Quantum sensor startup raises £3.1m seed investment

Quantum sensor startup raises £3.1m seed investment

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

A quantum-enabled gas sensor startup in the UK has raised £3.1m (€3.6m) in a seed investment.

QLM has developed a lidar camera using quantum photon sensor that can detect methane, a key greenhouse gas, at a considerable distance. This allows plants and factories to me more easily monitored, as well as monitoring from a UAV drone in the air.

The investment is led by the Green Angel Syndicate and includes the Enterprise100 syndicate, the Newable Venture Fund, the Development Bank of Wales, the Bristol Private Equity Club, the Britbots Seed Fund, and Houston-based oilfield technology solutions provider ChampionX.

The funding will drive the expansion of QLM’s technical and commercial capability, secure industrial validation of the quantum TDLidar technique and provide a roadmap to commercial readiness of the quantum gas camera, particularly for monitoring methane, a significant greenhouse gas.

“This funding round will enable us to scale up our development and launch our business providing next-generation greenhouse gas monitoring. Our unique quantum Lidar is the right solution for the challenge of how to effectively measure industrial methane emissions, and meet the major commitments that the oil and gas majors have made to control their greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr Murray Reed, CEO at QLM.

The camera can visualise and quantify methane leaks caused by oil and natural gas extraction and use at a distance. The QLM camera uses a quantum single photon avalanche detector (SPAD) which is so sensitive it can detect just a few photons of light and can therefore “see” gas without the need for a mirror.

“With quantum technology, we have effectively made the whole world a mirror. This is a major breakthrough, and unlocks our ability to enable gas operators to limit the emission of gases, starting with methane, that are having such a devastating impact on our planet,” said Reed.

The quantum single-photon detection of the camera allows for gas plumes to be detected and measured over large physical distances. The first version of the camera, mounted on a mast, is available for commercial trial this year, and trials involving UAV-mounted cameras are scheduled to begin next year.

“Whilst the oil and gas majors have pledged to significantly reduce methane emissions in coming years, you can’t manage what you can’t measure; and no-one is measuring methane properly, continuously, and at scale,” said Reed. “The scale of the problem is enormous, with more than half a million active gas wells in North America alone, 2,000 offshore rigs and nearly 1,000 natural gas storage facilities worldwide. In the UK alone, we have 24 pipeline compressor stations, which power long-distance natural gas pipes, and hundreds of above ground storage installations. All are leaking at some time.”

QLM was founded by its Chief Technical Officer, Xiao Ai, after postgraduate research into single photon Lidar gas detection at the University of Bristol. Innovate UK is the major financial backer of the Single Photon Lidar Imaging of Carbon Emissions (SPLICE) project which developed the quantum-enabled camera and QLM continues to work with the UK’s National Physical Laboratory.

The camera is one of the first commercially-available products from the £1bn UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.

“QLM has technology with great potential to substantially change what we know about industrial and environmental greenhouse emissions and help enable NetZero. I feel confident this seed round will allow the company to progress rapidly to the next level,” said Dr Bernard Bulkin, leader of the Green Angel investment and incoming Chair of QLM.;

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