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Spectroscopy startup Mirico lands $2M for methane sensing

11 Jun 2024

UK firm has devised laser dispersion technique operating in the mid-infrared spectral region to spot fugitive emissions.

Mirico, a spin-out from the UK's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) specializing in mid-infrared spectroscopy for gas sensing, says it has raised $2 million from investors including the energy giant Shell, and New Climate Ventures.

The latest funding round will support further development of the firm's spectroscopy and data analytics platform, with an initial focus on methane detection to eliminate leaks from oil and gas infrastructure.

Having emerged from RAL in 2015, Mirico announced £3.5 million of equity and grant funding in 2018, and has also devised sensors for monitoring carbon dioxide and ammonia gas.

For methane, it claims a detection limit of 50 parts per billion over 100 meters in one second, with a measurement range of up to 400 meters depending on the exact nature of the application.

Climate impact
In terms of its climate-heating impact, methane is around 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide - and considered responsible for around one-third of global warming.

But fugitive emissions from the energy sector, for example leaks in gas pipelines or storage facilities, are very difficult to locate and measure - and others are working on photonics-based solutions including gas detection and imaging using drones or satellites.

Mirico says it had already attracted prior interest from the likes of Shell, which invested in the company via its Shell Ventures arm in 2022 and has tested the technology at one of its UK facilities (see results).

"The heart of Mirico's solution is an advanced wide-area laser-based sensor that autonomously scans for methane releases across an entire facility, characterizing them with high precision and parts-per-billion sensitivity," states the startup.

"This unique device provides continuous monitoring, unlike survey-based competitors such as gas cameras, drones, or satellites which have intermittent coverage and often miss important emission events."

Company video: laser dispersion spectroscopy

According to Mirico's web site, its "laser dispersion spectroscopy" (LDS) technique takes a completely new approach to optical gas sensing. "Traditional optical sensing systems rely on measuring the optical power of transmitted light as a function of wavelength to infer molecular concentrations," explains the firm.

"In contrast, with LDS the differential phase change induced by molecules in the line of sight is measured and this brings unique sensing advantages."

Known as the "molecular fingerprint" region of the spectrum, the mid-infrared offers two wide atmospheric spectral windows where interference from water vapor is kept to a minimum.

"The reduced scattering at longer wavelength also contributes to make the mid-IR the optimal region for demanding gas phase chemical sensing applications," Mirico adds.

Support for scale-up
The latest round of investment round combines both equity and grant awards secured with the help of the UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund (UKI2S), and is set to support the company's product roadmap, digital analytics capabilities, and company scale-up.

Mirico CEO Bob Flint, who has been with the company for just over a year and brings prior experience from BAE Systems and BP, commented: “We are delighted to announce this raise, which will accelerate our mission to provide customers with tools to effectively monitor and manage their emissions, combating climate change and supporting the global energy transition.

"We’re now gearing up to meet the expanding market being created on the back of initiatives like the UN’s Global Methane Pledge and the US Methane Emissions Reduction Program. The opportunity is especially strong in Canada and the Americas, where the energy industry is beginning an investment wave to address its methane issues."

Jon Greene, Investment Principal at New Climate Ventures, added: “We are excited to deepen our commitment to Bob and the team. We invest in companies for the long haul and understand that success takes hard work, dedication and sheer perseverance. Mirico is a great example of this and we look forward to working alongside them in their next phase of development.”

While Mirico's initial focus in on the energy sector, further applications in biomethane emissions, agricultural monitoring, and greenhouse gas analysis are also envisaged.

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