Articles | Volume 9, issue 12
Research article
15 Dec 2016
Research article |  | 15 Dec 2016

The AOTF-based NO2 camera

Emmanuel Dekemper, Jurgen Vanhamel, Bert Van Opstal, and Didier Fussen

Abstract. The abundance of NO2 in the boundary layer relates to air quality and pollution source monitoring. Observing the spatiotemporal distribution of NO2 above well-delimited (flue gas stacks, volcanoes, ships) or more extended sources (cities) allows for applications such as monitoring emission fluxes or studying the plume dynamic chemistry and its transport. So far, most attempts to map the NO2 field from the ground have been made with visible-light scanning grating spectrometers. Benefiting from a high retrieval accuracy, they only achieve a relatively low spatiotemporal resolution that hampers the detection of dynamic features.

We present a new type of passive remote sensing instrument aiming at the measurement of the 2-D distributions of NO2 slant column densities (SCDs) with a high spatiotemporal resolution. The measurement principle has strong similarities with the popular filter-based SO2 camera as it relies on spectral images taken at wavelengths where the molecule absorption cross section is different. Contrary to the SO2 camera, the spectral selection is performed by an acousto-optical tunable filter (AOTF) capable of resolving the target molecule's spectral features.

The NO2 camera capabilities are demonstrated by imaging the NO2 abundance in the plume of a coal-fired power plant. During this experiment, the 2-D distribution of the NO2 SCD was retrieved with a temporal resolution of 3 min and a spatial sampling of 50 cm (over a 250 × 250 m2 area). The detection limit was close to 5 × 1016 molecules cm−2, with a maximum detected SCD of 4 × 1017 molecules cm−2. Illustrating the added value of the NO2 camera measurements, the data reveal the dynamics of the NO to NO2 conversion in the early plume with an unprecedent resolution: from its release in the air, and for 100 m upwards, the observed NO2 plume concentration increased at a rate of 0.75–1.25 g s−1. In joint campaigns with SO2 cameras, the NO2 camera could also help in removing the bias introduced by the NO2 interference with the SO2 spectrum.

Short summary
We present a spectral imager capable of measuring the 2-D distribution of NO2 above well-delimited emission sources (power plant, city, etc.) with an unprecedent spatiotemporal resolution. Tests at a coal-fired power plant demonstrated its capability to observe dynamic processes such as the conversion from NO to NO2 in the early plume. Potential applications are pollution sources monitoring, reactive plume chemistry models validation, ships and volcanic emissions tracking, etc.