UK space tech uncovers gassy bed bugs

DATE 09th February 2016


History was made just over a year ago when ESA’s Rosetta became the first spacecraft to successfully rendezvous with a comet, hurtling through space at 135,000 km per hour. Its ten year mission culminated in the successful landing on the comet of a mini laboratory called Philae. UK scientists were involved in 10 of the mission’s instruments in that laboratory, one of which was Ptolemy, a gas analyser the size of a shoebox. Now UK company Insect Research Systems Ltd, has used know-how and techniques developed through Ptolemy’s creation, to build a small, portable system that will quickly and cheaply detect the minute bodily gas emissions from bed bugs in hotel rooms – an infestation of which can cost a hotel thousands to rectify and severely damage its reputation.

The company is one of the first to be taking advantage of the brand new Campus Technology Hub (CTH) in Cheshire, which provides UK businesses and start-ups with affordable access to more than £2million of advanced engineering technology, with particularly strong focus on 3D printing, to help them develop new products faster and cheaper.

Part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Daresbury Laboratory, and located at Sci-Tech Daresbury, the CTH is a major new facility dedicated to helping businesses of all sizes from across the UK, and particularly SMEs in the North West, to tackle their innovation engineering challenges without the financial restraints of having to buy or pay high prices to access the very latest technology.

Michael Norris, Head of Business Incubation at STFC, said:

“The Campus Technology Hub has one purpose, to provide companies with affordable access to the best skills and facilities in engineering R&D so that they can solve their technology challenges to better compete on a national and international level. Helping entrepreneurs, SMEs and more established businesses turn their brilliant ideas into reality is a key driver for STFC, and as part of this we’ll also provide the necessary upskilling for staff and researchers who come to the CTH, joining the thriving innovation community we have here at Daresbury.”

Insect Research Systems Ltd is using the advanced 3D printing technology at the CTH to develop the prototype for its bespoke handheld detection monitor that will sniff out the chemical signatures of bed bugs in real-time.

Taff Morgan, Chief Technical Officer and Co-Founder of Insect Research Systems said:

“Thanks to the latest 3D printing capabilities, the excellent design input and technical support available at the Campus Technology Hub we have been able to optimise the design of our prototype and now have a product that we can demonstrate to future investors. This is extremely valuable to us in that we are developing our prototype significantly quicker and more cost effectively than through traditional routes.”

The CTH brings together people from industry, research organisations and universities, from unconnected sectors, to work collaboratively and create new and exciting opportunities. This collaborative working includes access to the unique technologies and skills of both STFC and its partners, which include the European Space Agency (ESA) and CERN (home of the Large Hadron Collider), so that these can harnessed more widely by UK companies.

Further information on STFC’s Campus Technology Hub, and how companies can get involved, can be found here.