Rutile tin oxide (SnO2) is a wide band gap (3.6 eV at 300K [1]) n-type semiconductor material. It is widely used as sensing elements in gas sensors [2]. The sensing mechanism is generally attributed to the significant change in the electrical resistance of the material associated with the adsorption/desorption of oxygen on the semiconductor surface [3]. The formation of oxygen adsorbates (O2 or O) results in an electron-depletion surface layer due to the electron transfer from the oxide surface to oxygen [4]. Recent studies [5, 6] have shown that use of tin oxide nanocrystals significantly improves the dynamic response and the sensitivity of sensors since the electron depletion may occur in the whole crystallite. Here we report on the fabrication and characterization of a miniaturized gas sensor based on tin oxide nanocrystals. A simple, convenient and low-cost mini-arc plasma source is used to synthesize high-quality tin oxide nanoparticles in aerosol phase at atmospheric pressure. The nanoparticle sensor is then fabricated by electrostatic assembly of product tin oxide nanoparticles onto e-beam lithographically patterned interdigitated electrodes. The microfabricated nanoparticle sensor exhibits good sensitivity and dynamic response to low-concentration ethanol vapor and hydrogen gas diluted in air.

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