At least 250 potentially hazardous and invariably smelly organic gases, ranging from acetaldehyde to p-xylene, can be detected by a new telescopic instrument developed in the US.
The RAM2000, developed with US defence industry funding for environmental monitoring at industrial and chemical plants, is available in the UK from Kent-based firm Sartec. It is selling the equipment as a wide-area environmental monitoring system in place of less reliable methods based on engineering calculations.
The instrument can be programmed to scan and detect chemicals up to 500m away. It can measure concentrations between 0.1 and 15 parts per billion for most infrared-active chemicals.
It works by transmitting an infrared light beam every five minutes to two reflectors. The amount of the compounds absorbed by the light beam is then analysed to determine the type and amount of organic material present.
A meteorological station collects other data such as wind speed and direction. This is processed by RMMSoft software to produce a weather model which can be used to modify, and even anticipate, the impact on emissions levels.
The software allows for the archiving and management of data, making it admissible as legal evidence.