Year/Course: 2014-2015, Lent 2015
Project type: Technology
Mentor: Marc Bax

Contact: Dr. Sohab Sarfraz & Dr. Vasant Kumar, Materials Science & Metallurgy

The research team has developed a new low cost micro thermal conductivity sensor that provides significant advantages compared with existing detectors. It provides means to develop highly miniaturized gas chromatography system which give fewer false readings compared to other systems.

The team is now extending this sensor to create a micro gas chromatography system, which will form the basis for a battery-powered handheld gas detector. Using different configurations it will be possible to measure a wide range of natural gases and volatile organic compounds. Current gas chromatography systems are typically desktop-sized and need to be powered by mains electricity. Making such techniques available in environments where portability and battery power are needed is expected to open up new markets and significantly increase remote field testing activities whilst simultaneously reducing analysis cost, for example in the oil and gas industry. Similarly, there is much interest in extending breathalyser techniques more widely, beyond the alcohol testing which has been done for many years.

The question for the i-Team is to investigate the potential market for handheld battery-powered gas chromatography devices for gas identification and detection. Who would be interested and how would they use the device? What gases and families of volatile organic compounds would they seek to identify? Are some markets easier to access than others? The answers to these questions will help the researchers focus on the most commercially-important gases to detect, and help them develop their prototype devices in the most appropriate ways.