|Operators use gas detection devices to monitor and prevent gas leaks. The electrochemical based gas leak detector is the predominant segment with total share of about 38%, whilst the ultrasonic, semiconductor and infrared based gas leak detector cumulatively accounted for 46.6% % in the global gas leak detector market value in 2014.
Gas detectors can be classified according to the operation mechanism (semiconductors, oxidation, catalytic, infrared, etc.). Gas detectors come packaged into two main form factors: portable devices and fixed gas detectors.
Portable detectors are used to monitor the atmosphere around personnel and are worn on clothing or on a belt/harness. These gas detectors are usually battery operated. They transmit warnings via audible and visible signals, such as alarms and flashing lights, when dangerous levels of gas vapors are detected.
Fixed type gas detectors may be used for detection of one or more gas types. Fixed type detectors are generally mounted near the process area of a plant or control room, or an area to be protected, such as a residential bedroom. Generally, industrial sensors are installed on fixed type mild steel structures and a cable connects the detectors to a SCADA system for continuous monitoring. A tripping interlock can be activated for an emergency situation.
Electrochemical gas detectors work by allowing gases to diffuse through a porous membrane to an electrode where it is either chemically oxidized or reduced. The amount of current produced is determined by how much of the gas is oxidized at the electrode, indicating the concentration of the gas. Manufacturers can customize electrochemical gas detectors by changing the porous barrier to allow for the detection of a certain gas concentration range. Also, since the diffusion barrier is a physical/mechanical barrier, the detector tended to be more stable and reliable over the sensor's duration and thus required less maintenance than other early detector technologies.
However, the sensors are subject to corrosive elements or chemical contamination and may last only 1–2 years before a replacement is required. Electrochemical gas detectors are used in a wide variety of environments such as refineries, gas turbines, chemical plants, underground gas storage facilities, and more.
Infrared (IR) point sensors use radiation passing through a known volume of gas; energy from the sensor beam is absorbed at certain wavelengths, depending on the properties of the specific gas. For example, carbon monoxide absorbs wavelengths of about 4.2-4.5 μm. The energy in this wavelength is compared to a wavelength outside of the absorption range; the difference in energy between these two wavelengths is proportional to the concentration of gas present.
This type of sensor is advantageous because it does not have to be placed into the gas to detect it and can be used for remote sensing. Infrared point sensors can be used to detect hydrocarbons and other infrared active gases such as water vapor and carbon dioxide. IR sensors are commonly found in waste water treatment facilities, refineries, gas turbines, chemical plants, and other facilities where flammable gases are present and the possibility of an explosion exists. The remote sensing capability allows large volumes of space to be monitored.
Engine emissions are another area where IR sensors are being researched. The sensor would detect high levels of carbon monoxide or other abnormal gases in vehicle exhaust and even be integrated with vehicle electronic systems to notify drivers.
Main article: Thermographic camera
Infrared imaging sensors include active and passive systems. For active sensing, IR imaging sensors typically scan a laser across the field of view of a scene and look for backscattered light at the absorption line wavelength of a specific target gas. Passive IR imaging sensors measure spectral changes at each pixel in an image and look for specific spectral signatures that indicate the presence of target gases. The types of compounds that can be imaged are the same as those that can be detected with infrared point detectors, but the images may be helpful in identifying the source of a gas.
Semiconductor sensors detect gases by a chemical reaction that takes place when the gas comes in direct contact with the sensor. Tin dioxide is the most common material used in semiconductor sensors, and the electrical resistance in the sensor is decreased when it comes in contact with the monitored gas. The resistance of the tin dioxide is typically around 50 kΩ in air but can drop to around 3.5 kΩ in the presence of 1% methane. This change in resistance is used to calculate the gas concentration. Semiconductor sensors are commonly used to detect hydrogen, oxygen, alcohol vapor, and harmful gases such as carbon monoxide. One of the most common uses for semiconductor sensors is in carbon monoxide sensors. They are also used in breathalyzers. Because the sensor must come in contact with the gas to detect it, semiconductor sensors work over a smaller distance than infrared point or ultrasonic detectors.
Ultrasonic gas detectors use acoustic sensors to detect changes in the background noise of its environment. Since most high-pressure gas leaks generate sound in the ultrasonic range of 25 kHz to 10 MHz, the sensors are able to easily distinguish these frequencies from background acoustic noise which occurs in the audible range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The ultrasonic gas leak detector then produces an alarm when there is an ultrasonic deviation from the normal condition of background noise. Ultrasonic gas leak detectors cannot measure gas concentration, but the device is able to determine the leak rate of an escaping gas because the ultrasonic sound level depends on the gas pressure and size of the leak.
Holographic gas sensors use light reflection to detect changes in a polymer film matrix containing a hologram. Since holograms reflect light at certain wavelengths, a change in their composition can generate a colorful reflection indicating the presence of a gas molecule. However, holographic sensors require illumination sources such as white light or lasers, and an observer or CCD detector.
Key vendors: Crowcon Detection Instruments, ENMET, Grainger, Libelium