Optical Sensors for Methane Detection

Default ARPA-E Project Image

Lincoln, Nebraska
Project Term:
05/15/2015 - 08/12/2017

Technology Description:

LI-COR Biosciences is working with Colorado State University (CSU) and Gener8 to develop cost-effective, highly sensitive optical methane sensors that can be integrated into mobile or stationary methane monitoring systems. Their laser-based sensor utilizes optical cavity techniques, which provide long path lengths and high methane sensitivity and selectivity, but previously have been costly. The team will employ a novel sensor design developed in parallel with advanced manufacturing techniques to enable a substantial cost reduction. The sensors are expected to provide exceptional long-term stability, enabling robust, unattended field deployment and further reducing total cost-of-ownership. CSU will test representative sensor prototypes and demonstrate the sensor’s application to leak detection and quantification. The team’s proposed sensor could decrease the expense of today’s monitoring technologies and encourage widespread adoption of methane monitoring and mitigation at natural gas wellpads.

Potential Impact:

If successful, LI-COR’s low-cost sensor will be a valuable 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.


LI-COR’s design will be less expensive to manufacture and therefore could help lower the cost of methane monitoring.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Eric Schiff
Project Contact:
Dr. Mark Johnson
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:

Related Projects

Release Date: