Advanced Spectrometer for Methane Detection

Advanced Spectrometer for Methane Detection

Durham, North Carolina
Project Term:
05/14/2015 - 11/13/2019

Critical Need:

The recent expansion of domestic natural gas production, particularly from shale resources, has improved the economic, security, and environmental outlook of our nation’s energy portfolio. Unfortunately, at least 2% of this gas resource is wasted through leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas, at production sites. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) if emitted directly to the atmosphere, and methane emissions from natural gas development may undermine the climate benefits of using lower carbon natural gas for power generation. Existing methane monitoring devices have limited ability to cost-effectively, consistently, and precisely locate and quantify the rate of methane emissions. Affordable sensing systems would enable more effective methane mitigation programs, which could lead to a reduction in overall methane emissions and more efficient extraction and use of domestic energy resources.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Duke University, in conjunction with its partners, will build a coded aperture miniature mass spectrometer environmental sensor (CAMMS-ES) for use in a methane monitoring system. The team will also develop search, location, and characterization algorithms. Duke will apply its recent innovations in mass spectrometers to increase the throughput of the spectrometer, providing continuous sampling without diminishing its resolution by integrating spatially coded apertures and corresponding reconstruction algorithms. The coded aperture will also provide advanced specificity and sensitivity for methane detection and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with natural gas production. Duke’s innovations could provide low-cost, advanced sensors to localize and characterize methane and VOC emissions, helping to accelerate detection and mitigation of methane and VOC emissions at natural gas sites.

Potential Impact:

If successful, Duke’s methane sensors could be a useful component of more cost-effective and accurate methane monitoring systems for natural gas producers.


Better methane detection technologies could improve the sustainability of domestic natural gas production and the safety of operations.


Enhanced detection sensors could enable greater mitigation of methane leakage and lead to an overall reduction in harmful methane emissions associated with natural gas development.


Duke’s design could decrease the costs of methane detection and help accelerate the adoption of monitoring programs at the nation’s more than 480,000 producing natural gas wells.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Joseph King
Project Contact:
Prof. Jeffrey Glass
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


RTI International Metals, Inc.

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