An emerging market for CO2 gas sensors to assess COVID-19 transmission risk


Research firm IDTechX explores how gas sensors can be used to monitor the indoor environment, and act as an efficient method to control the outbreak of COVID-19.

COVID-19 has been an unpredictable black swan in 2020 and the second wave in Europe indicates that we might need to live with the pandemic for a long time.

Although the development of a vaccine has had a landmark breakthrough, any vaccine will not be widespread quickly and there is still the opportunity for the virus to mutate and become seasonal.

While widespread mass testing has been a central focus for governments for months, societies are now facing another question: how can the risk be assessed and how can the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 be prevented in the community.

Although the transmission routes for the SARS-CoV-2 virus are still debatable, there is increasing scientific evidence suggesting that long-range aerosol-based transmission might play an important role. How to assess and control the aerosol concentration are becoming the most critical measures for infection control.

Due to the close link of the indoor CO2 concentration and aerosol density, using CO2 gas sensors to monitor the indoor environment can be an efficient method to control the COVID-19 outbreak.

The German government is among the first to invest in this technology, installing CO2 gas sensors in schools. These sensors indicate when the air in the room is unhealthily stale.

The Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations (REHVA) has also published guidance for schools to install a CO2 monitoring system with traffic light indication.

While electrochemical gas sensors and metal oxide semiconductor gas sensors are cheaper and smaller, NDIR gas sensors are more reliable and sensitive for CO2 monitoring.

IDTechEx has launched a new report assessing the performance, cost and manufacturing maturity for various gas sensing technologies.

IDTechEx predicts that over 50K gas sensors will be installed in Germany alone in 2021 and the demand for CO2 gas sensors globally will exceed 1 million units if other European countries and the new US government will decide to follow the same path.

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Gas sensors present an opportunity to attain good spatial coverage on environmental information, unobtainable with traditional monitoring methods.

Microelectromechanical systems and screen-printing techniques open the door to miniaturising these sensors, which is the key for the future use of these gas sensors.

The market forecast is based on six major market segments: automotive, air purifier, smart devices (mobile), smart home, smart city and wearables.

Infineon launched new CO2 environmental sensors based on photoacoustic technology. This new product is believed to perform at a similar level as NDIR gas sensors at a significantly lower cost.

The environmental sensor market is currently dominated by the automotive industry, where sensors are used to automate air flow into the driver’s compartment.

Over the coming years, IDTechEx expects to see large increases in sales across several new markets, primarily to the mobile device and air purifier industries.

Learn more about the report.