Abstract

Accurate path length measurements in absorption cells are recurrent requirements in quantitative molecular absorption spectroscopy. A new twin path laser interferometer for length measurements in a simple direct path absorption geometry is presented, along with a full uncertainty budget. The path in an absorption cell is determined by measuring the optical path length change due to the diminution of the refractive index when the cell originally filled with nitrogen gas is evacuated. The performance of the instrument based on a stabilized HeNe laser is verified by comparison with the results of direct mechanical length measurements of a roughly 45 mm long, specially designed absorption cell. Due to a resolution of about 1/300 of a HeNe fringe, an expanded (coverage factor k=2) uncertainty of 16 μm in the length measurement is achieved, providing an expanded relative uncertainty of 3.6·104 for the length of our test absorption cell. This value is about 8 times lower than what has been reported previously. The instrument will be useful for precision measurements of absorption cross sections of strong absorbers which require short light paths, such as ozone, halogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds in the UV.

© 2016 Optical Society of America

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