used as the sensing materials in hydrogen sensors due to Pd’s high sensitivity and selectivity to hydrogen. Still, reported response times are often not short enough, ranging from tens of seconds to several minutes at hydrogen concentrations near 1%. A fundamental reason for the delayed response is not very clear, and lowering the time response is of prime importance. The Contractor’s research over the past 1.5 years has solved issues relating to slow time response of all optical hydrogen sensors, reliability and cross sensitivity issues with heat, humidity, CO and CO2. The Contractor has chosen a thin, 20 nm, Pd-Au alloy that, upon exposure to hydrogen levels ranging from 500 ppm to 4% by volume in an air balance, will cause a decrease in the reflectance of the film due to the formation of Pd-H. By simply monitoring the reflectance of these films one can determine the hydrogen concentration.


The development and improvement of the current all optical hydrogen sensor with specifications equal to or superior than electrical based hydrogen sensors will enable easy integration of multi-sensing points into both mobile and stationary fuel cells along with hydrogen based infrastructure.

Project Results

This project did not achieve technical success in terms of response time and there were also unsolved degradation issues that harmed sensor reliability. No further efforts to improve the sensor are anticipated at this time.


SUNY Research Foundation
Empire State Plaza Concourse Level Rm 106
Albany, NY 12224

Principle Investigator

Michael Carpenter

Universities Involved

SUNY at Albany


Project Type:

Research Study

Technologies Types:

Industrial Products

NYSERDA Contact Information

William Reinhardt


R&D - Mfg Tech & On-Site Pwr

Contract Details

Start Date: 1/11/2010
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: ST8427-1

Last Updated: 1/7/2011 1