Monitoring from aerial platforms
NASA recently awarded three SBIR Phase I contracts to Southwest Sciences for the development of tunable diode laser gas spectrometers suitable for use on aerial platforms. Two of these projects are in support of NASA's atmospheric science programs, while the third is for planetary exploration. The first targets high accuracy measurements of CO2 using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which will bridge the gap between current land based and satellite platforms (Contact: Tony Gomez). In the second project, an inexpensive UAV-deployable methane sensor will be developed that will allow more economical measurements of methane in remote areas (Contact: Mark Paige). Southwest Sciences will develop small, lightweight, low power instrumentation for the in situ balloon-borne measurement of several trace gases of importance in the atmosphere of Venus, including carbon monoxide, water vapor, hydrogen fluoride, and carbonyl sulfide. (Contact: Alan Stanton)
Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and methane (CH4) are two of the major pollutants associated with animal waste and sewage, and these gases can significantly affect air quality and human health. