JAPAN: Daikin claims to have produced the world’s first laser-based technology for the remote detection of R32 refrigerant leaks.

Developed in association with liquified natural gas company Tokyo Gas Engineering Solutions (TGES) and RIKEN, the Japanese development agency, the device has been designed to reduce and prevent leaks from air conditioning systems.

Daikin has been a champion for the adoption of R32 refrigerant in Japan and around the world. Almost all domestic air conditioners manufactured and sold in Japan and Europe are now using R32 and it is gaining recognition as a lower-GWP alternative to R410A around the world. It is already in use in more than 130 countries.

The new detector (righ) makes it easier to detect leaks than conventional methods (left)

Detecting refrigerant leaks usually involves bringing inspection equipment close to the point where a leak is suspected and sampling the surrounding gas. This can often be problematic when air conditioning units are installed at high level, in the ceiling, or in narrow places that are difficult for people to reach.

This new detector emits a laser beam that can confirm the presence or absence of R32 in its path by identifying the near-infrared absorption wavelength band unique to R32. It is said to be effective up to a distance of 10m and can even operate through windows.

It can also be used to detect the R32 element in R410A leaks.

The detector is based on technology developed by Tokyo Gas Engineering Solutions for detecting methane which has a structure similar to R32.

Daikin and TGES aim to further improve the detection sensitivity and reduce the size of the unit to enable it to be carried in the field.

Trials will be conducted next year, with the intention to commercialise the detector in 2025.