Abstract

We describe the implementation of a mid-infrared laser-based trace gas sensor with a photoreaction chamber, used for reproducing chemical transformations of benzene, toluene, and p-xylene (BTX) gases that may occur in the atmosphere. The system performance was assessed in the presence of photoreaction products including aerosol particles. A mid-infrared external cavity quantum cascade laser (EC-QCL)—tunable from 9.419.88μm (10121063cm1)—was used to monitor gas phase concentrations of BTX simultaneously and in real time during chemical processing of these compounds with hydroxyl radicals in a photoreaction chamber. Results are compared to concurrent measurements using ultraviolet differential optical absorption spectroscopy (UV DOAS). The EC-QCL based system provides quantitation limits of approximately 200, 200, and 600 parts in 109 (ppb) for benzene, toluene, and p-xylene, respectively, which represents a significant improvement over our previous work with this laser system. Correspondingly, we observe the best agreement between the EC-QCL measurements and the UV DOAS measurements with benzene, followed by toluene, then p-xylene. Although BTX gas-detection limits are not as low for the EC-QCL system as for UV DOAS, an unidentified by-product of the photoreactions was observed with the EC-QCL, but not with the UV DOAS system.

© 2011 Optical Society of America

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