Want to Control Emissions? Slap a Sensor on the Source

Danfoss IXA of Denmark has a simple idea for changing the way greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants are managed in industrial environments: measure them at the source. The startup, a spinoff of the Danfoss Group, is working on sensor technology packaged in a hermetically sealed box with a nano-coated sight glass that can withstand super-harsh environments — such as within a ship’s smokestacks, for example — to gather emissions data, which can then be used to activate mitigation systems.

According to CEO Henrik Gedde Moos, who made the case for Danfoss IXA in the Idea People’s Choice contest Tuesday at the Cleantech Open in San Francisco (algae biofuel developer Replenish Energy of Puerto Rico ended up snagging the award), no device currently on the market can “continuously monitor emissions inside the chimney with a sensor as small and robust as ours.” However, others are trying, like Picarro, which we profiled this week.

Danfoss IXA plans to outsource all manufacturing and distribution, and pursue applications for its technology in indoor air quality control, medical devices and greenhouses (Moos showed a video of a device that can be hooked up to a plant leaf on one end to measure its temperature, and communication networks on the other to keep climate control systems and plant needs in sync).

Danfoss IXA already has a pilot project in the works with shipping giant Maersk. The business case? Danfoss IXA will help companies like Maersk reduce their emissions (based on the principle that what gets measured can be managed) in a time when tighter air quality standards and climate regulations could force the shipping industry to come to terms with its massive footprint. The needle’s already starting to move in Danfoss’s home country, with the group that represents the Danish shipping industry saying last month it will enter a binding agreement to reduce CO2 emissions.

Moos mentioned a startling statistic: One container ship produces emissions equivalent to 50 million cars. It was unclear if he was referring to a study from the Danish government released earlier this year, which in fact compared the annual sulfur oxide (SOx) gas emissions (nasty stuff for respiratory health) of the world’s largest diesel-engine cargo ships with that type of pollution from an average diesel or gas car.

Regardless, when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it seems the shipping industry can use all the help it can get, possibly with devices like Danfoss IXA’s. According to Green Inc., some environmental advocates say the industry has made little progress on this front in the last decade, and that “if the maritime industry were a country, it would rank among the largest greenhouse gas-emitting countries in the world.”