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This work demonstrates a three-electrode configuration for initiating microdischarges, and its application to the spectral detection of organic vapors. A strategically located high impedance gate electrode permits the microdevice to be operated with pulses less than 100 V, applied between the source and drain. The device thus consumes only 2.5 μJ/pulse at 140 Torr and 22.5 μJ/pulse at atmosphere. The microdischarge breaks down the complex organic vapors into small fragments that have characteristic emission in the UV-visible region. The operation of the flashFET as a gas sensor is evaluated by detecting acetone vapors in air ambient. The present manifestation of the device has a 1 mm × 1 mm footprint and is made with thick electroplated copper patterned on a glass substrate.