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New Infrared Camera Makes Greenhouse Gas Methane Visible

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A team of scientists in Sweden have developed a high tech camera capable of filming methane in the air. Experts believe the new technology can be used to monitor the levels of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere.

In a study featured in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers from Stockholm University and Linköping University detail how they were able to create a hyperspectral infrared camera powerful enough to capture images of methane in the environment.

The rapid and unpredictable increase in greenhouse gases in such as methane has concerned climate scientists for years. The sources of the gas have remained largely a mystery as well.

The creation of the infrared camera, however, allows researchers to measure and closely monitor developments in greenhouse gas levels.

"The camera is very sensitive, which means that the methane is both visible and measurable close to ground level, with much higher resolution than previously," Prof. Magnus Gålfalk, an environment expert from Linköping and lead author of the study, said.

"Being able to measure on a small scale is crucial."

Hyperspectral Infrared Camera

The newly-developed infrared camera measures around 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) long, 45 centimeters (17.7 inches) wide and 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) high. It also weighs at around 35 kilograms (77 pounds).

The researchers have optimized the device to detect and measure dangerous radiation levels the methane absorbs. It can be used to quantify emissions of other locations such as lakes, animal farms, combustion processes and sewage deposits.

The camera measures the level of methane by using pixels in the infrared image to produce a high-resolution spectrum of gases that are present in the environment.

According to the researchers, the revolutionary device is the result of combined efforts from various fields such as engineering, biogeochemistry, environmental sciences and astronomy.

Prof. David Bastviken of Linköping University and one of the researchers involved in the study explained that the hyperspectral infrared camera provides them with opportunities to monitor and map sources and sinks of methane.

It also allows them to have a better understanding on how methane emissions can be regulated and reduced.

While the new device can be operated from the ground, the researchers are now developing a way to use it during large-scale airborne surveys of methane levels.

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