A mid-infrared laser-based sensor is reported for the quantification of fugitive methane emissions. The sensor is based on a distributed feedback inter-band cascade laser operating near 3.3 μm. Wavelength tuning with cepstral analysis is employed to isolate methane absorbance from (1) fluctuations in the baseline laser intensity, and (2) interfering species. Cepstral analysis creates a modified form of the time-domain molecular free-induction-decay (m-FID) signal to temporally separate optical and molecular responses. The developed sensor is insensitive to baseline laser intensity imperfections and spectral interference from other species. Accurate measurements of methane in the presence of a representative interfering species, benzene, are performed by careful selection of the scan index (ratio of laser tuning range to spectral linewidth) and initial and final time of m-FID signal fitting. The minimum detection limit of the sensor is ~ 110 ppm which can be enhanced with an optical cavity. The proposed sensing strategy can be utilized to measure methane leaks in harsh environments and in the presence of interfering species in environment-monitoring applications.
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