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Aspen Public Radio news keeps you up to date with the latest information on the environment. From the debate over gas/oil drilling in the valley to water and wildlife - you will find our on-going commitment to those stories here.

Nobel-prize winning laser research sees new application: Greenhouse gas detection

University of Colorado Boulder

A team of researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder has developed a new instrument to detect methane leaks.



Oil and gas companies are required to monitor for methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. The current practice only captures a snapshot in time. About once a year, someone drives out to the site with a camera that can spot methane gas to detect any leaks.

“These leaks are not necessarily on all the time; they can be intermittent,” explained Caroline Alden, a researcher at CU-Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES).


It’s not clear how often leaks go undetected, but Alden and a team of researchers think they have a solution.


They have developed a new field instrument that uses lasers to detect methane leaks from miles away. It can be set up for days or weeks at a time and collect non-stop data. It can also monitor multiple operations at once.


The technology is based on Nobel-prize winning laser research at CU-Boulder in the early 2000s. It is now being tested at two sites in Colorado.


Aspen native Elizabeth Stewart-Severy is excited to be making a return to both the Red Brick, where she attended kindergarten, and the field of journalism. She has spent her entire life playing in the mountains and rivers around Aspen, and is thrilled to be reporting about all things environmental in this special place. She attended the University of Colorado with a Boettcher Scholarship, and graduated as the top student from the School of Journalism in 2006. Her lifelong love of hockey lead to a stint working for the Colorado Avalanche, and she still plays in local leagues and coaches the Aspen Junior Hockey U-19 girls.
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