Quantum cascade laser-based sensing for carbon sequestration leakage monitoring

Matthew D. Escarra, Loan T. Le, Nathan M. Urban, Michael Oppenheimer, Claire F. Gmachl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) may play a key role in our energy future. However, the widespread sequestration of CO2 into storage reservoirs is inhibited by safety and leakage concerns. Effective leakage monitoring at the surface is recently made possible by the development of quantum cascade (QC) laser-based sensors, which are capable of tracking fluxes in CO2 isotope concentrations. In this paper, we initially discuss the status of this technology, including recent results from distributed feedback QC lasers for use in sensing CO2 isotopic ratios. These lasers show single-mode emission at 4.32 μm, overlapping strong absorption resonances of 12CO2, 13CO2, and 18OCO. We then consider the value of such devices for quantifying CO2 leakage using a climate-economy integrated-assessment model that is modified to include CCS. The sensitivity of model outcomes to reservoir leakage is studied, showing that an average reservoir storage half-life on the order of 1000 years or longer can limit atmospheric temperature increases to 2° C or less over the next 150 years for economically optimal emissions scenarios. The present day economic value of CCS is established versus reservoir half-life, showing a significant return on investment (∼ 2 trillion U.S., or ∼ 4\% of gross world product) when the average reservoir half-life is 250 years, with a sharp drop in the value of CCS technology for half-life values below 250 years. Quantifying CO2 leakage rates via QC laser-based sensing will contribute greatly toward accurately assessing CCS technology and its efficacy as part of CO2 limitation strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6482580
Pages (from-to)2348-2356
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Sensors Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Environmental economics
  • laser applications
  • quantum cascade lasers
  • trace gas sensing


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