Field Deployable Mid-Infrared Spectrometer for Monitoring Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Emissions from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

EPA Contract Number: 68HERC21C0018
Title: Field Deployable Mid-Infrared Spectrometer for Monitoring Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Emissions from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)
Investigators: Walhof, Alexander C
Small Business: Firefly Photonics LLC
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2021 through August 31, 2021
Project Amount: $100,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2021) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Air Quality , SBIR - Air Monitoring and Remote Sensing


Concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) is a designation by the U.S. EPA to represent large animal feeding operation with more than 1000 animal units confined on site for more than 45 days during the year. CAFOs emit many volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere. Current multi-gas sensor technologies are not sufficiently portable and are utilized either offline in a lab-setting or driven around in a mobile lab to monitor VOC emissions around CAFOs. The lack of portability limits the spatial distribution information for VOCs in CAFOs. This poor understanding of VOC sources hinders the development of management practices that reduce VOC emissions in animal feeding facilities. Thus, a portable and cost-effective spectrometry technology is needed for comprehensive characterization of VOC sources and their relative importance within a CAFO.

In this EPA SBIR Phase I project, we propose to develop an uncooled portable gas spectrometer operating in the mid- infrared (MIR) wavelength range of 2.5 µm to 5.0 µm that utilizes our high performance superlattice light emitting diodes (SLEDs) and photodetector (PD) technologies. The proposed spectrometer utilizes a dispersive design and does not include any moving parts enabling a rugged design that can be deployed in the field. In addition, given the compact formfactor of the spectrometer, it can be placed at several locations within the CAFO with each of the spectrometer wirelessly networked to the other. Our previous work in developing high performance MIR LEDs and detectors builds our confidence in the ability to accomplish the proposed objectives in Phase I.

Increasing awareness about outdoor and indoor air pollution, and companion regulations protecting air quality issued by the U.S. EPA and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) are key factors driving the portable spectrometer market growth. Industrial applications such as real-time monitoring of pipelines, monitoring of benzene leaks, and remote monitoring of plant equipment are additional factors driving market growth. Leveraging Firefly Photonics value proposition, we plan on capturing 30% of the Service Addressable Market (SAM) in 2030 yielding a Service Obtainable Market (SOM) valued at $40M.

Our MIR LED’s broadband, high power emission makes it possible to achieve ppb limit of detection (LoD) sensing, while utilizing a dispersive spectrometer design, with no moving parts. Additionally our MIR PD delivers worlds class uncooled detectivity enabling uncooled spectrometer operation. The portable spectrometer technology developed in this project will have far reaching impact on a number of environmental monitoring applications.