New tool measures amount of N2O in the air

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Picarro Inc., a provider of instruments for carbon and water cycle measurements, has expanded its product line with a new, high precision analyzer, model G5101-i, for measuring nitrous oxide (N2O) concentrations and isotopomers in air.

N2O is a principal component in the global nitrogen cycle, which is of growing interest to scientists and policy makers because of its interconnection with natural ecosystems, agriculture, and climate. The G5101-i is an ultra high precision instrument that reliably measures the concentration of nitrous oxide in the air and distinguishes between the two site-specific nitrogen isotopomers, 14N15N16O and 15N14N16O, at a precision better than 0.5 per mil. The ability to precisely measure these isotopomers allows scientists to fingerprint N2O sources and decode critical processes in the nitrogen cycle. The G5101-i completes a line of Picarro's industry leading instruments that enable scientists to easily and accurately measure isotopologues of the four most critical greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), water vapor (H2O), and nitrous oxide (N2O).

As the world's population grows, understanding nitrogen cycles will become increasingly important in managing land, water, and fertilizer usage and combatting global warming. Since 1750, atmospheric N2O levels have risen 20 percent, from below 270 parts per billion (ppb) to more than 320 ppb. Scientists have now determined through isotopic data that the increase in N2O in the atmosphere is directly linked to the increase in fertilizer use.[1] N2O, which is emitted throughout the nitrogen cycle, has 298-times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO2) over a one hundred year period.[2] In addition to its impact on the climate, N2O also destroys stratospheric ozone, which protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet rays.[3]

The G5101-i is of particular value to scientists because it enables them to make stable and precise measurements continuously from the air or from small-volume samples, such as those collected from soil or water extractions. This gives users the flexibility to gather real-time data while in the field or the lab.

"Many of our customers have been eagerly awaiting the release of the G5101-i because it is vital in supporting their research on a number of critical projects," said Michael Woelk, CEO of Picarro. "Developing a stable, high performance mid-IR platform has been both fascinating and challenging for our research and engineering teams because of the complexity of the science involved and because we have very high standards. I'm proud of our team and believe customers will be proud to own this instrument."

The G5101-i is the first analyzer in Picarro's product line that operates in the region of the electromagnetic spectrum that is the mid-infrared range or mid-IR. Advancements in emerging mid-IR quantum cascade laser technology now enable detection of new compounds and isotopes at previously unattainable levels of precision. The G5101-i combines mid-IR lasers and components with Picarro's patented wavelength monitor and patented cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) technology. This convergence of technologies allows trace detection of minute changes in molecular concentration without interference from other common atmospheric molecules, and low drift performance at a level of sensitivity unmatched by traditional absorption-based systems.

Picarro is accepting orders for the G5101-i, for delivery later this year. As with all instruments it ships, Picarro will provide a certificate of compliance with each G5101-i, guaranteeing that every stated performance parameter has been tested and verified, including specifications on precision, drift, shock, vibration, thermal sensitivity, gas flow rate, and measurement rate.

Picarro's full line of analyzers are operating in 58 countries in diverse scientific and industrial applications, including air quality, atmospheric science, greenhouse gas measurement, energy exploration, food traceability, gas leak detection, hydrology, oceanography, and others. The major environmental and isotope networks around the world use Picarro analyzers, some with networks comprised of hundreds of instruments, including Earth Networks, CMA in China, ICOS in Europe, NEON, WMO-GAW, and INFLUX. Picarros are the analyzers of choice among leading scientists at world-class institutions, including Harvard, Nanjing, and Stanford Universities; Australia's CSIRO, the China Meteorological Administration, LSCE, NASA, and NOAA; top government regulatory agencies, including the German, Irish, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies; and in industrial applications by Alcan, Eli Lilly, Pacific Gas and Electric, and Waste Management, Inc.

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