Room-temperature ppb-level trimethylamine gas sensors functionalized with citric acid-doped polyvinyl acetate nanofibrous mats†
Conventional chemoresistive gas sensors based on inorganic metal oxide semiconductors work typically at an elevated temperature (200–500 °C) to facilitate the chemical reaction between the target gas molecules and the sensing oxide layer. Besides their high operating temperature, these sensors are often found to possess poor selectivity towards a specific analyte. Here, we report on the fabrication and functionalization of electrospun citric acid-doped polyvinyl acetate (PVAc/CA) nanofibers on a quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) chip, which is used as a highly sensitive and selective gravimetric trimethylamine (TMA) gas sensor operating at room temperature. The structural morphology and chemical composition of both undoped and CA-doped PVAc nanofibers were investigated by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, respectively. During exposure to TMA vapors, the PVAc/CA nanofiber sensor could obtain a sensing sensitivity of 85.4 Hz ppm−1 with a limit of detection (LOD) of 19 ppb. Cross-sensitivity tests involving different analytes/gases (i.e., TMA, dimethylamine (DMA), methylamine (MA), ammonia, and water) revealed the high selectivity characteristic of the sensor towards TMA molecules. Besides, decent reversibility and repeatability of the sensor with response and recovery times of 7 and 20 s, respectively, were also demonstrated. Compared to the other recently reported QCM-based TMA gas sensors, the proposed device is superior in terms of sensitivity and LOD. This simple yet low-cost alternative improvement technique based on chemical modification of nanofibers can potentially be employed in food-freshness monitoring systems, especially for fishery and seafood products where TMA is used as their quality indicator (i.e., the primary marker of the fishy odor).