UAS Chromatograph for Atmospheric Trace Species

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Chromatograph for Atmospheric Trace Species (UCATS) was designed and built for autonomous operation on remotely piloted aircraft, but has also been used on manned aircraft. It uses chromatography to separate atmospheric trace gases along narrow heated columns, followed by precise and accurate detection with electron capture detectors. There are currently three chromatography channels on UCATS, which measure nitrous oxide (N2O) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6); CFC-11, CFC-12, CFC-113, and halon 1211; and chloroform (CHCl3) and carbon tetrachloride. On an earlier version of UCATS, with only two channels, we also measured methane, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide, along with N2O and SF6. In addition, there is a small ozone instrument and a tunable diode laser instrument for water vapor. Gas is pumped into the instruments from an inlet outside the aircraft, measured, and vented. UCATS has flown on the Altair UAS, the GV during HIPPO, the NASA Global Hawk UAS during the Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) and ATTREX missions, where a record was set for the longest duration research flight (more than 28 hours), the DC-8 for ATom, and the ER-2 for DCOTSS. UCATS is relatively lightweight and compact, making it ideal for smaller platforms, but it is easily adaptable to a mid-size platform like the GV or Global Hawk. The data are used to measure sources and sinks of trace gases involved in climate and air quality, as well as transport through the atmosphere.

UCATS is three different instruments in one enclosure:

1. 3-channel (formerly 2-channel, up until 2020) gas chromatograph (GC)
2. Dual-beam ozone photometer (OZ)
3. Tunable diode laser (TDL) spectrometer for water vapor (WV)

Altair, Global Hawk - AFRC, DC-8 - AFRC, Gulfstream V - NSF, WB-57 - JSC, ER-2 - AFRC
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JPL Mark IV Balloon Interferometer

The MkIV interferometer operates in solar absorption mode, meaning that direct sunlight is spectrally analyzed and the amount of various gases at different heights in the Earth's atmosphere is derived from the shapes and depths of their absorption lines. The optical design of the MkIV interferometer is based largely on that of the ATMOS instrument, which has flown four times on the Space Shuttle. The first three mirrors in the optical path comprise the suntracker. Two of these mirrors are servo-controlled in order to compensate for any angular motion of the observation platform. The subsequent wedged KBr plates, flats, and cube-corner retro-reflectors comprise a double-passed Michelson interferometer, whose function is to impart a wavelength-dependent modulation to the solar beam. This is achieved by sliding one of the retro-reflectors at a uniform velocity so that the recombining beams interfere with each other. A paraboloid then focusses the solar beam onto infrared detectors, which measure the interferometrically modulated solar signal. Finally, Fourier transformation of the recorded detector outputs yields the solar spectrum. An important advantage of the MkIV Interferometer is that by employing a dichroic to feed two detectors in parallel, a HgCdTe photoconductor for the low frequencies (650-1850 cm-1) and a InSb photodiode for the high frequencies (1850-5650 cm-1), the entire mid-infrared region can be observed simultaneously with good linearity and signal-to-noise ratio. In this region over 30 different gases have identifiable spectral signatures including H2O, O3, N2O, CO, CH4, NO, NO2, HNO3, HNO4, N2O5, H2O2, ClNO3, HOCl, HCl, HF, COF2, CF4, SF6, CF2ClCFCl2, CHF2Cl, CF2Cl2, CFCl3, CCl4, CH3Cl, C2H2, C2H6, OCS, HCN, N2, O2, CO2 and many isotopic variants. The last three named gases, having well known atmospheric abundances, are important in establishing the observation geometry of each spectrum, which otherwise can be a major source of uncertainty. Similarly, from analysis of T-sensitive CO2 lines, the temperature profile can be accurately determined. The simultaneity of the observations of all these gases greatly simplifies the interpretation of the results, which are used for testing computer models of atmospheric transport and chemistry, validation of satellite data, and trend determination.

Although the MkIV can measure gas column abundances at any time during the day, the highest sensitivity to atmospheric trace gases is obtained by observing sunrise or sunset from a balloon. The very long (~ 400 km) atmospheric paths traversed by incoming rays in this observation geometry also make this so-called solar occultation technique insensitive to local contamination.

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Balloon, DC-8 - AFRC
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Airborne Chromatograph For Atmospheric Trace Species

ACATS-IV is a 4-channel gas chromatograph with electron capture detection (ECD) that measures a variety of halocarbons and other long-lived trace gases in the stratosphere. The instrument is currently configured to measure CFC-11 (CCl3F), CFC-12 (CCl2F2), CFC-113 (CCl2FCClF2), methyl chloroform (CH3CCl3), carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), halon-1211 (CBrClF2), chloroform (CHCl3), methane (CH4), and hydrogen (H2) every 125 s, and nitrous oxide (N2O) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) every 250 s. Each channel is comprised of a sample loop (2-10 cm3 volume), gas sampling valve (GSV), chromatographic column pair, ECD, electrometer, and several flow, temperature, and pressure controllers. In-flight calibration is carried out every 625 s (1250 s for N2O and SF6) by injecting a dried, whole air standard containing approximately 80% of tropospheric mixing ratios.

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