Embedded System Design for Multi-Purpose Sensors to Detect and Analyze Environmental Contaminants

Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Engineering, Computer Engineering


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Major Advisor

Joe Hartman


A team of Boise State University researchers has been commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a Multi-purpose Sensor System to detect and analyze environmental contaminants remotely, in real time, and without using traditional time-consuming laboratory analytical methods [1]. As shown in Figure 1 the sensor system consists of several parts including:

  • Ion Mobility Spectrometer (IMS) Sensors
  • Solid State Electrochemical (Chemfet) Sensors
  • Temperature and Pressure Sensors
  • Embedded Microcontroller
  • Wireless Transmission System
  • Host Computer with software to accumulate transmitted data from sensors.

Scope of Study

The scope of this thesis includes developing a specific method to read and process signals from the IMS, Chemfet and temperature signals. The pressure sensor interface is not covered in detail as pressure sensor requirements are still being developed at the time of this writing. The Wireless Communication System is still in the early stages of development so only a brief discussion on the interface with this system is provided.

Specific components are identified which meet operational and physical constraints for the Multi-purpose sensor system at this time. However a demonstration Printed Circuit Board (PCB) is used to for the system rather than a PCB designed specifically for the embedded system. The development of a PCB, which meets all size constraints for the system, is left as a future development.

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