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Title: Remote Chemical Detection using Quantum Cascade Lasers

Abstract

The Infrared Technologies Program at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is focused on the science and technology of remote and in-situ chemical sensors for detecting proliferation and countering terrorism. The program is focusing on the infrared detection of gaseous species including chemical warfare agents and gases associated with the production of chemical and nuclear weapons. Several sensors under development are based on miniature infrared quantum cascade (QC) lasers constructed of semiconductor material. The QC laser is unique in that by simply changing the thickness of the semiconductor layers, the laser's wavelength can be changed to target molecular absorption features of specific chemicals. For remote sensing over long optical paths, QC lasers are applied to remote areas using the differential-absorption LIDAR technique. Using a single laser, this technique can easily monitor large areas that would require a large network of point sensors. The original remote sensing configuration, suitable for laboratory applications, consisted of an optical table, laser, beam expander, telescope, mirror, and various supporting electronic and optical components. Recently, PNNL began development of a ruggedized version to conduct experiments in real-world conditions. To reduce the effects of thermal distortion, the system had to be operated from within a large, wellmore » insulated, temperature-controlled trailer. The optical breadboard was attached to 4 shock-mounts to reduce shock and vibrational loads to the optical set-up during transport. A custom jacking system using electromechanical actuators was designed to affix the optical table directly to the ground through penetrations in the trailer floor. The jacking system allows remote sensing at longer ranges (up to 5 km) by eliminating jitter caused by wind or personnel movement within the trailer. A computer-controlled gimbal-mounted mirror was added to allow the laser beam to be accurately pointed in both the vertical and horizontal plane. Mechanical tests and finite element analysis were undertaken to verify that the gimbal drives and mounting hardware had sufficient capacity to handle the inertia of the large 22-inch diameter mirror while maintaining adequate mirror flatness. This paper will provide an overview of the remote chemical detection system and will describe innovative optical mechanical solutions developed to overcome several alignment and stability issues.« less

Authors:
; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
899817
Report Number(s):
PNNL-SA-47429
NN2001000; TRN: US200708%%548
DOE Contract Number:
AC05-76RL01830
Resource Type:
Conference
Resource Relation:
Conference: 1st Joint Emergency Preparedness and Response/Robotic and Remote Systems Topical Meeting, 695-701
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
45 MILITARY TECHNOLOGY, WEAPONRY, AND NATIONAL DEFENSE; 36 MATERIALS SCIENCE; ABSORPTION; CHEMICAL WARFARE AGENTS; DETECTION; GASES; LASERS; MECHANICAL TESTS; NUCLEAR WEAPONS; OPTICAL RADAR; PROLIFERATION; REMOTE AREAS; REMOTE SENSING; SEMICONDUCTOR MATERIALS

Citation Formats

Hatchell, Brian K., Harper, Warren W., and Gervais, Kevin L. Remote Chemical Detection using Quantum Cascade Lasers. United States: N. p., 2006. Web.
Hatchell, Brian K., Harper, Warren W., & Gervais, Kevin L. Remote Chemical Detection using Quantum Cascade Lasers. United States.
Hatchell, Brian K., Harper, Warren W., and Gervais, Kevin L. Wed . "Remote Chemical Detection using Quantum Cascade Lasers". United States. doi:.
@article{osti_899817,
title = {Remote Chemical Detection using Quantum Cascade Lasers},
author = {Hatchell, Brian K. and Harper, Warren W. and Gervais, Kevin L.},
abstractNote = {The Infrared Technologies Program at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is focused on the science and technology of remote and in-situ chemical sensors for detecting proliferation and countering terrorism. The program is focusing on the infrared detection of gaseous species including chemical warfare agents and gases associated with the production of chemical and nuclear weapons. Several sensors under development are based on miniature infrared quantum cascade (QC) lasers constructed of semiconductor material. The QC laser is unique in that by simply changing the thickness of the semiconductor layers, the laser's wavelength can be changed to target molecular absorption features of specific chemicals. For remote sensing over long optical paths, QC lasers are applied to remote areas using the differential-absorption LIDAR technique. Using a single laser, this technique can easily monitor large areas that would require a large network of point sensors. The original remote sensing configuration, suitable for laboratory applications, consisted of an optical table, laser, beam expander, telescope, mirror, and various supporting electronic and optical components. Recently, PNNL began development of a ruggedized version to conduct experiments in real-world conditions. To reduce the effects of thermal distortion, the system had to be operated from within a large, well insulated, temperature-controlled trailer. The optical breadboard was attached to 4 shock-mounts to reduce shock and vibrational loads to the optical set-up during transport. A custom jacking system using electromechanical actuators was designed to affix the optical table directly to the ground through penetrations in the trailer floor. The jacking system allows remote sensing at longer ranges (up to 5 km) by eliminating jitter caused by wind or personnel movement within the trailer. A computer-controlled gimbal-mounted mirror was added to allow the laser beam to be accurately pointed in both the vertical and horizontal plane. Mechanical tests and finite element analysis were undertaken to verify that the gimbal drives and mounting hardware had sufficient capacity to handle the inertia of the large 22-inch diameter mirror while maintaining adequate mirror flatness. This paper will provide an overview of the remote chemical detection system and will describe innovative optical mechanical solutions developed to overcome several alignment and stability issues.},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Wed Feb 01 00:00:00 EST 2006},
month = {Wed Feb 01 00:00:00 EST 2006}
}

