When Quebecers lost electricity recently due to ice storms, there were fears that many might die from noxious gases produced from burning kerosene lamps or stoves to keep warm.
Now, physicist Dr. Bijan Miremadi has developed a unique gas sensing unit that could prevent disasters caused by dangerous gases both at home and in the workplace. "To the best of our knowledge, this is the only one of its kind in existence," says Miremadi.
"Depending on the type of sensor heads they use, most gas sensors currently in the market are not selective to a particular gas," explains Miremadi. "With these devices, if you are aiming to find carbon monoxide, for example, and there are other gases around, the alarm will go off because they are sensitive to other gases as well - but you still don't know if carbon monoxide is present."
Miremadi has invented a system that can differentiate between gases: "My system is like a sniffing camera which can find any gas and identify it. Currently, you can only buy a sensor that can detect one particular gas. Our unit can detect as many gases as possible."
Miremadi has developed two versions - a handheld unit suitable for personal use or in the home and another unit that can be controlled by a computer and is suitable for monitoring various locations in office buildings, industrial sites and mines. The handheld version, now in the prototype stage, can also be connected to a computer or operated independently.
Miremadi is currently looking for financing to bring his products to market. "People think what they have is good enough," he says. "They need to see our computerized version before they realize the need to upgrade."
Miremadi developed the sensing unit with the support of SFU's university/industry liaison office, in collaboration with Western Pacific Research Corp., an SFU spin-off company.
After 16 years at SFU, Miremadi left on Jan. 30 to establish a sensor technology centre in Denver, Colorado.