Billerica, MA, United States
Billerica, MA, United States

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Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 223.64K | Year: 2015

Proposal Technical Abstract: Atmospheric oxygen provides one of the most powerful tracers to study the carbon cycle through its close interaction with carbon dioxide. Keeling and co-workers demonstrated this at the global scale by using small variations in atmospheric oxygen content to disentangle oceanic and terrestrial carbon sinks. It would be very exciting to apply similar ideas at the ecosystem level to improve our understanding of biosphere-atmosphere exchange and our ability to predict the response of the biosphere and atmosphere to climate change. The eddy covariance technique is perhaps the most effective technique available to quantify the exchange of gases between these spheres. Therefore, eddy covariance flux measurements of oxygen would be extremely valuable. However, this requires a fast response (0.1 seconds), high relative precision (0.001% or 10 per meg) oxygen sensor that does not yet exist. We propose to develop such a sensor using a high resolution visible laser to probe the oxygen A-band electronic transition. We have previously demonstrated measurement precision for the isotopes of carbon dioxide and for nitrous oxide at the 10 per meg level even in the mid infrared spectral region. We will use a similar approach in the visible region to achieve the same or better relative performance with less expensive and significantly higher capability optical components. The resulting sensor will enable oxygen flux measurements through next generation eddy covariance measurements as called out in the solicitation. In addition, we will incorporate a second laser to simultaneously determine the fluxes of carbon dioxide and water vapor with the same sampling cell. During Phase I, we will acquire an appropriate laser and detector for oxygen detection and will demonstrate the proof of principle in a bench top experiment. We will also perform more detailed spectral analysis of the target spectral region, will study the effects of water and carbon dioxide variation in the sample matrix, will optimize our spectral analysis methods and will create a conceptual design of the instrument to be produced and demonstrated during Phase II. Commercial applications and other benefits The proposed work will lead to a new class of super precise and low power trace gas monitors that will be useful for a wide variety of trace gases, in both land-based and airborne measurements. These instruments will compliment and lead to improvements in our existing commercially available trace gas instruments. Key Words Carbon cycle, oxygen, carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas emissions, eddy covariance, atmosphere, biosphere, laser spectroscopy. Summary for members of congress This instrument will help quantify the sources and sinks of the gases which primarily drive global climate change.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 1.20M | Year: 2015

Aerosol particles are known to affect the global climate through direct absorption and reflection of solar radiation and through cloud formation. Globally, it is believed that ~50% of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) originate from atmospheric new particle formation and growth. Sulfuric acid vapor plays a key role in new particle formation, although detailed mechanisms remain unclear. Recent experiments have shown that trace levels of organic amine vapors can enhance particle nucleation by 1000 times or more compared to sulfuric acid alone or sulfuric acid plus ammonia. Amine vapor concentrations are typically very low and at the detection limit of current measurement techniques. The evaluation of atmospheric nucleation rates and particle growth is limited by sparse amine vapor measurements and the resulting lack of knowledge of atmospheric amine budgets. The proposed use of amines for CO2 sequestration may increase ambient amine concentrations and has significant implications for aerosol CCN budgets and their cloud interactions. This SBIR project will develop an instrument for the detection of ambient amines with a factor of 10 to 1000 times better sensitivity than current instruments, in order to improve characterization of global amine budgets and our understanding of their role in aerosol formation. We will develop and commercialize a new chemical ionization mass spectrometer that employs sulfuric acid cluster ionization chemistry for the selective and quantitative detection of gas-phase organic amines. The Phase I project successfully demonstrated the feasibility of detecting organic amines and ammonia in the 1 to 10 parts per trillion by volume concentration range in both laboratory experiments and in ambient air using the proposed technology. The Phase II project will focus on further refinement of the sulfuric acid cluster ion source and inlet, calibration schemes, and construction of a prototype instrument with evaluation in both laboratory and field settings. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: The initial market for this instrument will be atmospheric research groups at universities and national laboratories with research programs focusing on new particle formation and growth. Larger applications include carbon capture and sequestration pilot projects using amine solvents, amine gas treatment at refineries and natural gas processing plants, forensic science, and breath analysis. We expect that the system developed in this program will yield a significant level of direct commercial sales and contract field measurements.


Grant
Agency: Department of Commerce | Branch: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 400.00K | Year: 2015

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are primary drivers of global climate change. Hence there is a crucial need to quantify their sources and sinks. A powerful method to constrain source and sink strengths is the analysis of the relative proportions of isotopic variants of GHG’s in atmospheric samples like those collected globally by NOAA’s Cooperative Air Sampling Network. Measurements that are capable of informing climate science require extremely high precision. The standard technique, isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS), is precise but is limited by laborious sample processing requirements, high capital cost, high maintenance and impracticality of field deployment. We avoid these limitations with an alternative method to measure the isotopic composition of the most important GHG: carbon dioxide. Using Tunable Infrared Laser Direct Absorption Spectroscopy (TILDAS), we demonstrate measurement precision at least as good as IRMS and exceeding that requested until Sub-Topic 8.3.1 for ō13C-CO2 (0.006 vs. 0.01‰_ and ō18O-CO2 (0.007 vs. 0.02‰). During Phase II we will produce and demonstrate a commercial instrument meeting this standard while measuring small discreet air samples (


