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Long-Path Quantum Cascade Laser–Based Sensor for Methane Measurements

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  • 1 Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
  • | 2 Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment, and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
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Abstract

A long-path methane (CH4) sensor was developed and field deployed using an 8-μm quantum cascade laser. The high optical power (40 mW) of the laser allowed for path-integrated measurements of ambient CH4 at total pathlengths from 100 to 1200 m with the use of a retroreflector. Wavelength modulation spectroscopy was used to make high-precision measurements of atmospheric pressure–broadened CH4 absorption over these long distances. An in-line reference cell with higher harmonic detection provided metrics of system stability in rapidly changing and harsh environments. The system consumed less than 100 W of power and required no consumables. The measurements intercompared favorably (typically less than 5% difference) with a commercial in situ methane sensor when accounting for the different spatiotemporal scales of the measurements. The sensor was field deployed for 2 weeks at an arctic lake to examine the robustness of the approach in harsh field environments. Short-term precision over a 458-m pathlength was 10 ppbv at 1 Hz, equivalent to a signal from a methane enhancement above background of 5 ppmv in a 1-m length. The sensor performed well in a range of harsh environmental conditions, including snow, rain, wind, and changing temperatures. These field measurements demonstrate the capabilities of the approach for use in detecting large but highly variable emissions in arctic environments.

Current affiliation: Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Current affiliation: Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.

Current affiliation: Atomic and Molecular Physics Division, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Current affiliation: NEC Laboratories America, Princeton, New Jersey.

Current affiliation: Sonoma Technology, Inc., Petaluma, California.

Corresponding author address: Anna P. M. Michel, Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 266 Woods Hole Road, MS 7, Woods Hole, MA 02543. E-mail: amichel@whoi.edu

Abstract

A long-path methane (CH4) sensor was developed and field deployed using an 8-μm quantum cascade laser. The high optical power (40 mW) of the laser allowed for path-integrated measurements of ambient CH4 at total pathlengths from 100 to 1200 m with the use of a retroreflector. Wavelength modulation spectroscopy was used to make high-precision measurements of atmospheric pressure–broadened CH4 absorption over these long distances. An in-line reference cell with higher harmonic detection provided metrics of system stability in rapidly changing and harsh environments. The system consumed less than 100 W of power and required no consumables. The measurements intercompared favorably (typically less than 5% difference) with a commercial in situ methane sensor when accounting for the different spatiotemporal scales of the measurements. The sensor was field deployed for 2 weeks at an arctic lake to examine the robustness of the approach in harsh field environments. Short-term precision over a 458-m pathlength was 10 ppbv at 1 Hz, equivalent to a signal from a methane enhancement above background of 5 ppmv in a 1-m length. The sensor performed well in a range of harsh environmental conditions, including snow, rain, wind, and changing temperatures. These field measurements demonstrate the capabilities of the approach for use in detecting large but highly variable emissions in arctic environments.

Current affiliation: Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Current affiliation: Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.

Current affiliation: Atomic and Molecular Physics Division, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Current affiliation: NEC Laboratories America, Princeton, New Jersey.

Current affiliation: Sonoma Technology, Inc., Petaluma, California.

Corresponding author address: Anna P. M. Michel, Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 266 Woods Hole Road, MS 7, Woods Hole, MA 02543. E-mail: amichel@whoi.edu
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