A new ultra-violet light detector which is 10,000 times more sensitive to UV light than a traditional zinc oxide detector could enhance fire safety in buildings, researchers report. Currently, photoelectric smoke sensors detect larger smoke particles found in dense smoke, but are not as sensitive to small particles of smoke from rapidly burning fires. “UV light detectors made from zinc oxide have been used widely for some time but we have taken the material a step further to massively increase its performance,” said study co-author professor Ravi Silva from the University of Surrey in Britain.
Researchers believe that this new material could increase sensitivity and allow the sensor to detect distinct particles emitted at the early stages of fires, paving the way for specialist sensors that can be deployed in a number of applications.
“We transformed zinc oxide from a flat film to a structure with bristle-like nanowires, increasing surface area and therefore increasing sensitivity and reaction speed,” Silva said.