Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Electrical Engineering

Major Professor

Venkat R. Bhethanabotla, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Paris H. Wiley, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Weller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Babu Joseph, Ph.D.


Saw resoantor, Tobacco mosaic virus, Carbon nanotubes, Palladium, Adsorption


This thesis addresses the design and use of suitable nanomaterials and surface acoustic wave sensors for hydrogen detection and sensing.

Nanotechnology is aimed at design and synthesis of novel nanoscale materials. These materials could find uses in the design of optical, biomedical and electronic devices. One such example of a nanoscale biological system is a virus. Viruses have been given a lot of attention for assembly of nanoelectronic materials. The tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) used in this research represents an inexpensive and renewable biotemplate that can be easily functionalized for the synthesis of nanomaterials. Strains of this virus have been previously coated with metals, silica or semiconductor materials with potential applications in the assembly of nanostructures and nanoelectronic circuits. Carbon nanotubes are another set of well-characterized nanoscale materials which have been widely investigated to put their physical and chemical properties to use in design of transistors, gas sensors, hydrogen storage cells, etc. Palladium is a well-known material for detection of hydrogen. The processes of absorption and desorption are known to be reversible and are known to produce changes in density, elastic properties and conductivity of the film. Despite these advantages, palladium films are known to suffer from problems of peeling and cracking in hydrogen sensor applications. They are also required to be cycled for a few times with hydrogen before they give reproducible responses.

The work presented in this thesis, takes concepts from previous hydrogen sensing techniques and applies them to two nanoengineered particles (Pd coated TMV and Pd coated SWNTs) as SAW resonator sensing materials. Possible sensing enhancements to be gained by using these nanomaterial sensing layers are investigated. SAW resonators were coated with these two different nano-structured sensing layers (Pd-TMV and Pd-SWNT) which produced differently useful hydrogen sensor responses. The Pd-TMV coated resonator responded to hydrogen with nearly constant increases in frequency as compared to the Pd-SWNT coated device, which responded with concentration-dependent decreases in frequency of greater magnitude upon hydrogen exposure. The former behavior is more associated with acousto-electric phenomena in SAW devices and the later with mass loading. The 99% response times were 30-40 seconds for the Pd-TMV sensing layer and approximately 150 seconds for the Pd-SWNT layer. Both the films showed high robustness and reversibility at room temperature. When the Pd film was exposed to hydrogen it was observed that it produced decreases in frequency to hydrogen challenges, conforming to mass loading effect. It was also observed that the Pd film started degrading with repeated exposure to hydrogen, with shifts after each exposure going smaller and smaller.