Ion Mobility Sensors (IMS)

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Applied Nanotech, Inc. is developing applications using the Ion Mobility Sensor (IMS) platform. IMS has many applications in trace chemical sensing and analysis. An example of IMS is the detection of explosive materials at airport security checkpoints. IMS is ideal where high sensitivity (ppb range) and high selectivity (low false positives) are required. IMS can be used for a broad range of applications. ANI is currently developing applications of Differential Mobility Spectroscopy (DMS), one of a family of IMS approaches.

  • They saturate when concentrations exceed ~1%,
  • They require oxygen and measurement is oxygen concentration dependent, 
  • They require heating up to 200°C-400°C, making this technology not intrinsically safe, and unstable (calibration drift). 
  • They are cross-sensitive to many other hydrocarbons, they are not selective. 

Catalytic bead based sensors also require high temperature operation.   Electrochemical sensors usually suffer from the limited operation temperature range (typically, up to 40°C), limited lifetime, and strong dependence of the sensor response on humidity levels.   

Infrared (IR) based sensors are bulky, expensive and cross- sensitive to other hydrocarbons.    


  • LEL/LFL and UEL/UFL gas monitors   
  • Leak detection   
  • Analytical measurements   
  • Pipeline backfill monitoring   
  • Binary mixture sensing   
  • Custom applications    

​ANI has developed a sensor based on a microresonator effect that measures methane and hydrogen concentrations up to 100% with excellent linearity and accuracy of 0.25% full scale and overcomes the problems with existing approaches.   

Existing leak detection devices rely upon several known technologies.  The most widely used technology utilizes metal oxide based sensors.  One advantage of this technology is its relative simplicity and high sensitivity in the ppm concentration range.   However, metal oxide sensors have a number of disadvantages:    

Methane and Hydrogen Sensor Platform


Operating Principle

  • Micro-resonance effect
  • Temperature stabilized oscillators
  • Compensated solid state sensor 

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Platform Advantages

  • Low cost, even in small scale production
  • Sensor and controller can be very small   
  • Nothing is heated above 50°C   
  • No chemistry or radiation involved   
  • Does not require a sampling system
  • Does not require oxygen 
  • Accuracy ±0.25% of full scale
  • No consumables required   
  • Almost instant response, less than 1 sec    

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  • ppb or better detection
  • Information rich data
  • Simultaneously measure (+) and (-) ions
  • High degree of selectivity
  • Low power
  • Small size
  • Facilitates remote / transportable systems
  • Field updatable target portfolio
  • Compatible with front-end technologies

ANI is improving on the DMS and IMS technology by developing non-radioactive gas ionization sources to replace radioactive isotopes that are currently used in these tools. By eliminating the radioactive isotopes, ion mobility becomes much more user friendly and lowers the cost of ownership of the tool. IMS and DMS can easily be coupled with other analytical approaches to increase the breadth of applications. DMS has the added advantage of providing richer information in a small format.

ANI application developments include:

  • Odor analysis for early detection of plant pathogens
  • Breath and odor analysis for health monitoring
  • Mercaptan sensors for natural gas monitoring and leak detection

ANI is exploring other industrial and military applications of this technology.