Gas leaks can cause serious damage to homes and businesses, especially if they start leaking methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
In many parts of the world, gas is a common, common occurrence, but it’s also very difficult to prevent.
A new gas-mask technology, dubbed “Sonic Mask,” could be the solution.
It’s a gas-filter-equipped, gas-containment-only mask that can be easily attached to existing structures and can be installed with a single hand.
The masks have already been tested in the United States, but are still in the testing phase.
“Sega is working on a more refined gas mask technology that will be used in the near future,” says Dr. Christopher Auerbach, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and an expert in gas-flow mitigation.
Sonic Mask, like other gas-monitoring devices, uses sensors to track and measure methane levels.
The gas is captured through an external filter and injected into the chamber that houses the mask.
If the gas leaks, the mask is filled with water.
“This is a great step forward in reducing the amount of gas leaks in homes and offices,” says Auerbaum, who was not involved in the work.
“If you’re a homeowner or a business owner, this would be a lifesaver.”
Sonic Mask has been designed by scientists at the United Kingdom’s Imperial College London and the University at Albany, New York, and is now in the field.
The company hopes to introduce it in the US by the end of the year.
The Sonic Mask uses a type of polyethylene mesh to capture methane, and the gas-collection membrane has been developed by researchers at the company’s research lab in Germany.
The membrane captures the gas in the chamber and sends it to a portable gas-control valve, which then shuts off the vent.
“We’ve shown that we can extract gas from a range of materials, and we can do it at temperatures of up to -100 degrees Celsius, as low as -20 degrees Celsius,” says co-founder and CEO Dr. Michael Wiegand, who is also an associate professor at Imperial College.
“That’s the coolest thing about it.”
The technology also has the potential to be used for a variety of applications.
Wiegands team has created a gas control valve that can take advantage of the Sonic Mask’s design to shut off a vent if it starts leaking.
The valve is also a way to remove methane from a vent and turn it into steam, a process called steam-filtration.
“With this technology, we can generate electricity in a gas storage unit that’s not necessarily needed for a heating or cooling system,” says Wiegalls co-owner, James Harker, who previously worked at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
“When we get a gas vent that leaks, we know what to do to stop it.”
Sonic, which is based in New York City, is a small company, with only about a dozen employees.
The initial prototype cost $1,500, which was cut down to $1 million to secure funding for the project.
Sonic is currently building a second prototype to be tested in a small lab, and they’re looking for investors to help them reach their funding goal.
The startup has also started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to continue developing the technology.