Success Stories

CO2 Sensors Monitor Vehicle Emissions from Above


NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite is helping scientists solve mysteries related to how carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrates and dissipates in Earth’s atmosphere seasonally. This map shows CO2 concentrations in early 2016. Work on a similar instrument at Langley Research Center led to the development of commercial sensors used to monitor vehicle emissions remotely.

Through the ASCENDS project, NASA hopes to learn more about how carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrates and dissipates seasonally in the atmosphere. Langley’s submission to the mission is an active remote sensor comprised of a trio of lasers that can take CO2 readings from space in darkness and during the day, as well as through cloud cover.

Realizing that the same concept could be used for Earth-based instruments, John Hager, a contractor who worked on the project, went on to found Knoxville, Tennessee-based Hager Environmental and Atmospheric Technologies (HEAT) Inc. Heat’s first product, called EDAR, is based on the Langley ASCENDS technology and remotely measures car and truck emissions from poles installed over high-traffic roads.

Arizona, Connecticut, and Tennessee are the first states to deploy EDAR. Agencies in those states are using the sensors “to audit the fleet of registered vehicles in cities where air quality does not meet the EPA’s emission standards in order to assess the effectiveness of their vehicle emission testing program,” says Hager.

HEAT also has a research project underway with the California Air Resource Board, directed toward heavy-duty diesel trucks and evaporative emissions, such as gasoline vapors that escape from leaky gas tanks, loose hoses, or cracked pipes.

If the technology were adopted nationally, Hager envisions that drivers whose cars pass emissions standards could receive a notification absolving them of having to come in for a test, while owners of out-of-compliance vehicles would have to be inspected.



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