Final Report: Hand-Held Sensor for Remotely Mapping Carbon Dioxide Pollution Sources

EPA Contract Number: EPD09015
Title: Hand-Held Sensor for Remotely Mapping Carbon Dioxide Pollution Sources
Investigators: Roos, Peter A
Small Business: Bridger Photonics, Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: February 1, 2009 through July 31, 2009
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Air Pollution , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The purpose of this Phase I SBIR research was to demonstrate the feasibility of remotely detecting and mapping carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration with a light-weight laser sensor.  With presently available technologies, EPA personnel need to perform on-site scans of possible CO2 pollution locations by tediously sampling emitted gases with point-source gas-intake measurement devices.  This makes it difficult or impossible for EPA personnel to identify or quantify pollution sources and plumes, such as those from a smokestack or vent.  There currently exists no technology that can measure and pinpoint (to within a few meters) the location of elevated CO2 concentrations from a distance.  This capability is particularly important considering the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act.  The ruling allows EPA to regulate CO2 emissions.  Such regulation will entail monitoring a wide variety of pollution sources, including automobile exhaust systems, industrial emission sources, and carbon sequestration sites. 
During this contract, Bridger Photonics, Inc., has proven the feasibility of an inexpensive, rugged, hand-held sensor with high-range resolution for on-site CO2 monitoring and spatial mapping from a distance.  This sensor will enable EPA personnel to, for instance, simply aim the sensor toward a distant industrial emission stack to measure the emitted CO2 concentration, the distance to the source, and the spatial extent of the plume.  The sensor also could be used to spatially scan CO2 sequestration or industrial sites for leaks and could provide precise 3D coordinate mappings of the emission source. 
The three stated objectives for this project were to:
1)   Model and demonstrate the critical laser emission features (10-ns single-mode pulses at 2.0 mm and 2.27 mm),
2)   Use the laser emission to remotely detect CO2 differentially, and
3)   Design and model a prototype device. 
Bridger Photonics successfully completed each of these objectives.  A 2-mm laser system that exhibits 3 mJ output energy and less than 10-ns pulse duration was created.  The laser system is very compact for incorporation into a hand-held sensor unit and it can exhibit narrowband emission for detection of the narrow absorption features of the ideal 2-mm absorption band of CO2.  Bridger Photonics used the emission from this laser source to differentially detect CO2 in a gas cell and showed that the range resolution for this measurement system is less than 2 meters.  The possibility of using a novel differential detection technique, which averts the traditional problem of pulse-to-pulse energy fluctuations that plague sequential differential detection was demonstrated.  Design and modeling showed that range-resolved measurements out to about 100 meters can be performed.  Bridger Photonics anticipates that this will cover the vast majority of pollution monitoring and verification applications for EPA. Bridger Photonics also has designed the optical component layout for a compact prototype device for field testing in a possible Phase II effort.    

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

All of the objectives were achieved during the period of performance.  Bridger Photonics demonstrated three times the needed pulse energy, sub-10-ns pulses, and showed that these pulses could be seeded to emit in a single spectral mode for high-resolution spectroscopic measurement of CO2 in the ideal 2-micron band remotely.  The laser pulses were shown to spatially resolve features less than 2 meters.  Differential detection of CO2 in a gas cell (i.e., without physically sampling the gas) was demonstrated and the path to a hand-held commercial device for EPA and other end users was outlined. 


Through these achievements, Bridger Photonics succeeded in its overall goal of demonstrating the feasibility of this remote CO2 sensor device.  In the potential Phase II effort, Bridger Photonics will focus on optimizing the laser emission and constructing and testing a prototype sensor device.  Bridger Photonics looks forward to the possibility of integrating and optimizing this system for detecting CO2 pollution.
The primary market for the initial product is remote CO2 detection with high spatial resolution.  This will allow EPA personnel to quickly identify, quantify, and pinpoint CO2 pollution sources, even if they are not easily accessible.  There exists no other technology for this purpose.  This product also will be useful for the emerging carbon sequestration industry.  Monitoring and verification of these sites is a longer-term market, but is predicted to be a lucrative.  Bridger Photonics estimates a potential $50M U.S. market for this device even without longer-term carbon sequestration monitoring markets. 
Bridger Photonics' technology can easily be extended to detect other gases remotely for applications such as remote detection of chemical weapons for the defense of our Nation and as an aid to law enforcement in identifying and uncovering the manufacture of illicit drugs.  Bridger Photonics will pursue products that target both of these markets.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, EPA, carbon dioxide measurement, CO2 measurement, carbon dioxide monitoring, CO2 monitoring, Clean Air Act, emissions, pollution source, remote sensing, remote mapping, automobile exhaust, industrial emissions, carbon sequestration, spatial mapping, carbon dioxide sensor, CO2 sensor, hand-held sensor, laser-based sensor, measurement and monitoring

SBIR Phase II:

Hand-Held Sensor for Remotely Mapping Carbon Dioxide Pollution Sources  | Final Report