Dr Hans Boumans
- Director Technology Transfer
It is one of the most dangerous substances threatening the health of workers, particularly in the petrochemical industry: benzene. Exposure to this highly toxic, volatile compound can cause serious problems. TNO is well advanced in the development of a small, portable and affordable sensor that directly detects benzene.
At present, there are no small portable sensors that can specifically detect benzene in low concentrations, which is a particular problem. The earlier exposure is detected, the quicker action can be taken. Currently, more indirect measurements are generally used.
TNO experts have now built a sensor that is capable of quickly detecting very low concentrations of a group of substances (aromatics) The next phase, which will require at least another year of research, construction and testing, should produce a sensor that can very specifically determine the presence of the carcinogenic benzene.
A working benzene sensor will soon be a world first, especially in the petrochemical industry, where the risks are high and the regulations are becoming increasingly strict. When the concentration is too high, the system behind the sensor will sound an alarm. At present this cannot yet be established for each individual substance. The measurements of current systems are far too vague, so operations will sometimes be stopped unnecessarily with all the financial consequences this entails. On the other hand, they do not always pick up the presence of benzene well, which means that exposed workers can develop diseases such as cancer unnoticed in the long run.
Market parties that wish to invest in the development of the sensor and therefore lead the way worldwide are very welcome. The collaboration can result in a BV, joint venture or licence, and there is a great deal of interest in applications in other sectors in addition to the oil and gas industry both off- and onshore.
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