An instrument that detects and measures the amount of hydrogen sulfide, a potentially explosive and toxic gas, in the air is called a hydrogen sulfide detector. A hydrogen sulfide detector may take many forms. It may be a static instrument, a portable, hand-held gas detector, or a glass tube, designed to take in air and read like a thermometer. These instruments are rarely used in homes, but are most commonly found in industrial, waste treatment, and mining operations. Scientists sometimes use these instruments to study or measure emissions from volcanoes, the most common source of hydrogen sulfide gas in nature.
Static detectors are common in refineries, waste treatment facilities, and other industrial settings where hydrogen sulfide gas may be present. They consist of a gauge showing relative concentrations of the gas in the air and are normally connected to an automated monitoring system or central control, to which they transmit information regarding hydrogen sulfide concentrations. Many of the newest types of these instruments are designed to work with computerized systems, giving technicians and safety personnel the ability to monitor them remotely in real-time.
Maintenance and repair crews often employ hand-held gas detectors to test the air in areas where they work. Hydrogen sulfide gas can build up in places like sewers and waste treatment facilities. It is also found in natural gas and may be present in facilities that produce or handle this substance. A hand-held hydrogen sulfide detector is a small, electronic instrument that can detect tiny amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas in the air. Some gas detectors can detect more than one type of gas.
Gas detection tubes are single-use tubes that resemble a combination of a thermometer and a syringe. Air is drawn through the tube, and a reagent inside reacts with any potential contaminant in the air. A reading indicating the amount of the contaminant may be taken by studying the graduated markings on the tube. Gas detectors of this type are relatively inexpensive, and many different models for detecting various gases exist.
The human nose itself, having a marked and well known ability to detect the odor of rotten eggs, can act as a hydrogen sulfide detector. This is not, however, a reliable or safe method for detecting the gas. At higher concentrations, hydrogen sulfide can deaden the sense of smell and, therefore, go unnoticed. Many workers throughout the world have succumbed to the deadly effects of this gas due to an inability to detect its presence.