He and his team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., have developed an automated, lightweight, laser-induced fluorescence device that measures the levels of this difficult-to-measure organic compound in the lower troposphere and then again at much higher altitudes. The primary objective is determining how much pollution a storm can transport through convection and then using those insights to improve chemistry-climate models. "It's a major problem in modeling knowing how to treat transport and clouds," Hanisco explained.
University of Maryland graduate student Heather Arkinson is shown here monitoring the In-Situ Formaldehyde Instrument, which she helped to demonstrate on a NASA DC-8. Credit: NASA
This image shows the new air-sampling system that is more efficient at drawing in air and preventing particles from sticking and potentially contaminating formaldehyde measurements. Credit: NASA
In the spring, he flew the In-Situ Airborne Formaldehyde Instrument for the first time on a NASA DC-8 research aircraft, a former passenger airplane that can fly up to 43,000 feet.
Size and Sensitivity
"People like this instrument because it's small, sensitive, and easy to maintain," said Hanisco. The instrument weighs only 60 pounds, and therefore is easily installed inside other research aircraft, including NASA's ER-2, Global Hawk, and WB57, which fly at much higher altitudes. In addition, it's automated and doesn't require anyone onboard to operate it, Hanisco said.
Prior to its development, only one other airborne instrument could measure formaldehyde. That instrument, however, weighed 600 pounds, required an onboard operator, and used a less-sensitive measurement technique -- absorption spectroscopy -- to gather data.
"I've been doing laser-induced fluorescence on other molecules for a while," Hanisco said, explaining why he sought and received Goddard Internal Research and Development funds to apply the measurement technique to a formaldehyde-sensitive instrument. "Formaldehyde isn't measured well at high altitudes. There was a real need for improvement."
With laser-induced fluorescence (LIF), a laser first illuminates the species of interest and "then you watch it fluoresce. It is a single photon-counting instrument," Hanisco said. Consequently, it's faster and more sensitive -- even at concentrations in the parts per trillion, he said.
The DC-8 campaign in Kansas, sponsored by the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry Project, bore out the wisdom of his pursuit, proving that his instrument offered a factor-of-10 improvement in size, sensitivity, and complexity. During that campaign, a DC-8 flew as low as 500 feet above the ground and sampled air entering a storm. It then spiraled up to 30,000 to 40,000 feet and measured the air coming out at the top of the storm.
'Big Step Forward'
The instrument found that 30 to 40 percent of the formaldehyde produced in the "boundary" layer -- the lowest part of the troposphere closest to Earth's surface -- was transported to the upper troposphere during storms. "That number is a rough guideline, but we didn't have it before. Every storm is different, but knowing how much air gets through is a big step forward."
Hanisco attributes the instrument's success to its greatly simplified design and a new fiber-laser system that is smaller and less expensive than those used in other LIF-type instruments. He also attributes its success to a new air-sampling system, which features a glass- and Teflon-coated tube that draws in and directs air into the instrument's detection cell. Though the polymer-coated sampling system allows air to flow quickly, its surface prevents particles from sticking -- particularly useful because they could corrupt results. "We had to work hard to ensure that the sampling system was every bit as good as the detection," Hanisco said.
Hanisco anticipates many other flight opportunities in the future. "There was a real need for this instrument. There aren't a lot of instruments out there doing this."Tiffany Blackburn
Lori Keesey | EurekAlert!
Gas hydrate research: Advanced knowledge and new technologies
23.03.2018 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data
22.03.2018 | University of Southampton
Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.
The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...
An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.
The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
23.03.2018 | Event News
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences
23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy