ERC Researchers Collaborate to Design, Build, and Deploy a Methane Sensor in Alaska

Achievement date: 

Researchers affiliated with the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) on Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE), which is headquartered at Princeton University, designed, built, and deployed in Alaska a sensor to study methane (CH4) emitted from thermokarst lakes and their impacts on greenhouse gas emissions.


Thawing permafrost is expected to release into the atmosphere large quantities of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The MIRTHE-built sensor enables long-term, spatially integrated sensing of Arctic methane emissions that are normally difficult to study due to their episodic and distributed nature.


The system was designed and built over a several week period in the summer of 2012 by collaborating researchers, from high-school to senior faculty level. In mid-to-late August the system was then deployed at the NSF Long Term Ecological Research Station at Toolik, Alaska. Elevated methane emissions were observed over the adjacent lake, and detailed analysis of data is underway.

The researchers who joined forces in this endeavor are MIRTHE Student Leadership Council co-president David Miller, undergraduate student Levi Stanton, high-school student Victor Fu, Associate Research Scholar Anna P.M. Michel, and Professor Mark Zondlo in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton.