Writing a scientific paper that inspires more publications on the same topic, has been cited by other academic papers more than 400 times, created potential new patents and attracts commercial interest is not an easy feat.
Yet, NASA Ames Research Center scientists Jing Li, Yijiang Lu, Qi Ye, Jie Han and Meyya Meyyapan have managed to do just that with their 2003 paper entitled "Carbon Nanotube Sensors for Gas and Organic Vapor Detection." For this achievement, the group will be honored with the 2012 H. Julian Allen award.
The H. Julian Allen Award was established in 1969 to annually recognize a scientific or engineering paper of outstanding technical merit and significance. NASA researcher H. Julian Allen created the "Blunt Body Theory" for re-entry of spacecraft.
"I am pleased that the nano chemical sensor technology is receiving the visibility it deserves. This sensor has great potential for planetary exploration and crew cabin air quality monitoring, due to the small size and high sensitivity," said Jing Li, a senior scientist at NASA Ames.
The paper that won the 2012 H. Julian Allen award describes how carbon nanotubes (CNT) can be used to construct ultrasensitive chemical sensors. A chemical sensor is a small device that can detect the presence of a chemical, either a gas or a vapor, in the air. This paper discusses a new way of developing an extremely sensitive nano sensor to detect very small amounts of gas or vapor.
This sensor device is about the size of a stamp, which includes 16 up to 256 sensing elements, electronics and a sampling fan.
The sensor can be used to monitor leaks of rocket fuel or other propellants. It can be used for crew cabin air quality monitoring in spacecraft and in the International Space Station.
Although the science research was published in 2003, it took many years to validate its significance. Approximately 28 other subsequent papers were published by the authors on the same topic. Approximately $6.5 million worth of Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Army and private industry grants and contracts were created based on this work, increasing its applications beyond NASA missions. The paper was cited 400 times in the last nine years, an extraordinary amount, proving the significance of this discovery. NASA now owns five patents on this sensor technology and how it can be used in various applications.
"The nanotechnology group has published over 300 papers in the last 15 years. I am pleased to realize that Jing's paper is the most cited in the literature, among all our publications. And now for the center to recognize it, is icing on the cake ," said Meyya Meyyappan, a co-author in the paper and chief scientist for Exploration Technology at NASA Ames.