Wavelength modulation spectroscopy (WMS) and one-tone and two-tone frequency modulation spectroscopy (FMS) are compared by measuring the minimum detectable absorbances achieved using a mid-IR lead-salt diode laser. The range of modulation and detection frequencies spans over 5 orders of magnitude. The best results, absorbances in the low-to-mid 10−7 range in a 1-Hz bandwidth, are obtained by using high-frequency WMS (10-MHz detection frequency) and are limited by detector thermal noise. This sensitivity can provide species detection limits well below 1 part per billion for molecules with moderate line strengths if multiple-pass cells are used. High-frequency WMS is also tested by measuring the absorbance due to tropospheric N2O at 1243.795 cm−1. WMS at frequencies <100 kHz is limited by laser excess (1/f) noise. Both of the FMS methods, which require modulating the laser at frequencies ≥150 MHz, give relatively poor results due to inefficient coupling of the modulation waveform to the laser current. The results obtained agree well with theory. We also discuss the sensitivity limitations due to interference fringes from unintentional étalons and the effectiveness of étalon reduction schemes.
© 1992 Optical Society of AmericaPDF Article