P&IT: What’s next?

Gålfalk: We’ll improve the models, I think, to detect any lower emissions in natural environments. It will be nice to get the camera airborne, to have it on a helicopter a few hundred meters above the ground. Then, you would have the lake as a background. A lake would be really nice because the reflection from water is almost zero when viewed from above. When you view from the side, there’s a lot of reflection in the water.

P&IT: Aside from the methane detection, what other uses are possible?

Gålfalk: The camera can detect nitrous oxide. That is another step that we’re working on. We concentrate on the small wavelength range, to make the camera as sensitive as possible. We don’t want to detect lots of gases; rather, we want to detect one gas really well. So we concentrate on a narrow spectral band centered on 7.7 microns. It just happens that nitrous oxide can also be detected in this range.

P&IT: How did the development of this technology come about?

Gålfalk: My background is in astronomy. In astronomy, you have to see through the methane to look at the stars; you have to remove the methane from all the imaging and account for that. We have experience in detecting methane and removing it and modeling it. There was a collaborative effort between astronomy and biogeochemistry to detect methane in as sensitive a way as possible.

The camera was customized for us by the Canadian company Telops based on our specifications and our idea. We then developed the method to detect and measure methane in the environment.

P&IT: What do you think is most exciting about this kind of instrument?

Gålfalk: I think it’s exciting that you can get movies from it. You see the air in motion. If you find the source, you’re not just flying over it and taking a snapshot. You can see the air moving, and the turbulence, and measure the speed of the air. Combining that with the concentrations, you can see the flux.

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