In a perfect world, all landfills would have methane capture technology in place so that clean energy could be made from our waste and the greenhouse gas that is produced from rotting material wouldn't make it into the atmosphere, but the reality is that landfills are currently the source of 2 percent of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions.
Landfills are designed to keep methane from being released, but leaks happen all the time, which not only adds to GHG emissions, but poses a major fire hazard. The current method of hand-placing sensors around suspected leak points is unreliable, so researchers at Sweden's AASS Research Centre at Orebro University have built a robot that can sniff out those leaks.
The robot called Gasbot includes a Tunable Laser Absorption Spectrometer sensor and a GPS device allowing it to move around an environment like a landfill and point its laser around as goes. As it takes measurements of the methane levels around the site, it builds a map that would be read by a technician to monitor methane activity.
In testing, the Gasbot was able to detect artificially created methane in a former landfill and an underground tunnel. The researchers say some tweaking will have to be done before it hits a real landfill though. They plan to make it more rugged to deal with bigger obstacles and upgrade it to operate autonomously for longer periods of time.