Handheld Laser-Based Sensor for Remote Detection of Gas LeaksEPA Contract Number: 68D99063
Title: Handheld Laser-Based Sensor for Remote Detection of Gas Leaks
Investigators: Frish, Michael B.
Small Business: Physical Sciences Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Project Period: September 1, 1999 through March 1, 2000
Project Amount: $69,997
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (1999) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , SBIR - Monitoring , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
Description:This Phase I project proposes development of a new optical tool that will help petrochemical refinery and chemical processing plant personnel to locate the source of a toxic or hazardous gas leak while remaining outside the perimeter of the processing area. The proposed tool is based on Tunable Diode Laser Absorption Spectroscopy (TDLAS). TDLAS currently is being used in these industrial environments as permanently installed open-path devices that sense releases of selected gases as they exit the processing area. The proposed device is a lightweight, portable version of the open-path optical transceiver and, potentially, the entire instrument. By standing in a safe area and "shining" the laser beam emanating from this device onto suspected leak sources, operators rapidly isolate the source while minimizing their potential exposure to the hazard. Thus, the risk to plant personnel is reduced. In Phase I, Physical Sciences expects to demonstrate that this device is capable of locating, from a distance of 20 m, leaks resulting in path-integrated concentrations of, for example, 200 ppm-m of hydrogen fluoride, 20 ppm-m of hydrogen sulfide, or 1 ppm-m of methane.
Currently, no industrial technology permits a plant operator to stand outside of a potentially hazardous area and, from that remote location, probe into the area to pinpoint hazardous gas leaks. The proposed device is intended to fill that void. Its underlying technology, TDLAS, is now commercially available and is rapidly becoming an accepted gas measurement and analysis technique in the traditionally conservative chemical, petrochemical, power generation, and other industries. If Phases I and II are successful, the proposed device would be quickly accepted by industrial users with chemical and petrochemical processes as its anticipated initial markets. In these industries, the device would be used to rapidly locate leaks that have been detected by other sensors, thereby reducing the risk of an incipient failure becoming a catastrophic failure. It is likely that the tool, when configured as a methane sensor, also will find use in municipal and emergency response situations.