Houston’s Rebellion Photonics Helps Spot Dangerous Leaks

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primarily to research laboratories. Rebellion also had an $800,000 contract with the U.S. Air Force.

But as Sawyer and Kester began to research the camera’s applications during their work at Rice, and also at the Houston Technology Center, they began to see its use across a range of industries.

“We saw a need for capturing hyperspectral images really, really fast without scanning,” Kester says. “In the biology area, this is important for imaging the life processes within cells, as things are moving within a cell very, very fast. For oil and gas, we saw a lot of similarities, especially for leak detections, because these gas fumes leak so quickly. You need to capture that as fast as you can.”

The fact that its camera has no moving parts is especially attractive for the energy industry since much of its equipment is installed outside—think of the beating from wind and rain a camera could get perched on a rig out in the Gulf of Mexico.

The potential market for such imaging to detect refinery leaks is about $3.3 billion, Rebellion says. Its Glass Cloud Imaging camera can spot gas leaks within 15 microseconds with a technology that uses real-time chemical detection video.

The startup also says its camera takes and processes images faster than its nearest competitor, Bertin Technologies, a French company that has partnered with California-based General Monitors.

Rebellion, which has seven employees, manufactures the cameras in Houston. It installs the devices for customers and charges the companies a monthly monitoring fee per camera.

Energy companies didn’t immediately catch on to what Rebellion was offering, Sawyer says.

“Some people in the industry are a little resistant to change; they were a little skeptical that a 25-year-old and a 28-year-old could make a difference in this industry,” Sawyer says. “But when you show them this new technology, they start thinking differently.”

For Sawyer, Rebellion’s success has also had a side benefit: Giving her a bigger platform to champion girls getting involved in science and technology.

“That’s probably the reason we did the (startup competition),” Sawyer says. “I really hate really being the only women on the panel at tech conferences. I want it to be more normal to see women in entrepreneurship and hard tech.”

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