Handheld Laser-Based Sensor for Remote Detection of Gas Leaks

EPA Contract Number: 68D00279
Title: Handheld Laser-Based Sensor for Remote Detection of Gas Leaks
Investigators: Frish, Michael B.
Small Business: Physical Sciences Inc.
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: II
Project Period: September 1, 2000 through September 1, 2002
Project Amount: $224,812
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2000) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , SBIR - Monitoring , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


This SBIR effort is dedicated towards developing a new optical tool that will facilitate the detection and location of toxic or hazardous gas leaks in petrochemical refineries, chemical processing plants, natural gas production facilities, and natural gas distribution pipelines. The tool is based on Tunable Diode Laser Absorption Spectroscopy (TDLAS). TDLAS is a sensing technology that is rapidly gaining acceptance in industrial environments for detecting releases of selected gases. The novel sensor illuminates a distant surface with laser light, like a flashlight. Unlike any other TDLAS instrumentation, the sensor measures the amount of target gas along the line of sight transmitted by the laser beam without the use of any special retroreflective materials. Unlike other types of portable gas detectors, this laser-based device does not need to be immersed within the gas leak.

In Phase I, this sensor was shown to be technically feasible. A breadboard prototype was built, calibrated, and tested. The ability to remotely sense a small gas leak from a distance of up to 20 inches was proven. Methane was used as the test gas, and path-integrated methane concentrations of less than 10 ppm-m were readily detectable in less than 1 second.

The basic Phase II effort will develop portable prototype versions of this novel sensor with the objective of acquiring data to demonstrate its capability to detect and quantify gas leaks in a significant market. Working in collaboration with potential users of the technology, a field-worthy prototype sensor will be specified and built. The sensor will be tested and compared against current gas sensing instrumentation, leading to an appraisal of the economic value of the sensor to the users. In addition, engineering documentation that comprises an early step towards product manufacturing will be compiled.

Assuming that the sensor meets the specified technical requirements during the field tests and that the market potential estimated during Phase I is verified, it is anticipated that one or more third parties will contribute financially to the advanced engineering development as part of the Phase II option. The result of this work will be an engineered product that is ready for transition to a manufacturing environment, where it is anticipated that hundreds of units will be produced annually at a sales price of approximately $10,000. Manufacturers of related instrumentation that serve the intended multimillion dollar gas leak sensing market are prepared to license the technology.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, monitoring, engineering, EPA., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Chemical Engineering, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Monitoring/Modeling, Civil/Environmental Engineering, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Environmental Monitoring, Environmental Engineering, Ecological Indicators, gas detector, monitoring, detect, petrochemical wastes, gas leak, sensor

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final

  • SBIR Phase I:

    Handheld Laser-Based Sensor for Remote Detection of Gas Leaks  | Final Report