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Development of a pulsed backscatter-absorption gas-imaging system and its application to the visualization of natural gas leaks

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Abstract

The design and evaluation of a backscatter-absorption gas-imaging sensor that operates in a pulsed mode is described. It is capable of video visualization of natural gas leaks. Its development was motivated by the need for a methane imaging system to operate at ranges and sensitivities useful to the natural gas industry. The imager employs pulsed laser illumination at a repetition rate of 30 Hz and an average power of ∼150 mW to image gas at standoff ranges of as long as 100 m, using a backscatter target with a reflectivity of 0.016 sr-1. This is a tenfold improvement over an earlier raster-scanned imager. Natural gas leaks as small as 1.6 × 10-4 standard liters/s [equal to 0.02 standard cubic feet per hour (scfh)] were imaged at short ranges; leaks as low as 7.9 × 10-4 standard liters/s (0.1 scfh) were observed at long ranges. Data are compared with model predictions, and potential extensions to a fieldable prototype are discussed. The optimization of a direct-injection focal-plane array for detecting short (nanosecond) laser pulses is described.

© 1998 Optical Society of America

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