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Mobile 'DIAL' laser lab to help cut pollution

04 Jun 2014

Truck-mounted lidar system developed at UK's NPL can drive to sites of interest to test emissions.

The Environmental Measurement Group and the Centre for Carbon Measurement at the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have together launched a new laser-based mobile laboratory for the detection and measurement of emissions that are harmful to the environment.

The DIAL (Differential Absorption Lidar) facility provides rapid, accurate measurements of airborne emissions. It is a self-contained mobile lab that can be shipped, or driven, to where it is needed.

NPL's current DIAL system has been used by both regulators and companies to measure leaks from industrial sites, such as the monitoring of oil and gas emissions in Norway, benzene emissions in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and methane leaks from landfill sites for Defra, the UK's Government environmental agency.

The new facility has been built following more than £1 million investment by NPL and support for the underpinning science from the UK Government's National Measurement Office, part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The mobile lab is planned be used around the world to quantify and visualise emissions from industrial sites, informing operational efficiency improvements, reducing losses and supporting research and policy developments. Innovations include greater detection sensitivities that offer more accurate results, and a flexible system that enables operators to switch between the types of pollutants being measured.

New software - quicker results

The service that NPL offers creates 3D emission maps of various pollutants, such as airborne hydrocarbons. With faster deployment, as well as more efficient data manipulation and usage through an improved software system, it delivers results to users more quickly.

Identifying emissions leaks and doing something to prevent them will reduce the environmental impact of the companies that use it, and will also deliver clear commercial benefits; for example, methane has an economic value and preventing methane leaks improves economic performance.

Jane Burston, Head of the NPL Centre for Carbon Measurement, said, "Detecting and quantifying leaks from industrial sites such as refineries, gas terminals and landfills is increasingly important if we are to meet corporate, national and international emissions targets and reduce the environmental impact of industry.

David MacKay, Chief Scientific Advisor at Department for Energy and Climate Change, said, "The UK plays a leading role in emissions monitoring, as can be seen by the demand for NPL's DIAL facility around the world. We still have a way to go to significantly cut emissions, but having a state-of-the-art facility that can provide precise data quickly, is a helpful step towards this goal."

Watch speeches from this week's launch, given by NPL's Director Brian Bowsher and DECC's David MacKay below:

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

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