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Technical Report

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Laser, infrared spectroscopy, gas liquid chromatography detector, aliphatic hydrocarbons, air pollution, water pollution, instrumentation, research and development


A helium-neon (HeNe) laser operating simultaneously at 3.39 um (infrared) and 0.63 um (visible) has been used as a selective detector for hydrocarbons in the effluent of a gas chromatograph. The infrared and visible laser transitions originate at the same energy level and are competitive. When a hydrocarbon enters the laser's resonant cavity, the 3.39 um energy is absorbed due to the C-H stretching vibration and the visible emission is enhanced. The visible laser emission is monitored with a photodiode as a quantitative measure of the concentration of the absorbing molecule. The minimum detectable concentration for propane using the double-beam configuration is 20 pg/mL, which is 25 times lower than the best value reported for a thermal conductivity detector. In practice, the detector's selectivity for hydrocarbons is modified by various substituents. The detector responds to aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons with aliphatic side chains, except for those substituted with halogens. The HeNe laser intracavity absorption detector may be used without prior separation in some cases (e.g., methane in coal mines). This detector operates with nitrogen carrier gas without sacrifice of sensitivity and should be useful for monitoring organic pollutants since it does not respond to water or carbon dioxide. Also, it should be possible to manufacture this detector at competitive prices.

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