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Considering the short-term exposure limit of SO2 to be 5 ppm, we first time report that semiconductor sensors based on vanadium doped SnO2 can be used for SO2 leak detection because of their good sensitivity towards SO2 at concentrations down to 5 ppm. Such sensors are quite selective in presence of other gases like carbon monoxide, methane and butane. The high sensitivity of vanadium doped tin dioxide towards SO2 May be understood by considering the oxidation of sulfur dioxide to sulfur trioxide on SnO2 surface through redox cycles of vanadium-sulfur-oxygen adsorbed species. (c) 2008 Published by Elsevier B.V.