Active standoff detection of CH4 and N2O leaks using hard-target backscattered light using an open-path quantum cascade laser sensor

Adrian Diaz, Benjamin Thomas, Paulo Castillo, Barry Gross, Fred Moshary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Fugitive gas emissions from agricultural or industrial plants and gas pipelines are an important environmental concern as they contribute to the global increase of greenhouse gas concentrations. Moreover, they are also a security and safety concern because of possible risk of fire/explosion or toxicity. This study presents standoff detection of CH4 and N2O leaks using a quantum cascade laser open-path system that retrieves path-averaged concentrations by collecting the backscattered light from a remote hard target. It is a true standoff system and differs from other open-path systems that are deployed as point samplers or long-path transmission systems that use retroreflectors. The measured absorption spectra are obtained using a thermal intra-pulse frequency chirped DFB quantum cascade laser at ~7.7 µm wavelength range with ~200 ns pulse width. Making fast time resolved observations, the system simultaneously realizes high spectral resolution and range to the target, resulting in path-averaged concentration retrieval. The system performs measurements at high speed ~15 Hz and sufficient range (up to 45 m, ~148 feet) achieving an uncertainty of 3.1 % and normalized sensitivity of 3.3 ppm m Hz−1/2 for N2O and 9.3 % and normalized sensitivity of 30 ppm m Hz−1/2 for CH4 with a 0.31 mW average power QCL. Given these characteristics, this system is promising for mobile or multidirectional search and remote detection of gas leaks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number121
JournalApplied Physics B: Lasers and Optics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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