Thorlabs establishes university lab for gas analysis technology

Thorlabs has opened a new research lab in the physics department at the Technical University in Bari, Italy, which will be used to develop optical gas sensing systems.

The move augments Thorlabs’ current research collaborations with Vincenzo Spagnolo, an expert in optical gas sensing and associate professor at the Technical University in Bari. Spagnolo will serve as the director of the new lab, called PolySense.

To support the new partnership, Thorlabs will provide the necessary instrumentation as well as technical staff and funding for both the research and personnel, while the university will provide the laboratory and office space as well as conduct the research.

The detection and measurement of trace gas concentrations is of importance in a variety of applications, including environmental monitoring of greenhouse gases, disease diagnosis, industrial process control analysis, and detection of toxic and flammable gases. The Spagnolo group has extensive experience with the quartz‐enhanced photoacoustic spectroscopy (QEPAS) technique, which uses a quartz tuning fork (QTF) as a detector for photo‐acoustic signals. Using QEPAS, extremely small concentrations of potentially harmful gases (a few tens of parts per trillion) can be measured.

Starting from the QEPAS technique and employing Thorlabs’ engineering resources and manufacturing expertise, the PolySense lab will aim to design and produce QTF designs, optimised for different operation conditions. These QTFs will be incorporated into jointly‐designed acoustic detection modules to produce sensor prototypes for highly sensitive real‐time measurements. The end goal is to provide portable solutions for in situ and real‐time gas detection, leading to advancements in breath analysis, environmental monitoring, leaks detection, hydrocarbon gas sensing, and monitoring of toxic gases and explosive precursors.

‘We look forward to identifying innovative ideas and sharing expertise to make highly sensitive QEPAS‐based trace‐gas sensors more accessible to a broader community,’ said Verena Mackowiak, team leader of research projects at Thorlabs.

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