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10 October 2006


UK's DTI funds QC laser development for oil and gas prospecting

The UK's Department of Trade and Industry, under its UK Technology Programme, has awarded funding to a consortium comprising Shell Global Solutions, Compound Semiconductor Technologies Global of Glasgow, Scotland,
Cascade Technologies Ltd of Stirling, Scotland, and the Universities of Sheffield and Glasgow towards the £2m project QCSense ('Novel quantum cascade lasers for ultrasensitive trace sensing of gases'), which was formed
in late July.

The project aims to develop and incorporate a quantum cascade laser (QCL) in a spectrocopic system that will measure the absorption of mid-infrared of light to detect traces of gases such as ethane naturally escaping from
hydrocarbon reservoirs into the atmosphere. The consortium aim to produce the world's most sensitive laser hydrocarbon detector and evaluate its use in robust, reliable and compact systems that can be mounted on a mobile platform (either airborne or ground vehicles) for exploration in large, remote areas.

Cascade Technologies designs and manufactures spectroscopic gas identification and monitoring systems based on QCL source technology for markets including security, military, oil and gas, aerospace, medical
diagnostics and laboratory instrumentation.

Compound Semiconductor Technologies Global (CSTG) has provided 'pure play' foundry fabrication of discrete and integrated III-V optoelectronic devices for the telecoms, defense, medical and instrumentation markets since 1999.

"Quantum cascade laser technology has the potential to dramatically enhance the LightTouch technique we currently use for rapidly screening large areas for signs of oil and gas," says Dr Bill Hirst, Shell Global Solutions' project lead. "We seek to help prioritise exploration activity and focus
resources to best effect."

CST's project lead, Dr Wyn Meredith, adds, "We are aiming to develop a centre of excellence in the UK for this exciting new technology including semiconductor laser development to gas sensing application knowledge. The baseline expertise is already present in the UK; Technology Programme funding will facilitate development driven by real applications. There are countless applications in healthcare, safety and security that can be addressed with iterative variations to the basic detection approach."