Scientific Results

Molecular gas sensing below parts per trillion: radiocarbon-dioxide optical detection

Year: 2011

Authors: Galli I., Bartalini S., Borri S., Cancio P., Mazzotti D., De Natale P., Giusfredi G.

Autors Affiliation: Istituto Nazionale di Ottica CNR, I-50019 Sesto Fiorentino, Italy; European Laboratory for Non-Linear Spectroscopy (LENS), I-50019 Sesto Fiorentino, Italy

Abstract: Radiocarbon ((14)C) concentrations at a 43 parts-per-quadrillion level are measured by using saturated-absorption cavity ringdown spectroscopy by exciting radiocarbon-dioxide ((14)C(16)O(2)) molecules at the 4.5 mu m wavelength. The ultimate sensitivity limits of molecular trace gas sensing are pushed down to attobar pressures using a comb-assisted absorption spectroscopy setup. Such a result represents the lowest pressure ever detected for a gas of simple molecules. The unique sensitivity, the wide dynamic range, the compactness, and the relatively low cost of this table-top setup open new perspectives for (14)C-tracing applications, such as radiocarbon dating, biomedicine, or environmental and earth sciences. The detection of other very rare molecules can be pursued as well thanks to the wide and continuous mid-IR spectral coverage of the described setup.

Journal/Review: PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS

Volume: 107 (27)      Pages from: 270802  to: 270802

More Information: We thank V. Perevalov, V.E. Zuev Institute of Atmospheric Optics-Russian Academy of Science, for calculating molecular data and M. Fedi, University of Firenze and INFN, for discussions about AMS dating. We gratefully acknowledge Michele Giusfredi for his support in the 2010 CO2 gas preparation. This work was partially supported by Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze and by Regione Toscana through the project CTOTUS, in the framework of POR-CReO 2007-2013.
KeyWords: Cavity ring-down spectroscopy; Low costs; Molecular gas; Optical detection; Parts per trillion; Radiocarbon dating; Rare molecules; Sensitivity limit; Spectral coverage; Table-top; Trace-gas sensing; Wide dynamic range, Chemical detection; Gas detectors; Molecules, Gas absorption
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.270802

Citations: 103
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