Prototype Maritime Technology Could Hold Promise for Manufacturing

Prototype Maritime Technology Could Hold Promise for Manufacturing

Emissions monitoring laser for ships at sea could pave the way for similar technologies for industrial plants.

Measuring the particle matter coming out of a smokestack at sea might not be quite the same as the emissions coming out of a factory, but a recent project suggests the technology isn't far away.

A team of engineers and technicians in Norfolk, Va., have begun testing a device that could help global shipping lines meet new air-emissions standards.

WR Systems Ltd., an engineering-services firm that specializes in Navy navigation and communications systems, has been working on a laser-based system that would extract emissions from a vessel's smokestacks and, all inside a 2- by-3- by-5-foot box, analyze the various contaminant levels.

According to David K. Edwards, senior vice president for WR Systems, the laser technology isn't new. What is, however, is the ability for one laser to be able to measure multiple gases.

"The technology is still being perfected," says Edwards. "We're specializing this for maritime use. But I can certainly see how the laser technology could be compatible with measuring plant emissions. The sensor manufacturer will be approaching the industrial community to be able to develop products for that arena as well."

WR Systems Ltd. has been working on a laser-based system that would extract emissions from a sea vessel's smokestacks and, all inside a 2- by-3- by-5-foot box, analyze the various contaminant levels.

Last spring, the U.S. and Canada asked the United Nations' International Maritime Organization to establish a 230-mile buffer zone around much of North America, citing the public health risks from pollution generated by merchant ships.

Oceangoing freighters entering emissions control areas will have to burn cleaner fuel and make substantial reductions in the emissions of sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter that create smog, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Shipping lines will need to be able to demonstrate that their vessels are in compliance with the new regulations, which are on track for approval and could become effective as early as August 2012, the EPA says.

Called a "continuous emissions monitoring system," the device is the first to provide both multiple gas and particulate matter emission data with acute accuracy, minimal maintenance, and no calibration requirement.

According to Edwards, the device is expected to be sold for close to $140,000.

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