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Imaging SPECtral deconvolution specialist

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ISPEC (Imaging SPECtral deconvolution specialist)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2018-08-31

The ISPEC project aimed at enhancing and improving opportunities in chemical sensing, especially in stand-off and real-time trace detection. Chemical sensors allow to identify materials and substances (gas, liquids, etc) which are often invisible to the human eyes and that can be really dangerous for the environment and human beings. In particular, stand-off trace detection of chemicals has a variety of applications. Some examples of these targeted application areas include: oil & gas (leak detection/assessment, health & safety, prospection), security & defence (threat detection) and environmental services (emission/air quality monitoring). The most promising solutions for stand-off trace detection are provided by the optical detection methods which can offer highly sensitive, non-destructive and remote sensing capabilities. To address the issues described above, M Squared has developed many projects and several products like Firefly-IR and Firefly-IR-SC that have a wide variety of applications in stand-off imaging spectroscopy. The field of sensing and imaging is thus one of the M Squared’s key areas of expertise, and the ISPEC project provided an opportunity to advance our internal capabilities in terms of effective optical design, programming skills and implementation of a real-time spectroscopic detection method.
The overall objectives of the ISPEC project were to: acquire a skilled PhD-level scientist experienced in algorithm development and experimental optical spectroscopy, design and build of complex photonics, programming, demonstrate and test prototype systems for real-time detection, implement and develop new detection algorithms, achieve species/substances recognition in real-world conditions, overcome the barriers to recruiting the best talent by applying globally, rather than nationally.
The project has delivered most of the main planned results. The associate contributed to develop both hardware and algorithms for the projects undertaken.
During the Fellowship time, the recruited associate worked closely with our in-house teams (laser engineers, electronic team, mechanical design engineers), and he generated the planned initial results on programming and algorithm tests as well as designing and building complex photonic experiments. The key tasks undertaken by the associate are based on very cutting-edge research and technology and he was able to quickly gain knowledge in several fields which were sometimes different from his previous background also thanks to the collaboration of M Squared with academic research groups and with many advanced technology companies spread in UK and abroad.
A full-time position at the end of the contract was offered to the associate and he accepted. The recruitment of the associated has also represented an important result for M Squared in order to continue developing the innovative novel technologies carried out in the ISPEC project.
The progress beyond the state-of-the-art has firstly centred on programming and algorithm development needed to advance the novel technology readiness level of the imaging hardware. The ISPEC project has helped to move forward this direction and the significant progress made could be used in more advanced applications. The short-term potential users for the infrared imaging system in the near-IR spectral range include the oil and gas industry (Site inspection at refiners, transfer points, pumping rigs, transport inspection, e.g. pipeline inspection) and civil engineering use. Long-term exploitation pathways will be possible by extending the IR camera in the mid-IR range thus allowing to use this technology for security applications. It is worth noticing here that the methane leak detection market valued at $1.43bn in 2014 and estimated to grow at 7.1% CAGR. Consequently, due to the low production costs and the high demand for this kind of products we estimate that the novel IR camera will have a notable and impact on the revenue of our company.
The benefits of the Fellowship have been realised for the Associate’s own personal development and also for the engineering teams involved, particularly for the mechanical design engineers who are increasing their expertise to design and realise a new optical system that has to be both rugged and portable.
The innovative technologies and expertise developed during the ISPEC project will thus deeply benefit our company in expanding both the chemical sensing market and our internal capabilities in different fields (electronics, innovation, mechanical engineering, management, production, etc.,…).