Sensing and Imaging for addressing climate change  

The Centre for Quantum Technology, supported by funding from the UK National Quantum Technology Programme, has developed a range of imaging solutions that address major areas of climate impact.  

Quantum enhanced imaging can improve the efficiency and reliability of solar panels 

The lifespan of solar panels can be limited by defects or sudden failures. One of the most common failures are ‘hot spots’. These occur when the power is unevenly generated across the panel, often because of accidental shading or dirt.  

These ‘hot spots’ can lead to an electrical imbalance known as ‘reverse bias’, causing the solar panel to generate significant heat, and in extreme cases catch fire. 

Infrared cameras can be installed to monitor the temperature of solar panels to quickly locate and resolve ‘hot spot’ formations.  

We have developed a novel infrared detector called IndiPix. It can be produced using a vastly simplified manufacturing process compared to other detectors. With this improved detector, these infrared cameras will become cheaper and easier to produce. 

Cheap, widely available monitoring for solar panels means lower operating costs and improved efficiency in the solar renewables industry.  

Single pixel cameras: gas imaging technology that can identify leaks of greenhouse gases  

Reducing methane leaks in the atmosphere is one of the fastest ways to prevent climate change.  

Methane, commonly referred to as natural gas, has a warming effect of nearly 80 times that of carbon dioxide. In total, it is the second greatest greenhouse gas contributor to climate change.  

Many industries rely on the use of methane in their processes. One such process is in the production of Hydrogen - a key ingredient in future plans to achieve net zero emissions. 

The harm caused by the necessary industrial use of methane can be greatly reduced by monitoring for leaks of the gas and then stopping them.  

Methane gas is invisible to the human eye. It is only detectable using specially designed infrared cameras. The problem is that these sensors are extremely expensive and have a limited supply, which means there is a gap in the market for a low-cost, small-sized, low-power and highly portable remote gas detection system.  

We have developed a low-cost imager that can produce real time video of methane gas. GasSight uses a telecoms laser diode to illuminate a scene at 1.65μm, exactly the wavelength corresponding to the absorption of methane gas.  

Using sophisticated sampling techniques and reconstruction algorithms, we can create a real-time, colour-coded, image of the gas which is then overlaid on an image of the scene obtained from a conventional colour camera. 

Real-time video imaging of the gas has a key advantage over conventional technologies in that it can speed up the time required to locate a gas leak. Watching the gas flow in real-time conveys the direction from which it is dispersing. From this, the source of the leak can be determined.  

Our prototype camera has already demonstrated pure methane detection in a laboratory setting at 3 meters. Our challenge for the next stage will be to increase the sensitivity of the system so that its operational range can be increased to 10 meters or more and be mounted on a drone.