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Why Oxygen Sensors are Important

importance of oxygen sensors

What is Oxygen?

Oxygen is a chemical element that readily oxidizes with most elements as well as other compounds. By mass, oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe. Normal atmosphere contains between 20.8 and 21% oxygen.

You cannot see, smell, or taste oxygen. It is an invisible gas. Without oxygen life is not possible. This means that if oxygen levels are too high or too low, you might not know until it’s too late. You can avoid reaching dangerously low or high levels of oxygen by measuring it.

Sensors are the Best Way to Measure Oxygen

  • Oxygen sensors measure the quantity of oxygen in the air or in a closed environment for human safety or medical applications.
  • Oxygen sensors are critical in a variety of industries from cryogenics to combustion control.

Oxygen Sensors for Safety

Fresh air at standard temperature and pressure has 20.9 percent oxygen (209,000 ppm). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines air that contains less than 19.5 percent oxygen as oxygen deficient, and air that contains more than 22 percent as oxygen enriched. Oxygen enriched atmospheres can present a risk of fire and explosion. If the amount of oxygen rises or falls to dangerous levels, instruments containing oxygen sensors will warn you.

One of the most common uses of oxygen monitors is in the safety industry, where regulation and the need to measure oxygen in confined spaces is necessary. Oxygen is neither combustible nor non-explosive, but it does support combustion.

For example, a fire might explode when fed with oxygen. When working with highly flammable gasses, it is important to monitor oxygen as to not catalyze an explosion. Therefore, it must be monitored in the automotive industry, industrial fire, fuel tank monitoring, and personal safety for those who work often in confined spaces. Oxygen monitors are often installed in areas containing other gases such as methane, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide and many more.

Oxygen Sensors in Industry

Oxygen sensors are found in a variety of industries and can be used in many applications because they are so versatile.

A common industry application where oxygen sensors integrate is cryogenics. Cryogenics is a science that deals with the effects of different materials at very low temperatures. Liquid nitrogen gas plays a large role in cryogenics as it is most commonly used to achieve low temperatures and is legally purchasable. With the growing demand for cryogenics, there is now a need for safety devices to protect and ensure a safe workplace. 

A second environment which O2 sensors are found is the medical and research industry. When working in a research lab, one may encounter different types of gas depending on the research or course of study. Oxygen sensors can be crucial to keep scientists and researchers out of danger.

Oxygen sensors are also used in oxygen analyzers which are seen in many medical applications. Anesthesia monitors, respirators, and drug containers all require oxygen control. Oxygen sensors also play a role in surgical procedures when monitoring patients.

Due to oxygen levels being monitored in enclosed spaces, they are especially useful in areas that use incubation. Incubators are used to maintain an environment that helps curate growth and development. This is used in everything from studying cells and diseases, development of tissue and bacteria, development of eggs in animals, incubation of babies, and much more.

Modified Atmospheric Packaging (MAP) is another A popular application which depends on oxygen measurement. Modified Atmosphere Packaging is an optimal blend of pure oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen within a high barrier or permeable package. A finely adjusted and carefully controlled gas blend is developed to meet the specific respiration needs for each packaged food product. If the contents in the package are getting too much oxygen, they will start to expire much faster. Monitoring oxygen levels can ensure that each food product is up to industry standards and health codes. Pre-packaged foods need to stay fresh, and oxygen sensors are useful in modified atmospheric conditions. Certain oxygen sensors such as the TecPen can be used to check the amount of oxygen in the sealed packages to make sure the levels are consistent with keeping the items fresh.

In addition, oxygen sensors are used in the hospitality industry, seed germination, marine biology, and even the newer world of 3D printing.

Benefits of GasLab Sensor Solutions

GasLab offers a variety of oxygen sensors for numerous applications. Depending on the application our O2 sensors can measure from 0 to 100% volume oxygen. This makes them useful for measuring oxygen depletion or oxygen enrichment.