Conference:
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  • A trailer based sensor system has been developed for remote chemical sensing applications. The sensor uses quantum cascade lasers (QCL) that operate in the long wave infrared. The QCL is operated continuous wave, and its wavelength is both ramped over a molecular absorption feature and frequency modulated. Lock-in techniques are used to recover weak laser return signals. Field experiments have monitored ambient water vapor and small quantities of nitrous oxide, tetrafluoroethane (R134a), and hydrogen sulfide released as atmospheric plumes. Round trip path lengths up to 10 km were obtained using a retro-reflector. Atmospheric turbulence was found to be the dominatingmore » noise source. It causes intensity fluctuations in the received power, which can significantly degrade the sensor performance. Unique properties associated with QCLs enabled single beam normalization techniques to be implemented thus reducing the impact that turbulence has on experimental signal to noise. Weighted data averaging was additionally used to increase the signal to noise of data traces. Absorbance sensitivities as low as {approx}1 x 10{sup -4} could be achieved with 5 seconds of data averaging, even under high turbulence conditions.« less
  • Spectroscopic chemical sensing research at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is focused on developing advanced sensors for detecting the production of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons; use of chemical weapons; or the presence of explosives, firearms, narcotics, or other contraband of significance to homeland security in airports, cargo terminals, public buildings, or other sensitive locations. For most of these missions, the signature chemicals are expected to occur in very low concentrations, and in mixture with ambient air or airborne waste streams that contain large numbers of other species that may interfere with spectroscopic detection, or be mistaken for signatures ofmore » illicit activity. PNNL’s emphasis is therefore on developing remote and sampling sensors with extreme sensitivity, and resistance to interferents, or selectivity. PNNL’s research activities include: 1. Identification of signature chemicals and quantification of their spectral characteristics, 2. Identification and development of laser and other technologies that enable breakthroughs in sensitivity and selectivity, 3. Development of promising sensing techniques through experimentation and modeling the physical phenomenology and practical engineering limitations affecting their performance, and 4. Development and testing of data collection methods and analysis algorithms. Close coordination of all aspects of the research is important to ensure that all parts are focused on productive avenues of investigation. Close coordination of experimental development and numerical modeling is particularly important because the theoretical component provides understanding and predictive capability, while the experiments validate calculations and ensure that all phenomena and engineering limitations are considered.« less
  • Research done by the IR sensors team at PNNL is focused on developing advanced spectroscopic methods for detecting signatures of nuclear, chemical, biological and explosives weapons or weapons production. The sensors we develop fall into two categories: remote sensors that can be operated at distances ranging from 150 m to 10 km, and point sensors that are used for in-situ inspection and detection. FY03 has seen an explosion in FM DIAL progress with the net result being solid confirmation that FM DIAL is a technique capable of remote chemical monitoring in a wide variety of venues. For example, FM DIALmore » was used to detect a small plume of hydrogen sulfide, a candidate CW agent, released in the desert environment of the Hanford 200 Area site. These experiments were conducted over a range of physical conditions including outside temperatures ranging from 70 F to 105 F and turbulence conditions ranging from quiescent to chaotic. We are now rapidly developing the information needed to design prototype FM DIAL systems that are optimized for specific applications that include scenarios such as fixed position stand-off detection and mobile UAV mounted remote monitoring. Just as an example, in FY04 we will use FM DIAL to detect both in-facility and outdoor release of enriched UF6. The rapid progress in FM DIAL research made in FY03 is attributed to several advances. First, final construction of a custom-designed trailer allowed the instrument to be housed in a mobile temperature-controlled environment. This allowed the experiment to be transported to several locations so that data could be collected under a range of physical conditions. This has led to a better understanding of a variety of experimental noise sources. With this knowledge, we have been able to implement several changes in the way the FM DIAL data is collected and processed, with the net result being a drastic improvement in our confidence of analyte concentration measurement and an improvement i n the instrument detection limit. The range of chemicals detectable by FM DIAL has also been extended. Prior to FY03 only water and nitrous oxide (N2O) had been seen. Experiments on extending the tuning range of the quantum cascade laser (QCL) currently used in the experiments demonstrate that many more species are now accessible including H2S, C2F4H2, and CH4. We additionally demonstrated that FM DIAL measurements can be made using short wave infrared (SWIR) telecommunications lasers. While measurements made using these components are noisier because turbulence and particulate matter cause more interference in this spectral region, monitoring in this region enables larger species to be detected simply because these lasers have a greater tuning range. In addition, SWIR monitoring also allows for the detection of second-row hydride species such as HF and HCl, which are important nuclear and CWA proliferation signatures.« less
  • Quantum cascade lasers (QCL) offer many desirable attributes as mid-infrared laser sources for chemical and remote sensing. Some key advantages are a narrow linewidth, wide bandwidth current modulation characteristics and moderate tunability (15 cm-1). Combined, these characteristics allow for applications to a wide variety of chemical and remote sensing techniques such as wavelength and frequency modulation based detection techniques, cavity enhanced point sensors as well as techniques such as LIDAR and DIAL. This paper will describe laser development efforts to enhance QCL frequency stabilization and QCL injection locking and to develop robust external cavity QCL designs.
  • The goal of our project was to examine a novel quantum cascade laser design that should inherently increase the output power of the laser while simultaneously providing a broad tuning range. Such a laser source enables multiple chemical species identification with a single laser and/or very broad frequency coverage with a small number of different lasers, thus reducing the size and cost of laser based chemical detection systems. In our design concept, the discrete states in quantum cascade lasers are replaced by minibands made of multiple closely spaced electron levels. To facilitate the arduous task of designing miniband-to-miniband quantum cascademore » lasers, we developed a program that works in conjunction with our existing modeling software to completely automate the design process. Laser designs were grown, characterized, and iterated. The details of the automated design program and the measurement results are summarized in this report.« less