From the Insider Newsletter files: this is a background commentary article on the Emerson acquisition of Cascade Technologies, written back in December 2014. This article was published in the INSIDER Newsletter (www.iainsider.com) in January 2015.
Cascade Technologies is a leading Scottish manufacturer of gas analysers and monitoring systems using their own Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) technology, which can measure multiple gas compositions simultaneously. Their products help improve industrial emissions monitoring, production efficiencies and environmental compliance in various industries – such as petrochemical, food and beverage, marine, automotive and pharmaceutical.
The acquisition will expand the Emerson analytical monitoring capabilities by adding this innovative laser technology to its Rosemount Analytical gas analysis portfolio. Tom Moser, group vice president of the Emerson Process Management measurement and analytical businesses, said “The acquisition of Cascade Technologies is an exciting step as we further strengthen our gas analysis portfolio. Customers depend upon Emerson to solve their toughest analytical measurement problems. We are now better positioned to serve that need.” Emerson considers that QCL technology has introduced a step change in gas analyser performance through its increased sensitivity, speed of response, and fingerprinting capability.
Dr. Iain Howieson, chief executive officer of Cascade Technologies, added: “Joining a global leader like Emerson represents an incredible opportunity for business growth. The Emerson global presence and market leadership will have an immediate impact on the adoption of our cutting edge QCL gas analysers and monitoring systems.”
The growth of Cascade Technology
Cascade Technologies is now based in Stirling in Scotland, and was established in Glasgow in 2003, based on their novel technology. They appear to employ over 40 people, and have over 500 analysers in the field. Initially the product was targeted at marine emission monitoring analysis for the monitoring and control of flue gases and emissions, to meet MARPOL and EPA regulations: by 2009 their product was established in this application and sales supply agreements were signed with both a partner covering the marine emissions monitoring market, and another covering flue gas setting analysers for domestic boiler production. The next year saw the start of sales of their aerosol leak detection system, and an exclusive supply agreement with a supplier of automotive test equipment. The CT3000 multi-component gas analyser for automotive emissions testing achieved sales of 200 units within 24 months
The last three years have seen rapid acceptance of the QCL technology in the pharmaceutical leak detection market, and the process industry, with the first process analytics QCL analyser at an ethylene production plant in the UK. This has also been used for natural gas moisture measurement applications. The analyser is also used for Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) for industrial gaseous effluent emissions: for example they consider that typically there would be 15 CEMS on each refinery in the USA. The whole installation of a single CEMS would cost $200k-400k, and 30% of this historically has been for the analyser.
Cascade appear to have several boom areas for the application of their technologies.
Cascade QCL technology
The Cascade technology is based on a principle called Tunable Diode Laser Absorption Spectroscopy (TDLAS), which can measure the concentration of gas species in gaseous mixtures, using light from tunable diode lasers and laser spectrometry to make measurements of the absorption at various wavelengths. In comparison to other analytical techniques such as paramagnetic detectors (PMD) and chemi-luminescence, TDLAS offers multi-element capabilities, high accuracy with a wide dynamic range, low maintenance, and a long life cycle. Lasers offer high resolution spectroscopy: QCL techniques offer use of the valuable mid infrared (MIR) part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The advantage of QCL is that it avoids any need for cryogenic cooling and gas lasers. QCL uses semiconductor materials having a series of quantum wells, so that higher power emission can be produced. In addition the lasing wavelength is not determined by the material itself, but by the physical thickness of the semiconductor layers. The patented Cascade Laser CHIRP technique enables the detector to work in the MHz region, with high speed room temperature detectors.
The result is a solid state compact design, giving reliability and easy integration: the technique competes strongly with gas chromatography, ion mobility spectrometry, and mass sensitive detector techniques. The Cascade development of multi-component TDLAS analyser platforms (capable of measuring up to 20 different gases in one instrument), allows a single multi-component analyser to replace multiple analysers in the field (for example those previously based on NDIR, chemi-luminescence). The QCL technology provides significant advantages in production throughput, accuracy and cost.