Libmonster ID: BY-1562
Author(s) of the publication: Marina KHALIZEVA

by Marina KHALIZEVA, journalist

At the end of 2011 Optosense design company attached to Rusnano state corporation in St. Petersburg launched production of optical components for explosive gas infrared sensors characterized by high application properties due to nanotechnologies used. Up to 120,000 innovative units will be produced here annually and are called for by oil and gas, chemical, coal-mining and electric power industries, telecommunication networks and municipal housing economy.

Alexander Maksyutenko, Director General of the company, stated in a press release distributed by Rusnano: "The project... can safely be called social. Our products are used at top danger enterprises, where any accident is connected with human health risks. Diagnostic equipment with our sensors included can prevent it. The instruments of the previous generation break quickly under severe operation conditions in the presence of gases in air 'poisoning' sensors or give incorrect readings in case of increased humidity or lack of oxygen. The Optosense sensors are absolutely resistant to these conditions. Therefore, consumers of our products can always be sure that they will be warned against increased concentration of explosive gases under any conditions."

It should be noted that our company emerged in the market in 2009, however, its history goes back to the 1990s. Just then, in 1995, two St. Petersburg companies,

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IGM Instruments, a designer of instruments and equipment for gas and fluid media testing, and Infrared Components Ltd., a manufacturer of infrared semiconductor components (LEDs and photocells), joined efforts for creation of a new generation of gas analyzers based on semiconductor optocouples* of the in-house production. The scientific and technical strategy of the new group was based on the ideas of Mikhail Maksyutenko, brother of the present-day director general of Optosense, and Alexander Litvak, both graduates of the Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute**. At present the first named holds a post of technical director, and the latter is commercial director. Under their guidance specialists of the joint design group developed optical technologies of gas analysis and created innovative analytical instrumentation for different fields of application. The substantial support for realization of their ideas was provided by the in-house production of optoelectronic components, LEDs and photocells, which make possible to promptly react to the requirements set to new products. The latest innovation of St. Petersburg specialists is a miniature optical methane and hydrocarbon sensor as a result of the fifteen-year cooperation of two national companies.

The sensor device possesses a unique combination of photoelectric properties such as high sensitivity and fast response time (operational speed is from 5.5 s against 10 s of competitors), long life (up to 8 years against around 5 years of foreign analogs), stable operation under high humidity and absence of oxygen, and ultralow power consumption (from 7 mW). According to the designers, should a mobile telephone possess the latter property, it would need charging only 4 times a year. Besides, the device favorably differs in price. Anatoly Chubais, head of Rusnano corporation noted after visiting the new production line: "Thermocatalytic sensors installed, for example, in a mine operate less than a year and cost 30-35 Euro, while Optosense sensors have a guaranteed service life of 8 years and cost 100 Euro."

It should be noted that the principle of measurement used in the device is based on the non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) innovative technologies, which emerged in the world in the second half of the 20th century. But at that time optical gas analyzers were bulky due to a mechanical part included into their construction, obturator*, a rotating disk with interference filters, which provides signal modulation from an electric bulb. An upgraded version was suggested by specialists of the British E2V company in the mid-1990s. Novelty of the development lay in the fact that it used a pulse lamp as a source of infrared radiation and pyroelectric photode-tectors. As a result, the device "lost" a mechanical obturator and became of a lesser size. Moreover, its reliability and efficiency when measuring gas concentration increased essentially. Though the device could not be used separately (it consumed a lot of energy, not less than 200 MW), enterprises of the fuel and energy complex appreciated it at its true value.

However, scientists continued search for alternative technologies of gas analysis of hydrocarbons based on using of semiconductor elements, LEDs and photocells, which operate in the spectral range of 3,000-4,000 nm.

* Optocouple is an electronic instrument consisting of a light emitter (usually LED) and a photocell, connected by an optical channel and, as a rule, assembled in a common body.-Ed.

** See: B. Dyakov, "Fiztekh: a Multidimensional View", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2003.--Ed.

* Obturator (from Latin obturo-I close) is a mechanical device used to intercept a light beam or other radiation in optical devices.-Ed.

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Such works were especially active in Great Britain and Russia. Eventually our specialists from Optosense company left slightly behind their competitors. For the first time they managed to combine in one sensor five parameters of prime importance, namely, compactness, resistance to destabilizing temperature factors, operational speed, long service life and low power consumption.

By their parameters sensors are not bigger than quail eggs, which was achieved thanks to a system of parabolic mini-mirrors with a high light transmission factor. The temperature effect on their stable operation was decreased by new types of LEDs possessing an optimized radiation spectrum and special-purpose signal processing algorithms. The best characteristics were obtained due to polycrystalline nanosized layers based on semiconductor materials of the PbSe (lead selenide)- CdSe (cadmium selenide) system and used in sensor key elements, i.e. radiation sources and photogalvanic detectors, which provided high sensitivity, temperature stability and long service life. It should be noted that all kinds of know-how have patent protection of the Russian Federation.

At first, dealing with production on an individual group, the basis of designers used its own resources. However, to bring the work to a level of industrial production, more significant investments were needed. Alexander Maksyutenko told the correspondent of the "Kommersant-FM" information radio station: "We tried to find foreign investors. But it is not easy for a Russian company in the development stage to attract investments. If there is a reasonably interesting technology in Russia, the Western investors prefer to find a way to obtain it at less cost and develop independently."

The first investment project was made with OAO Russian Electronics company (Moscow) in 2005, but it collapsed. Only four years later, after the works were appraised by two major "players", namely, Rusnano corporation and REKS (Radioelectronic Complex Systems) company from St. Petersburg, things looked promising. Joint efforts of the partners resulted in setting-up of Optosense company in 2009. For the last two years the company's engineering solutions and quality of its products were recognized by leading world certification bodies, which cleared the way to large-scale production and access to the international market.

A new production line is launched now in St. Petersburg for three models of sensors for measuring of methane and hydrocarbon concentration: MGD-02-1-XX, MGD-02-2-XX and MIP VG-02-2-X-XX. Its capacity is around 120,000 items, though the company intends to increase output to 300-400,000 by 2015. The interest in Optosense developments was showed by over 50 manufacturers of gas analyzer equipment from European countries, the USA and China. They will become its primary consumers. According to Maksyutenko, maximum 10 percent of output will be left in our country. Meanwhile, in years to come the company is going to extend cooperation with Russian partners engaged in gas analysis.


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Marina KHALIZEVA, GAS ANALYZER SENSORS BY OPTOSENSE COMPANY // Minsk: Belarusian Electronic Library (BIBLIOTEKA.BY). Updated: 07.10.2021. URL: (date of access: 16.07.2024).

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