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Home » World’s first R32 laser detection technology for remote detection of refrigerant leaks

World’s first R32 laser detection technology for remote detection of refrigerant leaks

Daikin Industries, Tokyo Gas Engineering Solutions (TGES) and National Research and Development Agency RIKEN have developed the world’s first laser-based remote sensing technology for the R32.

World’s first R32 laser detection technology for remote detection of refrigerant leaks. Image supplied by Daikin
World’s first R32 laser detection technology for remote detection of refrigerant leaks. Image supplied by Daikin

In addition, Daikin and TGES jointly developed a prototype R32 remote detector that incorporates this technology and demonstrated the detector’s ability to remotely detect R32.

Air conditioners are filled with a gas called refrigerant, which is needed to cool or heat the air, and the refrigerant is mainly HFC (hydrofluorocarbon). In recent years, the global warming effect caused by refrigerant leakage has become an issue internationally, and there is a need to reduce the global warming potential (GWP) of refrigerants and take measures to prevent leakage. Under these conditions, Japan is ahead of the world in switching to R32, a low-GWP refrigerant that is 1/3 of the GWP of HFC-410A*1, which was previously used as the main refrigerant. Conversion has advanced and now almost 100% of residential air conditioners manufactured and sold in Japan are R32. In addition, R32 is gaining recognition as a low-GWP refrigerant worldwide and is already used in more than 130 countries.

Currently, to check for refrigerant leaks during on-site air conditioner maintenance, an air sampling method*2 is commonly used, which involves bringing test equipment close to the suspected leak location and sampling the surrounding gas. In this method, the air conditioner body and piping are often installed in high places, such as behind the ceiling, where a stepladder is required, or in narrow places that are difficult for people to reach – so the work simply takes time and effort, it was difficult to ensure safety, or it was difficult to position the test equipment close to each other. On the other hand, this newly developed detector can effectively confirm the presence or absence of R32 in the path of the laser beam by emitting the laser beam from a distant location towards the target object. Compared to traditional air intake methods, this method can be expected to significantly reduce operating time and improve safety, as well as lead to faster response times down the line.

In addition, this technology and this detector can also detect mixed refrigerants including R32, so it can be used for example for R410A refrigerant, which was previously used as the main refrigerant. In addition to detecting refrigerant leaks from in-use equipment, it can also be used in various situations in the refrigerant cycle, such as detecting leaks from dismounted equipment and monitoring leaks in refrigerant recovery units. It is also expected to help reduce gas emissions.

This technological achievement will be presented at the International Symposium “Environment and New Refrigerants 2023”, sponsored by the Japan Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Industry Association, which will be held at the Kobe International Convention Center from 16–17 November 2023. The event will feature the launch and announcement of a new product.

*1 R410A is a refrigerant that is a 50:50 mixture of R32 and R125 and has a global warming potential approximately three times higher than R32.

*2 A method to detect refrigerant that has come into contact with a sensor built into inspection equipment.

R32 remote detector review

This detector emits an infrared laser at a wavelength that matches the near-infrared absorption wavelength range unique to the R32, which was jointly identified by RIKEN and Daikin*3, and uses a lens to collect light diffusely reflected from walls. This is an application of the remote methane detector *4, which was introduced into the practical use of TGES for the purpose of detecting methane, the main component of city gas, on R32, as well as attenuating the reflected light produced by the presence of R32 along the laser beam path is measured using highly sensitive TGES detection technology, and the presence or absence of R32 is instantly detected. Detection from a distance of approximately 10 meters or through a window is also possible.

*3 Patent No. 7114832.

*4 Developed for the first time in the world in 2001 to detect city gas leaks. Detectors equipped with this technology are used in 30 countries around the world.


Refrigeration Industry.