Carbon dioxide produced through respiration can accumulate rapidly within closed spaces. If not managed, a crew’s respiratory rate increases, head aches and hyperventilation occur, vision and hearing are affected, and cognitive abilities decrease. Consequently, development continues on a number of CO2 removal technologies for human spacecraft and spacesuits. Terrestrially, technology development requires precise performance characterization to qualify promising air revitalization equipment. Onorbit, instrumentation is required to identify and eliminate unsafe conditions. This necessitates accurate in situ CO2 detection.

Recursive compensation algorithms were developed for subambient detection of CO2 with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) sensors. In addition, the source of the exponential loss in accuracy is developed theoretically. The basis of the loss can be explained through thermal, Doppler, and Lorentz broadening effects that arise as a result of the temperature, pressure, and composition of the gas mixture under analysis.

The objective was to develop a mathematical routine to compensate COTS CO2 sensors relying on NDIR over pressures, temperatures, and compositions far from calibration conditions. The routine relies on a power-law relationship for the pressure dependency of the sensors along with an equivalent pressure to account for the composition dependency. A Newton-Raphson iterative technique solves for actual carbon dioxide concentration based on the reported concentration. Moreover, first principles routines were established to predict mixed-gas spectra based on sensor specifications (e.g., optical path length). The first principles model can be used to parametrically optimize sensors or sensor arrays across a wide variety of pressures/temperatures/compositions.

In this work, heuristic scaling arguments were utilized to develop reasonable compensation techniques. Experimental results confirmed this approach and provided evidence that composition broadening significantly alters spectra when pressure is reduced. Consequently, a recursive compensation technique was developed with the Newton-Raphson method, which was subsequently verified through experimentation.

This work was done by Michael J. Swickrath and Molly S. Anderson of Johnson Space Center, Summer McMillin of Jacobs Technology, and Craig Broerman of Hamilton Sundstrand.