The technology will have direct commercial application in new instrumentation for atmospheric research. Other important commercial applications include combustion monitoring and control, and toxic gas sensing. The instrumentation design could also be adapted to measurement of hazardous or toxic gases, or other trace species, by appropriate selection of laser wavelengths. VCSELs operating in the same general wavelength region, for example, could be used for measurement of two other atmospheric species, nitrous oxide (N2O) and water vapor.
Successful development of a VCSEL-based instrument for high sensitivity measurement of tropospheric carbon monoxide and methane will allow NASA to adopt a single high-reliability system for measurement of these two important gases using a wide variety of platforms (e.g. aircraft, balloons, ground-based network, etc.). The instrument will be very compact and low-power, designed for long-term operation with minimal attention and maintenance. The instrument is expected to find use in validation of remote sensing data obtained in planned NASA missions (e.g. ASCENDS and GEO-CAPE). Longer term NASA applications could include adaptation of the instrument for measurements in planetary atmospheres, via use of space-qualified electronics and further ruggedization of the mechanical and thermal design. Applications could include measurements of atmospheric gases on Mars (e.g. water vapor, methane), Titan (methane, ethane), or other future planetary missions.