Laser Based Spectroscopic Gas Sensing Systems for Hydrocarbons

Scientists and engineers from all across Europe have joined forces in the recently launched EU project, "Photonic sensing of hydrocarbons based on innovative mid infrared lasers," (SENSHY) to develop a new generation of laserbased spectroscopic gas-sensing systems for hydrocarbons.

The market for gas sensors is of global significance and is rapidly expanding, fueled by new applications based on ever-growing public concerns over such issues as pollution, health and safety at work, as well as new developments in industrial process control. A key area with particular potential to increase this market further is tunable diode laser spectroscopy (TDLS), a laser based approach that is now seeing increased commercial exploitation and is at the center of the SENSHY project.

sing TDLS, a variety of gas species can be detected at trace levels in the ppm or even ppb range. The key components of modern TDLS systems are tunable semiconductor lasers, which allow the system to be miniaturized and allow highly sensitive quantitative measurements with fast response time without the need for recalibration. Sale of TDLS based instruments is currently rapidly expanding with typical growth rates of 30% for the last few years.

Presently however, application grade semiconductor lasers are not commercially available in the wavelength range around 3.3 microns. The SENSHY project is designed to overcome this obstacle, which is currently hindering widespread exploitation of laser based gas sensing in this wavelength range--particularly important for the detection of hydrocarbons.

Industrial partner Gas Measurement Instruments LTD--one of the major suppliers of gas detection equipment to the gas distribution industry worldwide--will investigate applications in methane sensing. Detecting methane gas is one of the most important and widest ranging of chemical measurements with particular relevance to safety monitoring in environmental applications such as water treatment plants and landfill sites as well as in energy exploration, transmission, and recovery. Industrial partner Siemens Laser Analytics AB will address applications of laser-based sensing in process-control systems for the aliphatic hydrocarbons propene and propane. Efficient control of process parameters will enable increased energy efficiency, improved product quality and pollutant reduction.

Recently, a contract was signed between the European Community and coordinator nanoplus Nanosystems and Technologies GmbH, a company specializing in high-performance semiconductor laser sources for sensing applications. The SENSHY project comprises partners from the United Kingdom, France, Poland, Sweden, and Germany and has a duration of three years, supported by 2.35 million euro funding from the European Commission as part of the EU 7th Framework Programme.

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