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Published on December 2nd, 2015 | by Glenn Meyers


Advanced Infrared Camera Can Photograph Methane

December 2nd, 2015 by  

A new camera has eliminated the guesswork about where greenhouse gases are being emitted. It can photograph and film methane.

This technology has been released by a team of researchers from Linköping and Stockholm Universities who have demonstrated how this remarkably advanced camera can record methane in the air around us.

Importantly, this technological advance can play an important role in global efforts to measure and monitor greenhouse gases.

camera shoots methane inventors104304_web

David Bastviken and Magnus Galfalk

According to a press announcement, the camera has been developed by a team that combined knowledge from many different fields of expertise, including astronomy, biogeochemistry, engineering and environmental sciences.

“This gives us new possibilities for mapping and monitoring methane sources and sinks, and it will help us understand how methane emissions are regulated and how we can reduce emissions,” said David Bastviken, Linköping University professor at Tema Environmental Change,  and principal project investigator. “So far the camera has been used from the ground and now we’re working to make it airborne for more large-scale methane mapping,”

So much for the dubious notion, “If you can’t see it, it’s not there.” Now it will be visible for all to see.

The news release reports several questions surround the powerful greenhouse gas methane, including its rapid but irregular increase in the atmosphere. There is also considerable uncertainty regarding methane sources and sinks in the landscape.

The new camera may help address these issues. The utility of the camera to both photograph and film methane has been demonstrated in a study that was recently published in Nature Climate Change.

“The camera is very sensitive, which means that the methane is both visible and measurable close to ground level, with much higher resolution,” said Magnus Gålfalk, Assistant Professor at Tema Environmental Change, Linköping University, who led the study.

The hyperspectral infrared camera weighs 35 kilos and measures 50 x 45 x 25 centimeters. It is optimized to measure the same radiation that methane absorbs, and which makes methane such a powerful greenhouse gas.

The camera can be used to measure emissions from many environments including sewage sludge deposits, combustion processes, animal husbandry, and lakes. For each pixel in the image the camera records a high-resolution spectrum, which makes it possible to quantify the methane separately from the other gases.

Longstanding complaints of methane leaks from natural gas production and distribution can also be recorded. It will be very interesting to report on the results.

Image via Linkoping University

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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he’s been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

  • turnkey58190

    How is this different from infrared optical gas imaging? It’s been around for several years; new EPA proposal for methane even recommends using OGI.

  • Glenn Meyers

    Yes, the video is quite impre4ssive!

  • Martin

    Question: when will the fracking companies want to buy this and burry it.

  • Tom Capon

    Would be nice if the press release had contained a sample image produced by the camera, but nothing we can do about that…

  • Who Dunnit?

    Burrito nights will never again be the same…

    • Calamity_Jean

      How unfartunate.

  • Tim

    I live in Manhattan and I believe it is leaking methane like a sieve. Most buildings here have switched to nat gas for heat over the past two or three years and ConEd has botched the job all along the way with wrong sized fittings and poor equipment. If you listen closely at night when the city quiets down, you can hear buildings hissing all around you. Plus a couple of buildings flat out blew up from nat gas leaks.

    • Glenn Meyers

      Repairing our pipeline infrastructure is a huge challenge!

      • Bob_Wallace

        But necessary.

        Someone has designed a robot that can crawl the inside of gas mains and detect links. I think they have a repair function as well, but not sure about that.

        • Tim

          Back in the 90’s, a company called WilTel was born from the Williams gas company which had pipelines all over the Midwest. A pink ballon with fiber attached to its tail affectionately called a pig was sent through with forced air. In this way thousands of miles of telco and data fiber were run at almost no cost. Overnight, WilTel became the fourth largest long distance carrier by volume in the US.

          I wonder what the repair robot crawling around the gas pipelines beneath us is called.

  • Bob_Wallace

    We’ve already had the ability to detect and measure methane/NG leaks. Perhaps this is an improvement. The graphic below shows the leaks in a section of Boston performed with earlier technology.

    • Nolan Thiessen

      As I understand it, this is more of a visual way to find methane. Yes, we have ways to measure the concentration at a point, and multiple measurements can be stitched together via software to create maps like you showed. But actually being able to see the methane in real time is far better. Much like how using an IR camera to see heat leaks from houses is better than trying to use multiple thermometers around the outside of the house.

  • Marion Meads

    It would be most precise if they can mount the cameras on drones and used for monitoring emissions and they can accurately quantify it.

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