Long-path quantum cascade laser-based sensor for methane measurements

Anna P.M. Michel, David J. Miller, Kang Sun, Lei Tao, Levi Stanton, Mark Andrew Zondlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2373-2384
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ocean Engineering
  • Atmospheric Science


  • Arctic
  • Field experiments
  • Greenhouse gases
  • In situ atmospheric observations
  • Instrumentation/sensors
  • North America


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