PNNL senses collaboration

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Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has brokered a cooperative partnership between a US firm, a Russian Institute and its scientists for commercialisation of a miniature hydrogen gas sensor.

The US Department of Energy's

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

(PNNL) has brokered a partnership between a


firm and a Russian Institute for commercialisation of a miniature hydrogen gas sensor.

According to PNNL, such a device will provide added safety, detection capability and efficiency to a variety of applications across industry.

The collaboration represents the latest commercial venture between technical institutes in the former Soviet Union, DOE national laboratories and US industry under the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration's Global Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program (GIPP).

GIPP is a non-proliferation program that helps to redirect former weapons of mass destruction scientists to sustainable, non-military employment in countries where scientists and technicians are at risk of recruitment by terrorists or rogue states.

The new approach to the sensor technology was created by scientists at the Karpov Institute of Physical Chemistry in Moscow, Russia. The institute retains invention ownership rights within the former Soviet bloc countries.

The Russian scientists, professors Leonid Trakhtenberg, Genrikh Gerasimov, and Vladimir Gromov, were utilising nanoscale materials for sensing reactive gases. NNSA's GIPP program provided the transfer mechanism to convert their nanoscale approach into commercially available products and introduce it to the market place. The program also allowed for improvement and optimisation for a range of commercial gas sensor applications, including uses in mine safety, the hydrogen fuel economy, and oil refining.

Apollo Sensor Technology, a division of Kennewick, Washington-based Apollo Inc, is commercialising the technology.

AST Vice President for Business Development, Dan Briscoe, said industry is looking for the next level of leak detection technology. Briscoe noted that industry representatives have expressed a desire for a good, cost-effective hydrogen sensor with a quick response time.

‘To realise the benefits of the emerging hydrogen economy the industry requires a small sensor that will operate reliably for a long period of time.’ AST anticipates marketing the sensors to industries that manufacture, store and use hydrogen in their production process.

Briscoe added that the same approach is capable of detecting and measuring other gases as well, including ammonia, methane and carbon monoxide. Research is currently underway to refine those capabilities.