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Test Methodologies for Hydrogen Sensor Performance Assessment: Chamber vs. Flow-through Test Apparatus


Certification of hydrogen sensors to meet standards often prescribes using large-volume test chambers. However, feedback from stakeholders such as sensor manufacturers and end-users indicates that chamber test methods are often viewed as too slow and expensive for routine assessment. Flow-through test methods are potentially an efficient and cost-effective alternative for sensor performance assessment. A large number of sensors can be simultaneously tested, in series or in parallel, with an appropriate flow-through test fixture. The recent development of sensors with response times of less than 1s mandates improvements in equipment and methodology to properly capture the performance of this new generation of fast sensors; flow methods are a viable approach for accurate response and recovery time determinations, but there are potential drawbacks. According to ISO 26142, flow-through test methods may not properly simulate ambient applications. In chamber test methods, gas transport to the sensor is dominated by diffusion which is viewed by some users as mimicking deployment in rooms and other confined spaces. Conversely, in flow-through methods, forced flow transports the gas to the sensing element. The advective flow dynamics may induce changes in the sensor behaviour relative to the quasi-quiescent condition that may prevail in chamber test methods. The aim of the current activity in the JRC and NREL sensor laboratories is to develop a validated flow-through apparatus and methods for hydrogen sensor performance testing. In addition to minimizing the impact on sensor behaviour induced by differences in flow dynamics, challenges associated with flow-through methods include the ability to control environmental parameters (humidity, pressure and temperature) during the test and changes in the test gas composition induced by chemical reactions with upstream sensors. Guidelines on flow-through test apparatus design and protocols for the evaluation of hydrogen sensor performance have been developed. Various commercial sensor platforms (e.g., thermal conductivity, catalytic and metal semiconductor) were used to demonstrate the advantages and issues with the flow-through methodology.

Related subjects: Safety

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