Physicists at the University of Tartu have been working on a graphene-based sensor for the last five years. This sensor, to be integrated into mobile phones, will actively monitor toxic substances in the ambient air and recommend to the person carrying it to choose a safer route. The prototype has now been completed and was introduced to mobile phone manufacturers at a major event in Barcelona.
“Whereas earlier we were only able to test it in the laboratory, now we have the chance to test the technology in the real environment – outdoors,” said Raivo Jaaniso, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Tartu. “There’s still a long way to go, and since we’re getting closer to our goal, the need for investment is increasing quite a lot.”
The World Mobile Congress, which was held in Barcelona from 25-28 February, is the largest fair in the world showcasing future technology. The aims of the researchers on the graphene project are to establish closer relations with mobile phone manufacturers on site and to continue development work. “Our next goal is to make a new prototype in which everything’s considerably smaller and from which it’ll be just one more step to the finished product,” explained Jaaniso. Among other things, long-term stability still needs to be thoroughly tested. According to Jaaniso, 30-40 people should test the device in daily use during the pilot project.
The sensor developed by the researchers at the University of Tartu differs from others available on the market in terms of its sensitivity. It also works successfully outside when the concentration of toxic substances is low, warning the person carrying it against, for example, vehicle exhaust emissions. “It works in more or less the same way as the human nose,” said Jaaniso.
The researchers at the University of Tartu are developing a graphene-based sensor within the framework of the pan-European research partnership project ‘Graphene Flagship’. With a budget of €1 billion, the project aims to develop graphene-based future technology solutions and brings together researchers from 23 countries. Besides the sensor the Estonians are working on, touch screens, superbatteries, smart clothes and 5G Internet hardware are also being developed.