Manufacturing and maintenance of industrial and medical sensors can be costly. We present a platform for producing cheap, low-power, passive carbon nanomaterial sensors that can be easily integrated into portable devices. This versatile platform has the capacity to detect and quantify myriad chemical substances. We also present a method for safely degrading unused sensor material so that it doesn’t present an environmental hazard.

Technology Description

Carbon nanomaterials are ideal sensor transducers due to their large charge-carrier concentration, high surface area, and single-atom thickness, all of which promote sensitivity to molecular interactions that occur near the material’s surface. The nanomaterial is composed of holey reduced graphene oxide, which can be decorated with different receptors that confer selectivity depending on the desired application (e.g., H, O2, or H2S gas detection). Unlike most commercially-available sensors – which require energy-intensive heating elements or sophisticated lab equipment – our platform can be implemented as simple electronic components that change their resistivity based on chemical interactions.

Despite its advantages, carbon nanomaterials pose a significant health risk to those exposed through environmental contamination or direct handling. To address this concern, we developed an enzymatic method for safely biodegrading carbon nanotubes. When broken down in this way, nanotubes no longer cause lung inflammation in mice.


  • Low power consumption
  • Room temperature operation
  • Solid-state device
  • Low cost manufacturing
  • High sensitivity
  • CMOS compatible
  • Small size (2×2 mm)


  • Gas leak detectors
  • Environmental and occupational safety monitoring
  • Auto manufacturing
  • Breathalyzers
  • Chemical spill kits

IP Status

Three issued patents (US8,530,227; US8920764; US9,482,638) and multiple applications.

Stage of Development

The basic research supporting most of the sensors has been completed and published. Prototypes exist, and in some cases testing has been done in vivo.

Notable Mentions

  • Pitt Clinical Translational Science Institute funding ($100,000)
  • Corporate sponsorship ($100,000)
  • Innovation Works funding ($35,000)
  • Pitt Innovation Institute ($6,000)