Gas sensors: one technology, one application

Gas sensing technologies are not new. Numerous applications have existed for a while. Indeed, the use of gas detectors for safety purposes in industrial environment, for defense and patient ventilation control is quite mature already.


At Yole Développement (Yole), the analysts believe the interest in gas sensing is becoming more and more important due to three main causes:

  • Driven by growing evidence on global air quality deterioration and increasing societal concerns, air pollution has become a major topic in the society
  • The emergence of new regulations is boosting the market
  •  New technology developments dedicated to the improvement of sensitivity or sensors miniaturization… enable the emergence of promising new large volume applications.

Under this context, no « universal » solution for all possible applications exists, concludes Yole in its MEMS & sensors report, entitled “Gas Sensor Technology & Market”. And sensors manufacturers often master a wide technologies portfolio to answer the market needs in terms of cost, power consumption, form factor, gas to be detected.

Which technologies are today available? What are the best technology/application combinations? Who is doing what? What are the leaders of this growing market? Yole’s analysts propose you to discover the status of the gas sensor industry.

Yole, the “More than Moore” market research and strategy consulting company proposes today a comprehensive overview of the gas sensor industry. The company presents the wide range of technologies and applications thanks to a detailed segmentation including technical and economic requirements. The market research company proposes a relevant analysis of the existing and future gas sensing technologies and related worldwide organizations with a detailed technology roadmap. List of players and their business models, competing technologies, main technical challenges … are part of the latest MEMS & Sensors report from Yole.

Generally speaking, the right selection for gas sensing technology will depend on price, form factor, power consumption, sensitivity and response time. Yole’s analysts details:

  • MOS  has the largest range of applications, spanning medical, transport, consumer, and longest lifetime, from 5-10 years.
  • Catalytic and electrochemical are ‘old’ technologies with short lifetimes, below five years, mostly used for defense and industrial applications.
  • Optical technologies have the highest accuracy and longest lifetime but are not widely used in transport because the environment is tough and cost pressure is high. They are largely used in HVAC, especially NDIR .

Further integration will open the way to portable systems for industrial applications.
Optical technologies such as NDIR, FTIR, chemiluminescence, and microchromatography are very accurate but bulky and costly with high power consumption in some cases. NDIR is an optical technology that can achieve very low power consumption when photodiodes are used with LEDs.

MEMS technology, from its side, is not a new detection principle According to Yole’s analysts, MEMS technology is a new manufacturing platform that allows many benefits such as further miniaturization of existing technologies. Dr Eric Mounier, Principal Analyst at Yole details: 

  • MOS technology has been developed by Micronas, Microsens, ams, Synkera, KWJ Engineering and Figaro. New entrant in the gas sensor market, Cambridge CMOS Sensors (CCMOS) is focused on the future mobile market with ultra-low power consumption products. CCMOS’ aim is to increase functionalities within portable device like pollution monitoring, alcohol breathalyzer and toxic gas detection. These developments will pave the way for a potential future smartphone integration.
    For example, CCMOS’s solution, CCS801 is a volatile organic compound gas sensor which can detect CO , a wide range of VOC  and which can also be used as a CO2 equivalent sensor.
    With a very small footprint, only 6mm², the package developed by CCMOS is specific to consumer market requirements. The sensor die area is very tiny and no ASIC has been integrated in the package. Cambridge CMOS Sensors is a young company and the CCS801 is their first product for large volume (Source: Cambridge CMOS Sensor CCS801 Volatile Organic Compound MEMS Gas Sensor report, System Plus Consulting, Nov. 2015).
  • MEMS based IR technology is a solution to shrink the size of optical IR sensors. It has been adopted by CCMOS and eLichens
  • MEMS based Chromatography technology has been developed by Spectral Engines, APIX and EcoLogicSense

“Within a growing industry, industrial companies would like to expand their activities and increase their market shares,” asserts Dr Benjamin Roussel, Activity Leader at Yole. And he adds: “And the consumer market is probably the most attractive market segment due to its large volumes”.
Gas sensors for consumer applications require good sensitivity, reliability, and low cost, small form factor and low power budget. MOS approach seems to be the best candidate as cost and size fit the requirements for wearables and smartphones. However, as smartphones get more sensors, power consumption is becoming critical and sensors therefore need to be very low power today. Furthermore, MOS sensor sensitivity isn’t very good. Surprisingly, with the latest achievements in size reduction of optical gas sensors based on NDIR, this technology is now challenging MOS technology for consumer applications. NDIR sensors are already used in home products.
Newcomers in gas sensing bring very innovative approaches based on existing MEMS and optical integration platforms. These companies are often fabless, relying on a foundry partner for volume production. For example, CCMOS works with X-Fab and TSMC, and Spectral Engines works with VTT.
Gas sensors can therefore be new opportunities for semiconductor and MEMS front-end foundries looking for more business. These sensors are often bulky, so OSAT  companies can also supply innovative packaging technologies. New comers have been identified by Yole’s analysts and are detailed in the gas sensors report. To discover the content of this report, go to, MEMS & Sensors reports section.