Do you regularly work with combustible gases? From fuel sources such as methane and propane to heavier hydrocarbons such as ethane and propylene, combustible liquids and gases pose a number of risks for your facility. Understanding the technology behind detecting combustible gases is important, especially when installing a gas detection system. Depending on your environment and application, there may be advantages to either combustible gas sensor, catalytic bead or infrared.

Which combustible gas sensor is right for your facility? Learn the differences between a catalytic bead and an infrared sensor to choose the best detection system.

Combustible gas sensors can be designed with two different technologies, catalytic bead sensors or infrared sensors. Catalytic bead sensors detect gas by burning gas molecules on a sensor element. Comparatively, infrared sensors absorb hydrocarbon gas through infrared light at specific frequencies. Learn the advantages of either sensor to find out which technology is best for your work applications.

Catalytic Bead Sensor Advantages

Inexpensive to manufacture and highly reliable, catalytic bead sensors have dominated the market until just recently. Designed with sensor elements that heat up when combustible gas is present, catalytic bead sensors respond to any combustible gas or vapor. With capabilities to detect a broad range of combustible gases, catalytic bead sensors remain a quality choice for gas detection systems.

Pro Tip: Combustible gas detectors measure combustible gas in a range of 0-100% of the Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) value. Be sure to know the LEL limits of the gases you work with to maintain accurate gas detection.

Infrared Sensor Advantages

With increasing popularity in the last two decades, smart infrared (IR) sensors have the advantage of longer calibration and a unique self-test capability. Infrared sensors work by allowing gas to pass between a source of infrared light and a specially designed receiver. When hydrocarbon molecules pass in front of the IR source, they block some of the infrared energy. As a result, the receiver’s output drops and the microprocessor (inside the sensor) generates an output proportional to the amount of absorption.  

Choosing the Right Sensor

Depending on your application, each sensor has its own disadvantages. Infrared sensors can’t detect non-hydrocarbon gases such as hydrogen. In the same way, catalytic bead sensors are sensitive to contaminants and so risk having the atmosphere endanger their sensing elements. Due to the constant danger of explosion, it’s important to have a combustible gas detection system that is reliable, simple to operate, and easy to calibrate.

GDS Corp offers gas monitors that are equipped to support both catalytic bead and infrared sensors:


Unlike other detection systems, our design configurations give users the ability to easily switch between the different technologies. Designed specifically for combustible gases, both monitors feature interchangeable catalytic bead and SmartIR infrared sensors. That being said, you can rely on accurate detection, regardless of application, environment, or target gas.

Protect Your Business Facility

Like any hazardous gas in your environment, having an accurate and reliable gas detection system is crucial for protecting your workers. GDS Corp is proud to offer a number of customized solutions for your facility. Whether you’re offshore or in an industrial environment, our detection systems will quickly and reliably alert you of dangerous situations.

Is your gas detection system armed with combustible gas sensors? Connect with our sales team to find a solution that meets your needs.