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Technology from INESC Porto measures C02 in the atmosphere from space

INESC Porto developed a technology, together with ESA – European Space Agency, that enables a more effective measurement of gases in the atmosphere comparatively to the currently used techniques. With this technology, it will be possible to measure gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone – the gases responsible for global warming and greenhouse effects. The system developed by INESC Porto’s Optoelectronics and Electronic System Unit (UOSE) has a high potential of applicability in satellites due to its efficiency, compactness and reduced volume and mass. The satellites equipped with INESC Porto’s optical fibre filters will be able to detect pollutant gases in the Earth’s atmosphere in concentrations less than 1 km high, at an altitude of 400 km.

The partnership between INESC Porto and ESA started in 2006 and is now showing its first signs of success with the development of an optical fibre filter that is capable of measuring carbon dioxide levels from space. Other than carbon dioxide, this technology is capable of providing a precise measurement of other pollutant gases, such as methane gas, nitrous oxide and ozone, besides measuring levels of humidity, atmospheric pressure, temperature and wind speed. Thus, this is an essential tool made in Portugal for research on climate change, a step forward to the control of greenhouse gases in the battle against global warming.

If it is applied to satellites, the filter developed by INESC Porto is capable of monitoring all kinds of pollutant gas concentrations less than 1 km high, 50 km wide, at an altitude of 400 km. Unlike what the currently used technologies – atmospheric balloons and airplanes equipped for that purpose –provide, with the filters created by INESC Porto, it will be possible to map the atmosphere three-dimensionally, with a higher resolution and from a single position. The technology’s potential of application in orbital systems and scientific missions has to do with its unique features: efficiency, compactness and reduced volume and mass.

The technology developed by INESC Porto consists of an ultra-narrow spectral tuneable and heat-reflecting filter based on optical fibre technology that can be used in order to monitor the atmosphere with the reflection of laser impulses. Using the radiation’s time of flight and absorption, it will be possible to extract profiles of pollutant gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Joana Ferreira
Communication Service| Media Advisory
INESC Porto
Tel. +351 22 2094214
E-mail assessoria.imprensa@inescporto.pt