Detecting, protecting and connecting
Platinum-based sensors are also used in carbon monoxide detectors. Often fatal, carbon monoxide poisoning is referred to as ‘a silent killer’ as it is a colourless, odourless gas that gives rise to symptoms that can be difficult to spot.
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs most frequently in a domestic setting due to faulty combustion heating and cooking appliances, where the carbon-containing fuel source does not burn fully, due to insufficient air being available. A carbon monoxide detector uses platinum electrodes to create a circuit. When carbon monoxide is present, the flow of electrical current increases, triggering a warning alarm.
Biosensors – including breathalysers used to measure blood alcohol content and blood glucose monitors used by diabetics – also incorporate platinum-based components, as do many medical devices, such as that used to analyse blood gases.
Platinum’s stability at high temperatures and its high melting point of c.1,769°C make it well suited as a sensor component in temperature-monitoring devices like thermocouples and resistance thermometers, which are used in numerous industrial applications.
Future demand for sensors is set to grow significantly over the mid-term, driven by nascent technology that will see networks of sensors communicating with each other through the ‘internet of things’ – a concept that envisages a highly-evolved level of connectivity between humans and their environment.