Articles | Volume 4, issue 10
Research article
21 Oct 2011
Research article |  | 21 Oct 2011

The "Lung": a software-controlled air accumulator for quasi-continuous multi-point measurement of agricultural greenhouse gases

R. J. Martin, A. M. Bromley, M. J. Harvey, R. C. Moss, E. Pattey, and D. Dow

Abstract. We describe the design and testing of a flexible bag ("Lung") accumulator attached to a gas chromatographic (GC) analyzer capable of measuring surface-atmosphere greenhouse gas exchange fluxes in a wide range of environmental/agricultural settings. In the design presented here, the Lung can collect up to three gas samples concurrently, each accumulated into a Tedlar bag over a period of 20 min or longer. Toggling collection between 2 sets of 3 bags enables quasi-continuous collection with sequential analysis and discarding of sample residues. The Lung thus provides a flexible "front end" collection system for interfacing to a GC or alternative analyzer and has been used in 2 main types of application. Firstly, it has been applied to micrometeorological assessment of paddock-scale N2O fluxes, discussed here. Secondly, it has been used for the automation of concurrent emission assessment from three sheep housed in metabolic crates with gas tracer addition and sampling multiplexed to a single GC.

The Lung allows the same GC equipment used in laboratory discrete sample analysis to be deployed for continuous field measurement. Continuity of measurement enables spatially-averaged N2O fluxes in particular to be determined with greater accuracy, given the highly heterogeneous and episodic nature of N2O emissions. We present a detailed evaluation of the micrometeorological flux estimation alongside an independent tuneable diode laser system, reporting excellent agreement between flux estimates based on downwind vertical concentration differences. Whilst the current design is based around triplet bag sets, the basic design could be scaled up to a larger number of inlets or bags and less frequent analysis (longer accumulation times) where a greater number of sampling points are required.