GasLab also offers an array of sensors individually for replacement in other manufacturer's devices or on PCBs that connect via USB to our free GasLab® software. In addition, we also manufacture our own handheld and wall-mounted oxygen monitors for those industries who are looking for compliance.

The main features of our GasLab sensors are:

  • Fast Response time
  • Reliability
  • Wide range of temperatures 
  • Long lifespan
  • Easy integration
  • Affordable

Understanding GasLab Technology

In selecting the proper gas detection sensor, the application will decide which sensor technology should be used. A common industry sensing method is electrochemical. This method measures the concentration of the target gas, such as nitrogen or methane by oxidizing the target gas and measuring the result.

electrochemical oxygen sensor

A popular electrochemical sensor at GasLab is the AlphaSense O2-A2 Oxygen Sensor, AP-001. These sensors are relatively inexpensive, are easily replaced in the field and are used mostly in the safety environment where ambient temperature are found. The downside is that these sensors have a shorter lifespan than other sensor technologies.

One sensing method on the rise is Zirconia. Zirconia sensors uses two electrodes to provide a voltage output reciprocal to the amount of oxygen in the exhaust relative to that in the atmosphere. Their advantage is that they operate under high temperature are ceramic sensors comprised of two electrically conducting electrodes attached to either side.

high temperature oxygen sensor

An example of zirconia sensing technology would be our SST Zirconia Sensor Oxygen Measurement System, which can be used in combustion control systems, gas, oil, coal, and in oxygen generation systems. Another advantage of this technology is long lifespan.

optochemical oxygen sensor

Another option in sensing technology are optochemical sensors. These types of sensors use luminescence quenching by molecular oxygen and are a non-consumptive way of measurement. The oxygen does not have to diffuse through a membrane, therefore making reaction times much faster. GasLab offers the TecMicro Oxygen Optochemical Sensor that can be used for measuring oxygen levels in both ambient air or in liquid.. 

LuminOX oxygen sensor

A variation on the optochemical sensor is the LuminOX LOX Oxygen Sensor, which measures ambient oxygen over a wide environmental range without additional system components. This sensor has a long lifespan with very little cross sensitivity, doesn't contain any hazardous materials and can connect to micro controllers without any additional circuitry.

Choosing the Right Oxygen Sensor

Many customers often have difficulty in choosing the proper oxygen sensor, yet one popular consideration is customer application.

For example, in the pharmaceutical and medical research industries could benefit from the use of optochemical sensors because of the faster response time in comparison to other sensing methods.

Handheld oxygen monitor

If you are concerned about personal safety, a handheld monitor may be the best choice to ensure safety in the workplace. Our personal Oxygen Safety Monitors are designed to monitor ambient air oxygen levels in real time and are perfect for workers working in confined spaces.

The AlphaSense O2-A2 sensor is another industry favorite, as it is recommended due to its compact size and affordability. With this sensor, you can install it and rely on it until it is time for replacement. Its is a plug-in sensor for many oxygen safety monitors, and for integration into OEM oxygen safety products. If there is a need to measure barometric pressure, temperature and relative humidity, the O2-A2 Sensor Development Kit is a good choice. It is easy to use with your module and includes on-board memory for data logging capabilities.

luminox LOX

Looking for a low drift and no cross sensitive sensing technology? The flow through sensor offered by SST(Luminox) is ideal for measuring ambient oxygen levels and uses florescence quenching for measuring. Using this method of measuring uses less power and leads to a longer lifespan. 

For food health and safety industries, the TecPen Handheld Sensor which provide accurate oxygen measurements in enclosed pierceable food packaging. This device for food health and safety can measure in three seconds, this sensor is also a good choice for infusion containers and micro-bioreactors.

TecPen oxygen sensor for MAP

Understanding the unique oxygen gas and the proper means of measurement methods is the first step for selecting the proper oxygen sensor. Regardless of your application and environmental needs, our GasLab specialists are dedicated to providing the best-in-class sensor solutions.


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