Sensing hydrocarbons with interband cascade lasers and substrate-integrated hollow waveguides
Tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy (TDLAS) is an excellent analytical technique for gas sensing applications. In situ sensing of relevant hydrocarbon gases is of substantial interest for a variety of in-field scenarios including environmental monitoring and process analysis, ideally providing accurate, molecule specific, and rapid information with minimal sampling requirements. Substrate-integrated hollow waveguides (iHWGs) have demonstrated superior properties for gas sensing applications owing to minimal sample volumes required while simultaneously serving as efficient photon conduits. Interband cascade lasers (ICLs) are recently emerging as mid-infrared light sources operating at room temperature, with low power consumption, and providing excellent potential for integration. Thereby, portable and handheld mid-infrared sensing devices are facilitated. Methane (CH4) is among the most frequently occurring, and thus, highly relevant hydrocarbons requiring in situ emission monitoring by taking advantage of its distinct molecular absorption around 3 μm. Here, an efficient combination of iHWGs with ICLs is presented providing a methane sensor calibrated in the range of 100 to 2000 ppmv with a limit of detection at 38 ppmv at the current stage of development. Furthermore, a measurement precision of 0.62 ppbv during only 1 s of averaging time has been demonstrated, thereby rendering this sensor concept useful for in-line and on-site emission monitoring and process control applications.