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Applied Optoelectronics launches methane sensor

28 Aug 2014

'Highly sensitive' DFB laser range detects CH4, ammonia, hydrogen fluoride and water.

Applied Optoelectronics, Sugar Land, TX, USA, a developer of fiber-optic access network products for the cable broadband, internet data center, and FTTH markets, has launched what it is calling “a revolutionary laser” for methane gas (CH4) sensing applications.

The DFB laser is designed for use in high-precision and low-concentration measurements of methane gas in the atmosphere. Such measurements are increasingly important in the oil and gas industries, coal mining safety, chemical manufacturing, and for greenhouse gas and pipeline monitoring.

The DFB-1XXX-BF-XX-CW-Fx-Hx-N127 laser series has been designed specifically for gas sensing application; besides methane other variants can detect ammonia, hydrogen fluoride and moisture (water vapor). The devices all feature high output power and wide operating temperature range.

Industrial applications

David Chen, AOI’s Director of Product Management, commented ,“Every day we see new applications for fiber-optic based sensor technologies. By offering the laser devices that enable these new sensors, AOI is helping to expand the variety of applications for such sensors and to improve the safety and efficiency of industrial, scientific, and environmental monitors.”

The laser emits at a wavelength of 1653.7nm, which is tuned to correspond to a peak in the near-infrared absorption spectrum of methane gas. By appropriately tuning the wavelength of the laser over this absorption peak, instrument manufacturers can selectively detect the presence and concentration of methane gas, even combined with other chemicals.

Featuring internal temperature stabilization and optical output powers up to 12mW, the new lasers are “building blocks” for instrument manufacturers seeking to build highly sensitive methane detectors. Since the lasers fall within the transmission spectrum of standard optical fibers, it is feasible to locate the laser and its associated electronics remotely from the environment being measured.

AOI's products are typically installed broadband fiber access networks, where they are used in the CATV broadband, internet datacenter, and FTTH markets. The range includes optical networking lasers, components and equipment to tier-1 customers . Besides its corporate headquarters, wafer fab and advanced engineering and production facilities in Texas, the company has engineering and manufacturing facilities in Taipei, Taiwan and Ningbo, China.

‘1 million laser sales’

Earlier in August, the company reported “record revenues” as part of its second quarter 2014 financial results. Highlights included: revenue of $32.7m (up 67% year-on-year, 31% sequentially) and product sales to the key markets of data centers ( $17.9m), CATV ($10.6m), and FTTH ($3.1 m) all significantly improved on 2Q 2013.

Dr. Thompson Lin, Founder and CEO, commented, “We reached a significant milestone in July and shipped over one million lasers year to date, whereas historically, we sold just under one million lasers for the full year. Given the foreseeable growth in laser components in the markets AO serves, we are planning to expand our facility in Texas and add R&D and laser fabrication capacity. We will continue to prudently invest capital to expand manufacturing capacity.”

AO’s non-GAAP net income was $2.4m or $0.15 per diluted share, compared with a net loss of $0.1m in the same quarter last year and net income of $0.8m in the previous quarter. On June 30, 2014, cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments totaled $43.0m. For Q3 2014, the company said it expects: revenue in the range of $35.2m to 36.6m and for the full year, 2014, revenue in the range of $131m to $135m.

About the Author

Matthew Peach is contributing editor to optics.org.

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