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Photonic adds to hazardous gas laser arsenal

Article from Chris Hutching - Stuff Website


Dunedin-based Photonic Innovations has acquired complementary gas detection technology that makes workplaces such as meat processing companies and cool stores safer.

The technology was acquired from Auckland company Southern Photonics.

Both companies use lasers for detecting gases instead of chemical sensors, which were part of the safety problem at Pike River mine.

Photonic Innovation chief executive Dr Ojas Mahapatra​ said lasers are more reliable and cheaper to operate.

Chemical-based sensors required more maintenance and often gave false readings.

The technology Photonic has acquired is suitable for detecting hazardous gases across large open spaces.

It complements Photonic's own gas detection product, designed to work in confined spaces such as plant rooms.

The products are suitable for users of ammonia gas used as a refrigerant in cool store and food processing facilities.

Ammonia gas can have a devastating impact on human health at high concentrations. 

More than 100 people are seriously injured and more than a dozen killed around the world by ammonia gas leaks each year. 

New Zealand had a major ammonia gas leak in Bluff last year and there was another in Mount Maunganui a few weeks ago. 

A leak at a UK brewery late last year killed one person and hospitalised 22 others.

Southern Photonics and Photonic Innovations are partners with the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies, a government funded Centre of Research Excellence.

The companies have collaborated with researchers at the University of Otago and the University of Auckland for the past decade.

The acquisition is one of several milestones for Photonic recently, including raising new capital for growth this year, Dr Mahapatra said.

The company will soon launch other laser sensors to detect gases like methane and hydrogen sulphide.

Professor John Harvey, the chief executive of Southern Photonics said he was pleased the gas sensing technology had gone new owners and his company would concentrate resources on developing new laser systems for the rapidly growing nonlinear microscopy market, based on IP developed within the Dodd-Walls Centre.