A Sensitive and Affordable Compact Ammonia Monitor

EPA Contract Number: EPD08015
Title: A Sensitive and Affordable Compact Ammonia Monitor
Investigators: Shorter, Joanne H
Small Business: Aerodyne Research Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2008 through August 31, 2008
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2008) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Air Pollution


Ammonia has an important role in the chemistry of the atmospheric environment and air quality. Ammonia emissions are a major environmental concern, yet they remain poorly quantified. There is a need for a sensitive ammonia instrument to monitor emissions and evaluate their effects on the local and regional environments. An instrument capable of continuous monitoring is required to understand diurnal patterns, trends, and correlations of ammonia with other atmospheric species, including particulates. This instrument needs to be portable, operationally simple, and affordable to be relevant to widespread ammonia measurements.

The goal of the proposed Phase I project is to develop an affordable, highly sensitive, rapid response, robust, and portable instrument for autonomous real-time monitoring of ammonia. The instrument will use mid-infrared quantum cascade laser (QCL) absorption to accurately quantify ammonia with a precision of 0.3 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) in a 1-second measurement without cryogens or calibration gases. The proposed compact ammonia monitor will be possible with the development of a novel astigmatic multipass absorption cell based on an in-line construction. The novel cell will allow the design of an instrument that is reduced to its optical essentials—little more than a laser, an absorption volume, and a detector.

The objective of the Phase I research and development effort is to determine the feasibility of an extremely compact, low-cost noncryogenic QCL spectrometer to measure ammonia. Aerodyne Research will investigate the design of a novel in-line multipass absorption cell and explore approaches to simplify the cooling and temperature control of the QCL and infrared detector. These approaches will be studied to determine how they reduce the instrument complexity and, thus, the component and overall cost of a high sensitivity ammonia monitor. The anticipated result of our approach is a robust, portable, sensitive real-time monitor that will be characterized as user friendly and affordable. This instrument will meet the needs and demands of the environmental and atmospheric science communities.

The development of a sensitive, affordable instrument for ammonia detection has wide benefits for atmospheric and environmental research. This novel compact QCL instrument will have extensive commercial applications in areas such as air pollution and air toxics monitoring, breath analysis for medical diagnostics, combustion exhaust research, and plasma diagnostics for semiconductor fabrication.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, EPA, ammonia, ammonia detection, atmospheric environment, air quality, air monitoring, remote sensing, atmospheric species, particulates, ammonia measurement, real-time, quantum cascade laser, QCL, astigmatic multipass absorption cell, instrument, laser, absorption volume, detector, spectrometer, environmental science, atmospheric science, commercial application, air pollution monitoring, air toxics monitoring, breath analysis for medical diagnostics, combustion exhaust research, plasma diagnostics for semiconductor fabrication,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Monitoring, Environmental Engineering, air pollutants, ammonium compounds

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • SBIR Phase II:

    A Sensitive and Affordable Compact Ammonia Monitor  | Final Report