Phase II: Advanced Personal Gas Detectors for Mining Applications

Period of Performance: 09/01/2010 - 08/31/2011


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Synkera Technologies Inc.
2605 Trade Centre Ave, Suite C
Longmont, CO 80503
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The risk of explosions in underground mines due to the presence of combustible gases is severe. The overall long-term objective of the proposed project is to develop and commercialize a new generation of affordable, reliable and portable hazardous gas detector in a Smart Gas Card format for use as a personal safety tool. The development of such an easy to use and wear personal monitor for the detection of combustible gases (e.g. methane) would be a substantial benefit to worker health and safety. In Phase I Synkera successfully demonstrated the feasibility of the critical element of such monitor, namely a low power, high performance reliable gas microsensor for detection of combustible gases. Now the objective of the Phase II effort is to advance the sensor technology to the maturity level required for portable detectors and to develop prototypes of Smart Combustible Gas Cardj. It will also facilitate the development of a Smart Multigas Card (methane, oxygen and carbon monoxide) required for each group of underground miners and for each miner who works alone. Portable combustible gas detectors on the market today typically catalytic bead sensors, or in the case of permanent installations, also infrared (IR) sensor technology. These are not suitable for personal monitoring due either bulk and cost (IR) or high power consumption (catalytic bead). Additionally, the stability and reliability of existing combustible gas sensors must be improved in order to enable fail-safe operation. Proposed new and improved catalytic combustible gas microsensors are based on a new microsensor platform technology, integrating precision-engineered nanostructured sensing elements with high surface area into a robust monolithic ceramic platform. In order to achieve the project objectives, in Phase II Synkera will (1) complete the sensor development and realize targeted performance;(2) develop and validate application-specific sensors, (3) identify and validate scale-up approaches, (3) develop low power electronics for portable Smart Card monitors, (4) fabricate Smart Combustible Gas Cardj prototypes and (5) develop partnerships for commercialization of microsensors and Smart Gas Card products. The proposed project is an opportunity to develop highly competitive products that address industry needs for personal safety tools, eliminate current cost and performance barriers, and provide a substantial benefit to worker health and safety, empowering individuals to make life-saving decisions in hazardous conditions as well during and in the aftermath of accidents. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The mining industry is one of the more challenging occupational sectors that involve adverse workers conditions, including the presence of hazardous and combustible gases. Current gas monitoring is accomplished via both fixed systems and portable instruments;however, the size and cost of current portable instruments has been a barrier to their use by all mining employees. Proposed sensor will support a new type of dramatically improved and inexpensive portable combustible gas monitors for individual use, thus enabling a new approach to alleviating intrinsic hazards of this occupation.