High-tech camera allows us to see invisible methane gas

The camera is tested at a lake west of Vanersborg, Sweden(Credit: Linköping University)

Although methane is one of the most potent of the greenhouses gases, scientists still aren't entirely clear on all of its ground-based sources. That's why researchers from Sweden's Linköping and Stockholm universities have created a camera that's capable of imaging methane in real time. They say that it could find use in monitoring sources such as sludge deposits, combustion processes, farms and lakes.

The present prototype tips the scales at 35 kg (77 lb), and shoots both stills and video of methane. It's a hyperspectral camera, which means that it can "see" light spectra not visible to the human eye. In its case, it's tuned to image the specific type of infrared radiation that methane is known for absorbing.

While it's not the first methane-detecting camera ever made, the scientists state that it's much more sensitive than anything that has come before. This should make it ideal for detecting the gas even in relatively small amounts.

"This gives us new possibilities for mapping and monitoring methane sources and sinks, and it will help us understand how methane emissions are regulated and how we can reduce emissions," says project leader Prof. David Bastviken, of Linköping University.

The camera has already been used on ground-based studies, and should be soon utilized to conduct aerial surveys. A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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