Alarm Detector Sensors in Different Technologies

In the alarm system, there are different alarm detectos. Related sensors are in different technologies. In this article, we will give a general introduction on them.

Ionic sensor: mainly used in smoke detector ( It is going to wash out)

An ionization smoke detector uses a radioisotope, typically americium-241, to ionize air; a difference due to smoke is detected and an alarm is generated. Ionization detectors are more sensitive to the flaming stage of fires than optical detectors, while optical detectors are more sensitive to fires in the early smouldering stage

In an ion-sensing ignition system, the spark plug itself becomes a sensor. The ignition control(IC) module applies a voltage of about 100-400 volts DC across the spark plug gap after the ignition event to sense the plasma inside the cylinder.

Photoelectric Sensor: mainly used in popular smoke detector

A photoelectric, or optical smoke detector contains a source of infrared, visible, or ultraviolet light (typically an incandescent light bulb or light-emitting diode), a lens, and a photoelectric receiver (typically a photodiode). In spot-type detectors all of these components are arranged inside a chamber where air, which may contain smoke from a nearby fire, flows. In large open areas such as atria and auditoriums, optical beam or projected-beam smoke detectors are used instead of a chamber within the unit: a wall-mounted unit emits a beam of infrared or ultraviolet light which is either received and processed by a separate device, or reflected back to the receiver by a reflector. In some types, particularly optical beam types, the light emitted by the light source passes through the air being tested and reaches the photosensor. The received light intensity will be reduced by absorption due to smoke, air-borne dust, or other substances; the circuitry detects the light intensity and generates the alarm if it is below a specified threshold, potentially due to smoke. In other types, typically chamber types, the light is not directed at the sensor, which is not illuminated in the absence of particles. If the air in the chamber contains particles (smoke or dust), the light is scattered and some of it reaches the sensor, triggering the alarm.

Typical smoke detector obscuration ratings

Detector type Obscuration
Ionization 2.6–5.0% obs/m (0.8–1.5% obs/ft)
Photoelectric 0.70–13.0% obs/m (0.2–4.0% obs/ft)


Catalytic combustion Sensor: mainly used in Fuel Gas Detector

It is commonly used to measure combustible gases that present an explosion hazard when concentrations are between the lower explosion limit (LEL) and upper explosion limit (UEL). Active and reference beads containing platinum wire coils are situated on opposite arms of a Wheatstone bridge circuit and electrically heated, up to a few hundred degrees C. The active bead contains a catalyst that allows combustible compounds to oxidize, thereby heating the bead even further and changing its electrical resistance. The resulting voltage difference between the active and passive beads is proportional to the concentration of all combustible gases and vapors present. The sampled gas enters the sensor through a sintered metal frit, which provides a barrier to prevent an explosion when the instrument is carried into an atmosphere containing combustible gases. Pellistors measure essentially all combustible gases, but they are more sensitive to smaller molecules that diffuse through the sinter more quickly. The measureable concentration ranges are typically from a few hundred ppm to a few volume percent. Such sensors are inexpensive and robust, but require a minimum of a few percent oxygen in the atmosphere to be tested and they can be poisoned or inhibited by compounds such as silicones, mineral acids, chlorinated organic compounds, and sulfur compounds.

Infrared (IR) Sensor: mainly used in Fuel Gas Detector

It uses radiation passing through a known volume of gas; energy from the sensor beam is absorbed at certain wavelengths, depending on the properties of the specific gas. For example, carbon monoxide absorbs wavelengths of about 4.2-4.5 μm.[5] The energy in this wavelength is compared to a wavelength outside of the absorption range; the difference in energy between these two wavelengths is proportional to the concentration of gas present.

This type of sensor is advantageous because it does not have to be placed into the gas to detect it and can be used for remote sensing. Infrared point sensors can be used to detect hydrocarbons[6] and other infrared active gases such as water vapor and carbon dioxide. IR sensors are commonly found in waste-water treatment facilities, refineries, gas turbines, chemical plants, and other facilities where flammable gases are present and the possibility of an explosion exists. The remote sensing capability allows large volumes of space to be monitored.

Semiconductor sensors: mainly used in fuel gas detector

It detects gases by a chemical reaction that takes place when the gas comes in direct contact with the sensor. Tin dioxide is the most common material used in semiconductor sensors, and the electrical resistance in the sensor is decreased when it comes in contact with the monitored gas. The resistance of the tin dioxide is typically around 50 kΩ in air but can drop to around 3.5 kΩ in the presence of 1% methane. This change in resistance is used to calculate the gas concentration. Semiconductor sensors are commonly used to detect hydrogen, oxygen, alcohol vapor, and harmful gases such as carbon monoxide. One of the most common uses for semiconductor sensors is in carbon monoxide sensors. They are also used in breathalyzers. Because the sensor must come in contact with the gas to detect it, semiconductor sensors work over a smaller distance than infrared point or ultrasonic detectors.

Electrochemical sensor: mainly used in piosonous gas like CO.

This is a type of fuel cell that instead of being designed to produce power, is designed to produce a signal current that is precisely related to the amount of the target gas (in this case carbon monoxide) in the atmosphere. Measurement of the current gives a measure of the concentration of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere. Essentially the electrochemical cell consists of a container, two electrodes, connection wires and an electrolyte – typically sulfuric acid. Carbon monoxide is oxidized at one electrode to carbon dioxide while oxygen is consumed at the other electrode. For carbon monoxide detection, the electrochemical cell has advantages over other technologies in that it has a highly accurate and linear output to carbon monoxide concentration, requires minimal power as it is operated at room temperature, and has a long lifetime (typically commercial available cells now have lifetimes of five years or greater). Until recently, the cost of these cells and concerns about their long term reliability had limited uptake of this technology in the marketplace, although these concerns are now largely overcome. This technology is now the dominant technology in USA and Europe.

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