A new system developed by researchers in Spain uses general-purpose hardware to enable low-cost remote detection of hazardous gas levels at industrial facilities.

The prototype sensor system designed by scientists at the Polytechnic University of Valencia and the Technical University of Madrid automatically detects dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen monoxide and dioxide (NO, NO2) and can also estimate their concentration levels.

The proposed system makes detection a visual process, deploying a chromogenic array of 13 active and two inert chemical compounds on-site that change color in the presence of certain gases. A minicomputer automatically analyzes images of this array taken by a webcam, looking specifically for certain color changes. The results of the analysis are sent to a remote computer using standard Internet protocols.

According to a scientific paper published in the journal ISA Transactions, statistical analysis of the results shows a good performance of the electronic system and confirms the feasibility of remote hazardous gas detection using colorimetric sensor arrays.

As well as being low cost, the solution can be integrated with other control systems. It is ideal for use in industrial settings where the World Health Organization recommends maximum hazardous gas thresholds be monitored and observed, the researchers said.

Other potential uses for the technology include evaluation of the quality of foods wrapped in plastic packaging.