Frequency Combs Help Detect Methane Leaks

An Artist's conception of one of JILA's extreme ultraviolet (EUV) frequency comb. A team of CIRES NOAA, CU Boulder, and NIST scientists have revamped JILA's frequency comb technology to detect methane leaks.

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Brad Baxley / JILA

Frequency combs, a JILA technology both pioneered and perfected by JILA Fellow and Nobel laureate John “Jan” Hall, have found yet another application: quantifying methane leaks as tiny as a quarter of a human exhalation from nearly a mile away.

The new equipment, created by CIRES, NOAA, CU Boulder and NIST scientists, ruggedized Hall’s laser technology. The scientists turned the frequency comb, which is usually at least an optics table wide and very sensitive to thermal fluctuations, into a 19-inch portable unit to tote into the field. The instrument is used to detect methane leaks from oil and gas operations at a fraction of the cost of previous technologies.

More information on this new application of frequency combs can be found on the CIRES website.

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