EUREKA awards recognise technological and environmental innovations

Projects tackling the current societal preoccupations of terrorism and car pollution were the winners of this year’s EUREKA Lynx and Lillehammer awards.

The prize winners, who each received a cheque for ?10,000, were announced at the EUREKA ministerial conference in Ljubljana on 5 June.

The Lynx award, which recognises outstanding technological achievement, went to the Czech company, RS Dynamics, for its fast-acting and reliable explosives sniffer.

The sniffer, which was developed in cooperation with Spanish engineering company SENER Ingenieria y Sistemas, is able to detect microscopic traces of explosives on such items as luggage,
clothes, laptops, mobile phones, bank notes or identity cards. This is done by using a needle-like device that can get into corners and creases of objects.

The needle is then inserted into a scanner which provides a reading in just one second. No time is needed between scans to clean its parts. It is these design aspects which make the sniffer
ideal for use in places like airports and train stations, where security personnel need to check a constant flow of people and luggage in a limited amount of time.

The sniffer could also be used to detect traces of explosives hidden in buildings, containers, road vehicles, aircrafts and shopping centres. Furthermore, because of its robustness and ability
to withstand extreme conditions, such as very high temperatures, the device is being used in desert military operations.

According to George Blaha, President of RS Dynamics, the sniffer has several advantages over its competitors. First, most competing devices use an inert paper instead of a needle to check for
traces of explosives. ‘But paper can’t get into areas like creases and grooves,’ he told CORDIS News.

While other devices may be capable of giving more precise readings, they have proven too sensitive to interfering chemicals which leads to a high number of false positive readings. To address
this problem, the sniffer has a fast pre-separation system that can remove chemicals, like those from human odours. ‘Because it doesn’t suffer from interfering chemicals, the device can give
more precise readings,’ explains Mr Blaha.

Other advantages include the device’s ability to be remotely controlled and to run on both Windows and Linux.

The sniffer, which costs ?33,000, has attracted a lot of interest. In addition to tenders from the Middle East, Japan and India, RS Dynamics is also working with a major UK distributor which
has a large number of local partners.

Meanwhile, this year’s Lillehammer award for outstanding environmental benefits went to a Dutch and German partnership that developed a glow plug pressure sensor which can be fitted to the
engine of any diesel car and which is capable of cutting nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by up to 90%.

Diesel engines work on the principle of self ignition. When fuel is injected into the engine cylinder, it undergoes high compression which in turn causes the air-fuel mixture to ignite. This
ignition method has made diesel engines immensely popular in Europe, accounting for more than 40% of the market.

The downside, however, is that these engines release a lot of soot particles because of the lack of homogeneity in the fuel-mix. Also, any excess oxygen in the mix leads to elevated ignition
temperatures, resulting in high levels of NOx.

The device, developed by Dutch Sensata Technologies and German BERU, consists of a piezo-resistive pressure sensor, which is integrated into a glow plug used to speed start the diesel engine.
This allows the direct monitoring and optimisation of the combustion conditions in the cylinder, which means much lower emissions and better fuel consumption.

The sensor is first of its kind to be reliable enough for mass production. ‘Our sensor is the only one that can provide a high quality signal: the car manufacturing industry needs the accuracy
that this product can deliver,’ Dr Arjan Kölling of Sensata Technologies, told CORDIS News.

As result, ‘nearly every car manufacturer has programmes or is in pre-development phase of introducing the sensor,’ Bernd Last of BERU explained. In three months time, the sensor will be
available in demonstration cars in the US.

Dr Arjan Kölling said that winning the EUREKA award is recognition of all the blood, sweat and tears that went into researching and developing
the sensor.

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