A new infrared camera technology can detect and measure major pollutants like sulfur dioxide, which is the greatest cause of acid rain. The pollutants, which also include CO, NOx, SF6, hydrocarbons and more, are usually invisible to the human eye, but the technology is able to detect them and measure their individual concentrations because they each have a unique infrared signature.
The Universidad Carlos III de Madrid's Laboratorio del Infrarrojo (LIR) developed the camera and says it's better than other devices that exist for detecting these compounds because it can measure them individually in a mix and it can do so from hundreds of meters away and in real time, none of which is possible with any of the other instruments available today.
The camera can be used to detect these pollutants from things like highly polluting vehicles, power plants or industrial chimneys. Especially in industrial and energy production settings, the camera could serve as a monitoring device.
"They can be installed and easily handled by workers in all kinds of factories or industries and can even be part of a permanent monitoring system that automatically activates an alarm when it detects the leak of a specific gas, such as SO2", says the CEO of SENSIA Solutions, a spin-off of the laboratory that has patented the device. "The cost of these systems would not be greater than that of any classic infrared camera, although it may vary based on certain parameters, such as the required detection distance, the concentration or expected time of the gas, among other factors."
The camera could automatically detect leaks or excessive emissions so that companies could make necessary changes to get the pollution in check.
For vehicles, the university says that "studies have shown that only a small proportion of the motor pool is responsible for most of the polluting emissions that are produced by automobiles. Therefore, to reduce the pollution caused by transportation, it is essential to detect and control the offending vehicles; this new generation of infrared cameras could play an important role in this task."
"Due to the device's extreme sensitivity, it is possible to detect even very low levels of emissions, and it can be adapted to the new legal limits that may be set for new models of automobiles in the future," says Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, an LIR scientist.
In India, China and Japan, acid rain is a significant problem due to the fact that the region has the highest amount of SO2 pollution in the world. When moisture in the air mixes with SO2 and nitrogen oxides (both detected by the camera), resulting precipitation comes down as acid rain, which can have major negative impacts to aquatic life, vegetation and corrode marble and limestone infrastructures.
Having technology that can accurately detect and measure these types of pollutants is the first step to being able to stop them at the source.