Sunday January 26, 2020
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This fibre material can sense odourless fuel leaks

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Image source: wikimedia.org

New York: A new type of fibre material developed by engineers for a handheld scanner can detect small traces of alkane fuel vapour, a valuable advancement. This could be an early-warning signal for leaks in an oil pipeline, an airliner, or for locating a terrorist’s explosive.

Alkane fuel is a key ingredient in combustible material such as gasoline, airplane fuel, oil — even a homemade bomb.

Currently, there are no small, portable chemical sensors to detect alkane fuel vapour because it is not chemically reactive. The conventional way to detect the odourless and colourless vapor is with a large oven-sized instrument in a lab.

“It’s not mobile and very heavy,” said one of the researchers Ling Zang, a professor at the University of Utah in the US.

“There’s no way it can be used in the field. Imagine trying to detect the leak from a gas valve or on the pipelines. You ought to have something portable,” Zang noted.

So Zang’s team developed a type of fibre composite that involves two nanofibres transferring electrons from one to the other.

“These are two materials that interact well together by having electrons transferring from one to another,” Ben Bunes, post-doctoral fellow at University of Utah, said.

“When an alkane is present, it sticks in between the two materials, blocking the electron transfer between the two nanofibers,” Bunes explained.

That kind of interaction would then signal the detector that the alkane vapor is present, the researchers said.

The discovery was published online in the journal ACS Sensors.

Vaporsens, a University of Utah spin-off company, has designed a prototype of the handheld detector with an array of 16 sensor materials that will be able to identify a broad range of chemicals including explosives.

This new composite material will be incorporated into the sensor array to include the detection of alkanes.

Vaporsens plans to introduce the device on the market in about a year and a half, Zang, who is also the company’s chief science officer, said. (IANS)

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Air Pollution From Oil and Gas Industries Visible From Space: Study

Air pollution from oil, gas production sites visible from space

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Oil gas industry
Researchers have seen a significant increase in the release of the lung-irritating air pollutant nitrogen dioxide and a more-than-doubling of the amount of gas flared into the atmosphere. Pixabay

Oil and gas production has doubled in some parts of the United States in the last two years, as researchers have seen a significant increase in the release of the lung-irritating air pollutant nitrogen dioxide and a more-than-doubling of the amount of gas flared into the atmosphere.

“We see the industry’s growing impact from space, we really are at the point where we can use satellite data to give feedback to companies and regulators, and see if they are successful in regulating emissions,” said study lead author Barbara Dix from University of Colorado Boulder in the US.

For the study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, researchers set out to see if a suite of satellite-based instruments could help scientists understand more about nitrogen oxides pollution (including nitrogen dioxide) coming from engines in US oil and gas fields.

Combustion engines produce nitrogen oxides, which is a respiratory irritant and can lead to the formation of other types of harmful air pollutants, such as ground-level ozone, the research said.

Oil gas industry
On oil and gas drilling and production sites, there may be several small and large combustion engines, drilling, compressing gas, separating liquids and gases, and moving gas and oil through pipes and storage containers. Pixabay

According to the researchers, on oil and gas drilling and production sites, there may be several small and large combustion engines, drilling, compressing gas, separating liquids and gases, and moving gas and oil through pipes and storage containers.

The emissions of those engines are not controlled.

“Conventional ‘inventories’ meant to account for nitrogen oxides pollution from oil and gas sites are often very uncertain, underestimating or overestimating the pollutants,” said study co-author Joost de Gouw.

“And there are few sustained measurements of nitrogen oxides in many of the rural areas where oil and gas development often takes place,” Dix said.

So the research team turned to nitrogen dioxide data from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on board a NASA satellite and the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TropOMI) on a European Space Agency satellite.

They also looked at gas flaring data from an instrument on the NOAA/NASA Suomi satellite system.

Between 2007 and 2019, across much of the US, nitrogen dioxide pollution levels dropped because of cleaner cars and power plants, the team found, confirming findings reported previously.

Also Read- Study Says, World’s Oceans Were Warmest in 2019

The clean air trend in satellite data was most obvious in urban areas of California, Washington and Oregon and in the eastern half of the continental US.

However, several areas stuck out with increased emissions of nitrogen dioxide: The Permian, Bakken and Eagle Ford oil and gas basins, in Texas and New Mexico, North Dakota, and Texas, respectively, the study said. (IANS)