Unlocking Innovation: Exclusive Q&A on Advanced PID Sensors

Industrial Hygiene in the Workplace recently sat down with the experts at AMETEK MOCON to discuss the company’s innovative photoionization sensors (PIDs).

Q. Can you explain what photoionization sensors (PIDs) are for the laypeople out there?

Photoionization sensors (PIDs) are devices used to detect the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air. They work by emitting ultraviolet (UV) light onto the gas or vapour sample. When the UV light interacts with the gas molecules, it ionizes or charges them, causing them to release electrons. These electrons are then detected by the sensor, generating an electrical signal that is proportional to the concentration of the gas or VOC present.

In even simpler terms, PIDs essentially “shine a light” on the air to see if certain gases or chemicals are present. They’re commonly used in various industries for monitoring air quality, detecting hazardous substances, and ensuring workplace safety.

Q.  The Alphasense® PIDX family, from AMETEK MOCON,® is designed to assist in measuring volatile organic compounds (VOCs). What types of safety devices/instruments can utilize these sensors?

PID sensors are commonly integrated into portable and fixed gas detectors. They can be used in safety devices such as gas detectors, confined space monitors and environmental monitoring equipment, providing rapid and accurate detection of hazardous gases and volatile organic compounds. These sensors are essential for ensuring workplace safety and environmental protection by monitoring air quality and detecting pollution sources.

Q. Can the new Alphasense PIDX sensors be integrated easily into existing systems?

The PIDX sensors have been engineered to be easily integrated into existing systems. They are drop-in replacements for legacy Alphasense PID sensors. The PIDX sensors was developed for demanding applications including environmental air quality measurements, and similar to our legacy line of PIDs, they are compact in size, versatile, and compatible with various systems. This allows for seamless incorporation into a wide range of safety and monitoring devices, enhancing their capability to detect hazardous gases and volatile organic compounds efficiently.

Q.  What safety certifications do the new Alphasense PIDX sensors have?

The new Alphasense PIDX sensors are ATEX Intrinsically safe rated and have the following certificates: ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU, UKSI 2016:1107 (as amended), IECEx 02

Q. In addition to being rated “intrinsically safe” by the U.S., Canada and EU, what other safety features does the Alphasense PIDX family possess?

The sensors have ATEX, UKEX, UL24, xRUus rated for use in hazardous location. In addition to being rated “intrinsically safe” by the U.S., Canada, and the EU, the Alphasense PIDX family features advanced fault detection that ensures a fault reading occurs when an error is detected, preventing users from being put in unsafe conditions.

Q.  Alphasense PIDX family is available as two core product lines: The legacy PID sensors and Advanced PIDX sensors. What is the difference between these two lines?

The legacy PID line offers standard features suitable for a wide range of VOC monitoring applications, while the PIDX line includes advanced capabilities such as improved sensor-to-sensor repeatability, uniform temperature response, stable baselines over wide humidity ranges, lower power consumption, and onboard fault detection for specialised, high-requirement applications.

Q. What types of features does the PIDX line of premium sensors offer? Is there anything new to this line, as far as it being a “next-gen,” upgraded sensor?

The PIDX line is a major advancement in PID technology given that this line is the first and only PID sensor in the market that has a consistent output sensor-to-sensor. Some of the features that sets this sensor apart include:

  • Uniform response sensor to sensor
  • Stable response over varying humidity
  • Uniform temperature response
  • Lower power and operating voltage
  • ATEX Intrinsically safe rated

Q. The PIDX line is said to feature “sensor-to-sensor repeatability,” among other upgrades. What is sensor-to-sensor repeatability, and why is it so important?

Sensor-to-sensor repeatability refers to the consistent readings produced by different sensors of the same type under identical conditions. This consistency makes it easier for developers to use the sensors, simplifies compensation algorithms, and streamlines firmware development due to the reliable response across various operating conditions.

The sensors patented technology allows a “calibration” to be done during manufacturing to set the sensitivity of each sensor to the same value.  This advancement in technology is groundbreaking as it ensures accurate and reliable data across different units, simplifies maintenance and replacement due to interchangeability, and maintains quality control standards. This consistency is vital for precise applications, builds customer confidence, and reduces the need for complex calibration, ultimately saving time and resources.

Q.  The core line of Alphasense PID sensors is considered your “workhorse” product. What features make it a good solution for so many loyal customers?

The core line of Alphasense PID sensors is renowned for their robust reliability, consistent performance, and durability under demanding conditions. They are a favoured solution for many loyal customers due to their affordability, ease of integration, intrinsic safety certification, and proven effectiveness in VOC monitoring across various industries.

Q. How does the team at Ametek help customers decide which sensor line is best for their needs?

All our PID sensors are best-in-class. To help our customers decide which sensor line best fits their needs, we recommend our legacy PID sensors for those seeking an affordable, easy-to-integrate, and intrinsically safe solution for VOC monitoring in various devices. For specialised, high-requirement applications needing superior accuracy, sensor-to-sensor repeatability, and advanced features like onboard fault detection, the PIDX line is the ideal choice.

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