Global issues such as climate change and energy security have driven rapid growth in renewable energy production - wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, hydro, biofuels and more.

However, logically, each of these methods should deliver a net benefit in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction, so researchers in the United States have employed portable FTIR analysers to study the GHG emissions of biomass production processes. “It would be futile to manufacture biofuels in an attempt to mitigate climate change if the production process created more GHGs than were saved by using biofuels instead of fossil fuels,” says Dr. Joe Storlien from the Texas A&M University Department of Soil & Crop Sciences.

During the production of bioenergy crops, GHGs such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane are lost from the soil through both natural and managed biogeochemical processes, and the researchers were able to measure these gases by installing collars within field study plots. Chambers of known volume were then fixed to the collars, and tubing connected the chambers to a Gasmet DX4030 multiparameter FTIR analyser which measured increases in gas concentrations inside the chambers’ headspaces over time (GHG diffusing out of the soil).

Sensitivity and accuracy are obviously important in gas studies, and these have to be weighed against instrument cost. The Texas workers found that the move to FTIR was advantageous in terms of both performance and cost.  The deployment of a portable FTIR instrument has clearly been a significant benefit to the project team in Texas.

Summarising, Dr. Storlien says, “Due to the versatility of the Gasmet FTIR, we believe there will be numerous projects in the future that will benefit from this technology. I really think that mobile-FTIR could become very popular with researchers, because it does a great job measuring GHGs and helps us understand how humans impact the drivers of global climate change, which is extremely important and a booming area of research.”

The research team included: Drs. Joseph Storlien, Frank Hons, Jason Wight and James Heilman.