Researchers from the University of Adelaide developed a laser that can remotely detect greenhouse gases and operates over a large range within the mid-infrared light spectrum.

Project leader David Ottaway said the innovative technology could be used to identify “molecular fingerprints” by searching for traces of airborne gases.

“The new laser is operating at a wavelength where many hydrocarbon gases, including the greenhouse gases, absorb light,” he said.

“This particular laser that we’ve demonstrated has the broadest tuning range, which means that it can cover more frequencies than any other fibre laser. Usually they can only work on a narrow range of light.

“By changing the wavelength of our laser, we can measure the light absorption patterns of different chemicals with a high degree of sensitivity.”

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Source: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Associate Professor Ottaway said the technology could play a key role in detecting methane emission sources.

“Methane is the dominant component in natural gas, which has a carbon footprint roughly 25 times that of CO2 for the same amount of gas released, and is the second most prominent greenhouse gas after CO2,” he said.

“One of the things we can do with this technology is tell the difference between ethane and methane. If you can actually detect a difference between them, you can determine if it’s coming from an agricultural source or not.”…

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