A method for detecting a gas phase constituent such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen, or hydrocarbons in a gas comprising oxygen such as air, includes providing a sensing material or film having a metal embedded in a catalytically active matrix such as gold embedded in a yttria stabilized zirconia (YSZ) matrix. The method may include annealing the sensing material at about 900.degree. C., exposing the sensing material and gas to a temperature above 400.degree. C., projecting light onto the sensing material, and detecting a change in the absorption spectrum of the sensing material due to the exposure of the sensing material to the gas in air at the temperature which causes a chemical reaction in the sensing material compared to the absorption spectrum of the sensing material in the absence of the gas. Systems employing such a method are also disclosed.
This invention was made with Government support under contract number DE-FG26-04NT42184 awarded by the United States Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights in the invention.