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World’s Fastest Gas Detector Uses Light to Fight Global Warming

Nov 22, 2016 05:23 AM EST

Scientists are creating a multi-gas detector that could help prevent global warming.

European scientists have developed MIREGAS (Mid-IR source for Gas Sensing) a first-of-its-kind low-cost sensor that could be programmed to detect an unlimited number of gases.

MIREGAS, a Horizon 2020 project that uses new photonics technology, aims to deliver a single, multi-band gas sensor that can easily be deployed in strategic points of methane emissions, such as on oil rigs, or in industrial areas, and monitor dozens of greenhouse gases all at once.

The new device uses a novel light source, where the wavelengths of light can be selected more accurately and other gas mixtures. It can pick out poisonous gases from a mixture of emissions, including methane, ethane, butane, propane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide and benzene all from one compact filter. Current technology can take up to 10 seconds to detect harmful emissions, but MIREGAS detect dozens of emissions effectively in milliseconds and in near real-time.

"Because the MIREGAS device is adjustable, it is possible to use only one light source instead of several lasers," Professor Pentti Karioja from the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland Ltd, the firm that developed MIREGAS, said in a press release. "This means that we can make multiple readings and monitor several harmful gases simultaneously through one sensor."

While Mid IR spectroscopic instruments already exist, current sensors rely on filters, spectrometers or tunable lasers. This means that several lasers will be needed to detect different gases. But according to Karioja, the new device offers the possibility to "tailor spectral response to match any wanted set of absorption lines with any desired bandwidth."

Moreover, MIREGAS' measuring costs are 10 times lower than traditional spectroscopy measurements, VTT Research said in a statement.

Methane emissions have a considerably greater warming effect than carbon dioxide, as it is 20 times more effective at trapping heat and can remain in the atmosphere for decades, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said. According to the scientists, the capabilities of the device could provide practical tools for tackling the dangers of climate change.

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