The University of Manchester's environmental and asset monitoring 'spinout' Salamander
Spin-out company Salamander developed new instruments that now provide the UK water and gas industries with continuous environmental monitoring. The instruments have changed industry best practice and are recommended by regulators. Marketed by Siemens and Ionscience Ltd, the instruments have generated royalties equivalent to £7 million in sales over the past five years.
Until recently, environmental monitoring involved only occasional sampling, calling into question the public’s trust in well controlled contamination risks.
New legislation and industry regulators are driving forward big changes, requiring companies and authorities to monitor continuously for contamination and even predict how environmental systems may behave.
Our researchers developed a data logging system and a range of instruments that allow un-manned monitoring of the environment at high resolution. A spin-out company, Salamander, was founded to further develop and market the system.
The initial instruments were developed into 'clams' - HydraClam, ChloroClam and GasClam - each a patented, award-winning device that could be networked together for extensive and effective environmental monitoring. Ongoing development led to production of clams incorporating M2M telemetry.
HydraClam and ChloroClam, licensed to Siemens, have delivered improvements to the water quality monitoring programmes of UK water companies.
Severn Trent Water was one of the first companies to introduce clam monitoring, using HydraClam extensively to limit disruptions, minimise cleaning expenses and reduce costs.
Use of ChloroClam is currently being written into industry-wide long-term funding and development plans.
Salamander has been paid royalties equivalent to £7 million of sales since 2008.
Research into organic contamination of sediments demonstrated the need for in situ ground gas monitoring. GasClam has raised the bar in best practice and is now recommended by regulators. It is also highlighted in internationally distributed guidance documents.
GasClam sales are rising due to growing demand for greenhouse gas monitoring. For example, 12 GasClams have been installed at a UK shale gas extraction site and many more will soon be deployed in Australia.
The latest standards on methane evaluation from the American Society for Testing Materials include data collected using GasClam.
GasClam is currently licensed to Ionscience Ltd, which reports sales worth £2.8 million to date.
Salamander has employed 14 University of Manchester graduates, while Siemens employs several staff to focus solely on HydraClam and ChloroClam support and development. A consultancy firm employing ten people has also been established to use GasClam for environmental monitoring. A similar firm has been established in Australia.
Royalties to Salamander from Siemens and Ionscience are equivalent to £7 million of sales over the past five years.
12 gasclams have been used on UK shale gas exploration sites.
The research involved hydrological and hydrochemical investigations that focused on mass balance and links with geochemical analysis. At an early stage, the researchers recognised a significant lack of field data which limited the validity of environmental models. In other words, people needed to monitor the water more and model it less.
Research into water turbidity – the muddiness and discolouration that is unpleasant in drinking water – highlighted a strong relationship between organic carbon and iron oxides, which are key components of turbidity. Microbial communities were shown to contribute to water turbidity by producing organic carbon even when nutrient concentrations were low. It was noted that measurements with a high temporal resolution were essential to study water turbidity, hydraulic flow disturbance and sediment availability.
Recognising the need for better monitoring systems to support their studies, the researchers went on to develop the clam technologies.