Fraunhofer – Innovative Approach to Remote Hydrogen Detection

Sellafield’s constant quest for safer, more efficient ways of working has received an exciting boost from a group of Glasgow-based researchers.

The Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics (FCAP) is developing an innovative approach to the problem of remote hydrogen detection which may have important potential for the world-wide nuclear industry.

Working under the umbrella of the Sellafield-sponsored Game Changers Programme, FCAP won initial proof of concept funding of £55,000 over a 7-month period. During that time, theory was put into practice so successfully that the researchers have won more funding of almost £300,000 to further develop the project in the next 20 months.

Sellafield operations involve storage of large quantities of nuclear waste. The waste contains reactive metals which, over time, may produce low levels of hydrogen. It’s important that Sellafield can check that the waste is behaving as expected and it needs to be able to detect hydrogen remotely, hitherto impossible.

Remote detection of hydrogen from Game Changers Innovation on Vimeo.

The FCAP project uses Raman spectroscopy to do precisely that and further development will include substantial testing and evaluation of equipment in a simulated environment.

FCAP Senior Scientist Dr David Stothard said the innovative solution allows hydrogen detection without sending instruments directly into the waste field. “It’s extremely exciting to be able to show our approach works.”

Sellafield Research and Development Lead, Dr Steve Hepworth, said they set up Game Changers to seek original, advanced solutions to Sellafield challenges from organisations such as universities and SMEs. “With our help, we can develop their ideas to proof of concept and beyond.”

The success of this project is an excellent example of how through the Game Changers programme, Government funding for UK based research can potentially open up world-wide commercial opportunities.

As well as the significance for the nuclear industry, the same hydrogen detection technology may prove to be invaluable in the oil and gas sector where remote detection of gases is important for plant safety, prospecting and pipeline leak detection.