A Novel, Field-Deployable, High Precision 14C Analyzer for Carbon Dioxide
Measurements of 14C or radiocarbon enables fundamental approaches forelucidating the impact of climate and land use change on the carbon cycle including carbon storage and turnover/residence times and the impact of these changes on atmospheric CO2 levels. In addition, in the field of atmospheric greenhouse gas monitoring, radiocarbon analysis has emerged as a gold standard for distinguishing petrogenic carbon from other atmospheric sources and sinks of carbon. Radiocarbon data can provide key input into carbon cycle models, and would also allow direct and unambiguous verification of international, national, and regional carbon dioxide emissions reporting. The presence of 14C at one part in a trillion in contemporary environmental samples represents a significant measurement challenge. Currently only accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) has the proven sensitivity and accuracy to accomplish this with mg sized or smaller carbon samples. However, the high cost (~$1.5 2M), sophistication (requiring dedicated full-time technical staff), and footprint ( & gt 10 m2 of dedicated laboratory space) of this technology have limited its wide-spread deployment. Via the DOE Phase I and II SBIR programs, we propose to develop a commercial product based on mid-infrared cavity ring down spectroscopy that is capable of quantifying 14C with a 0.1% precision from atmospheric or terrestrial carbon samples. This technology would be less expensive ($250k) than AMS, simpler to operate and maintain, and would occupy the space of a single 19 rack. Collectively, these characteristics would make sensitive 14C analyses broadly available to the research community and would revolutionize its use in addressing research questions in environmental and carbon cycle research. Other important applications include biomedical research and archaeological dating. We conservatively predict that within 5 years after the completion of Phase II, this product would command yearly sales of $80M / yr across all applications.
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