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 125.00K | Year: 2016

We propose to develop a highly sensitive and portable device to monitor soot particle mass distribution from aircraft engine exhaust. The proposed method is based on sensitive electric charge measurement on soot particles of specific mass, which was selected via Lorentz force. Through extensive investigation on soot emission from internal combustion engines over the past four decades, it has been well known that engine soot particles are usually charged. Counting particle charge at specific mass could lead to the determination of both total particle count and mass. Currently commercially available electrometric measurements on charged particles suffer from rapid signal drift, which limits its applications on soot emission measurements. In our proposed design, an amplitude modulation scheme is included to eliminate the influence from signal drift and also improve detection sensitivity. The proposed soot mass distribution monitor will be less than 50 pounds in weight and consume approximately 300W electrical power. It will also be capable of being remotely controlled and operating under vacuum condition. Since most of the components are commercially available, total cost of the proposed device could be less than $30,000.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 124.96K | Year: 2016

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the primary drivers of global climate change and hence there is a crucial need to quantify their sources and sinks. A powerful technique to help constrain source and sink strengths in GHG exchange processes is the analysis of the relative proportions of isotopic variants of GHG's. In this proposal, we focus on the most important GHG: carbon dioxide. The standard isotopes of carbon dioxide (13C-CO2 and 18O-CO2) are already being measured on a global scale (for example by NOAA and INSTAAR within the Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network). We propose to demonstrate and commercialize new isotopic measurement capabilities for more exotic isotopes of carbon dioxide that are difficult to measure with existing techniques. Specifically, we propose using Tunable Infrared Laser Direct Absorption Spectroscopy (TILDAS) to measure the primary clumped isotope of CO2 (Δ13C18O16O) and to simultaneously measure the mass independent 17O content (Δ17O). The proposed instrument will directly measure atmospheric samples with no need for chemical separation and will report isotopic ratios with 0.02 per mil repeatability and with time resolution of 2 to 3 minutes. The instrument will be sufficiently compact to be field or flight deployable thus providing the possibility of continuous high accuracy measurements of Δ13C18O16O and Δ17O rather than occasional flask samples.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 149.97K | Year: 2016

Proposal Technical Abstract: Methane is an important greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 25-35 times that of carbon dioxide. There are many anthropogenic and natural sources of CH4, but emissions from the oil and gas industry are the largest contributor to the overall US methane budget of 650 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Identifying sources of methane emissions from oil and gas facilities is complicated by the sheer number of possible emission points between the well and end user. It would therefore be of great value to use advances in methane sensor technology to aid and enhance leak detection and repair. Recent field measurements of downwind plumes from natural gas leaks have found that the chemical signatures of accompanying compounds can indicate the locations of these leaks. In particular, ethane and propane are frequently co-emitted with methane, and can be used to identify the specific equipment responsible for a downwind plume. We have previously demonstrated rapid measurements of ethane and methane with high sensitivity using high resolution infrared spectroscopy. We will extend this technology to include propane, thereby creating the first high sensitivity, real time gas monitor for this species. The sensor will be able to detect methane with a 1-second sensitivity of


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 124.94K | Year: 2016

Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is an important greenhouse gas, as well as a tracer for stratospheric air mass. We propose to design a miniaturized N2O detector based on direct absorption spectroscopy that is able to be deployed on SIERRA class and Global Hawk UAVs using many of the same functional elements as Aerodyne Research?s commercial mini-QCL trace gas instruments. Achieving this will allow for better source attribution of N2O as well as providing an important tool for understanding mixing processes between the troposphere and stratosphere. Specifically, our proposal calls for exploring two designs for a low-volume in-line multipass absorption cells; passive cooling of the laser and instrument electronics, a simplified low-power electronics design and computer, and low-power vacuum pump. The goal for Phase I will be the successful identification, design, and testing of components that can be integrated into a small UAV-compatible instrument packaged during Phase II.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2016

We propose to develop a highly sensitive and compact RGB DPAS aerosol absorption monitor for NASA's Airborne Measurement Program. It will measure aerosol light absorption simultaneous at three spectral regions: blue, green and red. The proposed measurement technique takes advantage of the current rapid development on high-power semiconductor lasers MEMS microphones. It will eventually weigh less than 25 pounds and consume approximately 300W electrical power. It will also be capable of being remotely controlled and being operated at a variety of sampling pressure conditions for the airborne measurements. Since majority of the electronic and optical components of the proposed system are commercially available except the home-designed acoustic cells, its total manufacturing cost could be less than $20,000 per unit.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY | Award Amount: 224.83K | Year: 2016

This project supports laboratory studies of the chemical evolution of organic carbon in the atmosphere. Research is ongoing to investigate how key properties of organic compounds change as they undergo multiple generations of atmospheric aging. This effort will provide significant insight into the distribution of carbon across species and into the formation of organic aerosol in the atmosphere. This research will help improve current models of air quality and climate change.

The specific scientific objectives of this project are as follows: (1) The development of laboratory approaches and capabilities for chemically characterizing all carbon within a laboratory aging context, using a range of speciated and ensemble techniques; and (2) Application of these approaches to key atmospheric aging systems in order to track the evolution of organic carbon within both the gas and particle phases. Recent advances in the characterization of atmospheric organic species, including traditionally difficult-to-measure species such as multifunctional oxidized VOCs (OVOCs) and semivolatile and intermediate-volatility organic compounds (S/IVOCs), enable carbon closure studies to be carried out in the laboratory for the first time.


Grant
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 750.00K | Year: 2015

We will design, build and test a multi-color (red, green, blue) particle optical extinction monitor suitable for use in either land or airborne applications. The monitor will also contain a fourth measurement cell to allow for real-time subtraction of interferences caused by gas phase interferents such as nitrogen dioxide. The instrument will fit into a rack-mountable box that less than 13" high (7U). Its time response will be less than 2 seconds and its precision (1 sigma) better than 1 inverse megameter in 1 second. The accuracy of the measurements will be within 5% of the values obtained using measurements of polystyrene latex spheres. It will provide user access through serial and/or USB port connections as well as over the Internet. A working unit will be delivered to NASA langley Research Center.

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