This project from PARC represents the first demonstration of the measurement of methane and identification of methane leaks using printed materials in a real-world setting. There are more than 1 million oil and gas wells in North America. Methane, the principal component of natural gas, is a 30 times more potent global warming forcer than CO2, yet scalable, cost-effective leak detection technologies are unavailable. PARC’s technology promises to enable comprehensive emission monitoring across the natural gas infrastructure.
“This work demonstrates that printed electronics technology can provide solutions for important challenges with global significance,” said David Schwartz, area manager at PARC.
PARC developed a low-power, low-cost, leak-detection system for methane based on arrays of printed modified carbon nanotube sensor elements that operate at ambient temperature and humidity. The sensor materials developed by PARC and NASA Ames Research Center enable printed-carbon nanotube methane sensors to be used outside of the laboratory. This promises to enable the graduation of printed carbon nanotube-based gas sensors from laboratory demonstrations to practical products.
These printable materials can detect methane down to concentrations of 5 ppm or less in the presence of relative humidity of nearly 60 percent or higher. This is sufficient for leak detection in real deployments. Using these sensors, together with PARC-developed low-power self-forming network electronics, PARC has demonstrated leak detection as well as leak source localization down to 1 m2 in blind testing at a simulated gas well site in Colorado.