Novel high-performance opto-chromic sensing technology for visible detection of hydrogen leaks in pipelines and storage

Hydrogen is a high-in-demand carbon-free alternative to fossil fuels. However, the low heat of combustion and flammability of hydrogen, compounded by lack of odor, endanger storage and transportation. Therefore, the wide adoption of hydrogen fuel requires sensing and monitoring technologies that are real-time, sensitive, selective and cost-effective.

The Nova Scotia Government’s investment in the development of green hydrogen facilities in the Canso area urges us to develop effective technologies for sensing hydrogen leaks and preventing potential hazards to communities. Furthermore, cost-effective leak detection can help prevent the estimated losses of ~5.6 % of produced hydrogen, helping to reduce end-costs of the product.

Many technologies for sensing hydrogen leaks utilize electrical outputs. Of these, a few sensors are gasochromic (i.e. undergo a colour change in response to contact with hydrogen), the sensitivity varies (parts per million, ppm, to 10% by volume), and most require high temperatures (100oC-400oC) for efficient operation.

While best practices recommend outdoor hydrogen production and storage, with the rapid dispersion of hydrogen reducing the risk of critical incidents, this increases the challenge in detecting leaks. While ultrasonic methods are being investigated for outdoor applications, they suffer from false alarms and do not identify leak location.

To address these issues, this project aims to develop a low-cost, high-performance leak sensing tape for application in any location susceptible to higher risk of leaks.

We will use a proven TiO2/Pd scaffold to create a sensing technology that efficiently captures hydrogen at room temperature and facilitates its reaction with opto-chromic dyes that change their color (gasochromic) and/or luminesce (give off light) in response to very low levels of hydrogen gas. This sensing technology will then be utilized in the production of hydrogen leak detection tape for fuel containment, transportation and delivery systems. The colour change will visually indicate leaks to operators.


Alison Thompson at Dalhousie University

December 1, 2023 – March 31, 2025