IAM-Lab (Innovative Air Monitoring Laboratory) Joint Laboratory

Energy Environment

IAM-Lab (Innovative Air Monitoring Laboratory) Joint Laboratory

The IAM-Lab Joint Laboratory, bringing together IMT Nord Europe and TERA Group, aims to develop sensors enabling the real-time measurement of several air pollutants with performance adapted to the concentrations of different environments and markets of interest thanks to technology that is completely unlike anything currently available on the market. To achieve this objective, it must bring together multidisciplinary skills in the areas of qualified air pollutant measurement, development and implementation of high-tech sensitive surfaces, development of intelligent signal analysis algorithms and data processing. These skills are all present in the partnership between IMT Lille Douai and TERA Group, which also has (i) solid experience in the development of sensors using optical technology, metal oxides and surface waves, (ii) successful industrialisation experience with its NextPM sensor, (iii) a customer base and iv) a network of distributors awaiting the solutions developed in this LabCom.


The joint laboratory’s work begins with two species:

  • Ammonia (NH3): a key species for the microelectronics industry. This is due to the fact that, for certain production areas, the quality of production is dependent on its levels of concentration in the air. It is also a key species for agriculture (high emission sector). There are also societal challenges involved due to the unpleasant odours which affect populations living near emission sites and the need for environmental outdoor air monitoring given its role in the formation of aerosols;

  • Formaldehyde (HCHO): a proven carcinogenic species and ubiquitous pollutant in indoor air and targeted species to be measured in public access buildings.


The scientific, technical and innovation programme is based on two complementary foundational components with clearly identified scientific and technological objectives:

  • One component focuses on the development of “sensitive surfaces” with the objective of formulating and developing materials containing conductive polymers. These materials have already demonstrated their ability to respond to the two target pollutants but the metrological performance (e.g. optimisation of selectivity, reduction of detection limits and reduction of ageing phenomena) must still be improved and their spectrum of use expanded. From a scientific perspective, the goal is to i) understand the gas-reactive surface interactions in order to develop an approach to control gas flows to maximise the interactions between the analysed air and the sensitive material and to make the surfaces more sensitive, ii) design surfaces with innovative differentiated formulations and combine them appropriately to enable the specific detection of target species (in combination with intelligent signal processing methods developed for the sensor), iii) characterise and understand the origin of the ageing and drift phenomena observed in sensitive elements with the aim of correcting them by focusing on the adhesion of the sensitive surface or its formulation to improve the stability of the sensors over time. In terms of the synthesis of materials, these enhancements require control of the impacts of the operating parameters on the morphology of the synthesised sensitive surfaces. These surfaces will be integrated into the work focused on sensors.

  • A more technological foundational component centred on “sensors” integrates the various sensitive surfaces developed. The major scientific issue is the development of signal processing algorithms for the specific detection of target species and management of possible drifts from signals collected by a single or multi-sensitive surface system. From a technological standpoint, the main goals are i) develop a “plug and play” system allowing the implementation of sensors developed on all types of platforms in keeping with the needs of the various integrators, ii) develop an optimal electronic system, particularly in terms of energy, to handle on-board pre-processing, iii) develop a fluidic sensor integrating manufacturing materials which achieves the best compromise between mechanical strength, durability, lack of interference with measurements and iv) prioritise, right from the manufacturing phase, the use of non-toxic solvent to facilitate the shaping of surfaces and the transition to the industrialisation stage of production.

From an operational perspective, the technological maturity scale for the initial years of the IAM-Lab ranges from a low level for formaldehyde sensors (TRL2), which will be the focus of medium and long-term exploratory work (combined with the acquisition of new knowledge) aimed at developing innovative solutions; to the highest TRL (TRL6) for ammonia sensors for agricultural applications, which will be the focus on short-term work to be transferred quickly to TERA Group level with deadlines for marketing the finished sensors set for the end of the third year.

The developments have therefore been planned to enable the staggered marketing of sensors for various species and/or combinations of species.





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