High Power and Frequency-Agile Optical Parametric Oscillators for Airborne DIAL Measurements of CH4 and H2O

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Amin R Nehrir1, Tim Shuman2, Ti Chuang2, Johnathan W Hair1, Tamer F Refaat3, Syed Ismail1, Susan A Kooi4 and Anthony Notari1, (1)NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, United States, (2)Fibertek, Inc, Herndon, VA, United States, (3)Old Dominion University, Hampton, VA, United States, (4)SSAI, Hampton, VA, United States
Atmospheric methane (CH4) has the second largest radiative forcing of the long-lived greenhouse gasses (GHG) after carbon dioxide. However, methane’s much shorter atmospheric lifetime and much stronger warming potential make its radiative forcing equivalent to that for CO2 over a 20-year time horizon which makes CH4 a particularly attractive target for mitigation strategies. Similar to CH4, water vapor (H2O) is the most dominant of the short-lived GHG in the atmosphere and plays a key role in many atmospheric processes. Atmospheric H2O concentrations span over four orders of magnitude from the planetary boundary layer where high impact weather initiates to lower levels in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS) where water vapor has significant and long term impacts on the Earth’s radiation budget. NASA Langley has fostered the technology development with Fibertek, Inc. to develop frequency agile and high power (> 3 W) pulsed lasers using similar architectures in the 1645 nm and 935 nm spectral bands for DIAL measurements of CH4 and H2O, respectively. Both systems utilize high power 1 kHz pulse repetition frequency Nd:YAG lasers to generate high power laser emission at the desired wavelength via optical parametric oscillators (OPO). The CH4 OPO, currently in its final build stage in a SBIR Phase II program has demonstrated >2 W average power with injection seeding from a distributed feedback (DFB) laser during risk reduction experiments. The H2O OPO has demonstrated high power operation (>2 W) during the SBIR Phase I program while being injection seeded with a DFB laser, and is currently funded via an SBIR Phase II to build a robust system for future integration into an airborne water vapor DIAL system capable of profiling from the boundary layer up to the UTLS. Both systems have demonstrated operation with active OPO wavelength control to allow for optimization of the DIAL measurements for operation at different altitudes and geographic regions. An update on the progress of the CH4 and H2O laser development will be presented which will focus on key laser characteristics such as pulse energy, frequency agility and spectral purity. DIAL simulations will also be presented based on the expected and measured laser characteristics and system parameters in anticipation of future system(s) development.