The U.S. Department of Energy named a Colorado coatings company as a finalist in its “America’s Next Top Energy Innovator” challenge, which ran through February and was based on online voting.
Element One, based in Boulder, created a coating that changes color when detecting hydrogen and other hazardous gas leaks, either reversibly or non-reversibly, to provide both current and historical information about leaks.
Element One says its patented gas indicators and sensors use catalyzed thin films—or nanoparticles—of a transition metal oxide to create very-low-cost sensors for use in industrial and consumer environments, greatly reducing the potential for undetected leaks and their cost and safety implications.
“This technology is also being integrated for use in refineries, industry gas and fuel-cells systems, and was developed using technology from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory,” Element One President William Hoagland says.
David Benson, Element One’s director of research and development, said potential uses include decals, paint, protective gear, equipment and piping, and that the sensors can be produced at a fraction of the cost of conventional electronic detection systems.
Hoagland says Element One’s thin films can be applied on virtually any substrate, including stretch and shrink films, to make indicating wraps and tapes to encapsulate tanks, equipment, fittings and valves monitoring for hydrogen at the most likely leak sites. For selected applications, he says the film could be deposited in the form of symbols or words that would appear when exposed to hydrogen, making leaks or flammable mixtures readily recognized by the untrained eye.
“Through the America’s Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge, we are unleashing start-up companies to do what they do best: create new products, new industries and new jobs,” says U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “We’ve challenged America’s entrepreneurs and innovators to create new businesses based on discoveries made by our world-leading national laboratories.”