Quantum tech firm QLM move to new Bristol lab space, Unit DX, to continue development of a methane detector that could cut greenhouse gas emissions.

QLM has moved from the University of Bristol to a new home at Unit DX. Specialist facilities including fume cupboards, lab bench space and analytical equipment at Unit DX will allow the company to continue its product development and provide space to expand the team.

QLM founder Xiao Ai said:

“I have been visiting Unit DX since before it was fully opened, and have been looking forward to setting up QLM here full time. It’s great to be able to work alongside companies developing such exciting technologies. It means we now have space to grow the team, access to investors and facilities that can be very hard to find.”

In purely economic terms, methane leaks from well-heads and pipelines cost the industry between $6bn and $30bn a year. In 2016 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced regulations aimed at capping methane emissions in the oil and gas sector.

In the US, methane leaks from the natural gas and petroleum industry are now the number one source of methane emissions, surpassing livestock digestion and landfill. Although it is found in much lower concentrations than carbon dioxide, methane is around 25 times more potent, meaning that it still accounts for 28% of the amount of warming caused by carbon dioxide.

Xiao has developed a miniaturised detector that can be mounted onto an unmanned drone. This means that survey costs can be cut to a tenth of the current cost, the resolution of the data is quadrupled and there is no need for calibration. The product could make surveying for methane leaks more accessible for both businesses and NGOs.

Xiao started the company during his fellowship with the Quantum Technology Enterprise Centre (QTEC), an EPSRC-funded programme and collaboration between the University of Bristol and Cranfield University. Its aim is to create a world-leading hub to train entrepreneurially-minded quantum systems engineers.

Unit DX was developed after founder Harry Destecroix discovered a lack of available laboratory space in the city for fledgling scientific companies. Harry had been looking for a home for his chemistry start-up, Ziylo, when the problem was identified. Opened in May, Unit DX has already played host to a number of QTEC events, including an investor showcase that helped raise finance for QLM’s seed stage funding. The location is fast becoming a centre of excellence for quantum technologies, alongside its focus on chemistry and synthetic biology.