TECHNOLOGY | Research

Mesa Photonics NSF-funded research will lead to highly miniaturized trace gas analyzers that are useful for emissions monitoring and industrial safety application. The work is motivated by a need to detect ammonia in the air. Once released into the air, ammonia forms fine particles can impact the climate by affecting cloud formation, and are linked to cardiac and respiratory illness. Anticipated ammonia detection limits are between 1 and 10 parts per billion. The proposed technology will, if successful, lead to commercial ammonia analyzers that will fit into a shirt pocket. The ongoing six-month-long project will identify the technical factors limiting measurement sensitivity.

Our technology will be part of the $250 to $350 million dollar a year market for gas sensors, detectors, and analyzers. Measurements of ammonia emissions and trace concentrations in air will have significant impact on atmospheric science and public health. It has been suggested that the most economical way to reduce the amount of fine particles in air over the eastern United States, is to control ammonia emissions instead of trying to limit oxides of nitrogen and sulfur. But, highly-portable, reasonably-priced ammonia analyzers that are needed to provide supporting data and to monitor ammonia distributions are not yet commercially available. Mesa Photonics technology can also be applied to detection of compounds including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane, hydrogen chloride, nitric oxide, and ethylene. In the case of hydrogen sulfide detection for the petrochemical industry, the new technology offers significant advantages over existing methods for hydrogen sulfide monitoring at wellheads and in refineries.