Could Quantum Sensors be Used for Gas Sensing?

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Quantum Light Metrology has teamed up with Future Aerial to create groundbreaking technology using quantum sensors to detect methane gas, which they hope will address methane leakage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

A New System for Monitoring Methane Leaked into the Atmosphere

The UK-based company, Quantum Light Metrology, QLM, has been working on a project to solve a global industry problem of methane leakage, which can be equated to around $30 billion in losses. The company, in partnership with Future Aerial, has developed a drone-mounted methane sensor that they aim to make available worldwide to address this significant problem that is not only leading to a loss in money but is also adding to emissions in the atmosphere.

The system the team has innovated is a quantum-inspired gas leak detection system that uses optical sensors to identify industrial leaks of methane gas. By mounting these sensors to drones, the innovation has the possibility of remotely monitoring numerous locations from one core location. The system is even sensitive enough to pick up on the smallest gas leaks when only minute amounts of the gas are in the air.

The aim of the development is to give power to the oil and gas industry to know the extent to which they are losing gas. This ability to monitor their emissions that have leaked through their systems will not only allow them to see how much money they are losing but more importantly, how much gas is going into the atmosphere and adding to emissions. They hope that their sensors will enable companies to identify strategies for improvements in gas leakage that will not only help the environment but make gas and oil companies a safer place to work.

Why QLM and Future Aerial?

Bristol-based QLM has the expertise for developing the detector that has been adapted for the system which is usually used for quantum communication. QLM was able to use their knowledge in this area to enhance the sensitivity of the detector, enabling it to be smaller, lighter and more powerful at long distances, which were essential for it to function as a drone-deployed sensor.

Future Aerial, another UK-based company, has expertise in project management and overseeing complex UAS operations. The company’s founders were amongst the world’s first-ever commercially qualified UAV operators. Their input to the project was to devise a way to collect and view the data outputs of the methane sensors in their exact geospatial locations in a way that they could be compared against orthomosaics and lidar/photogrammetry outputs, and other useful traditional topographical data sources.

Innovation in Sensor Use

Trials of the sensors with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have been made possible through QLM’s success in receiving innovate UK grants. Those trialed were able to collect evidence which proves the sensor’s capabilities of detecting gas leak images at a 50m distance, making it the first quantitative device to do so. Tests also proved the sensors were successful at both detecting and quantifying the lowest leak rate that is required by the oil and gas industry, and it showed it could do this remotely at a 150-meter operational distance. The results uncover that the sensors perform 10 times better than that of the closest competitor currently on the market.

Future Directions

Studies have found that methane leaks from the gas and oil industry are the leading source of methane emissions in the US. While methane emissions are still lower than carbon dioxide emissions, given that methane is considered to be around 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, it is still to be seriously targeted in strategies to reduce emissions and global warming.

With the new innovation in quantum gas sensors from QLM and Future Aerial, gas and oil companies may soon be equipped with the right technology to monitor, identify and prevent methane leakage, hopefully leading to a significant reduction in emissions from the sector.


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Sarah Moore

Written by

Sarah Moore

After studying Psychology and then Neuroscience, Sarah quickly found her enjoyment for researching and writing research papers; turning to a passion to connect ideas with people through writing.


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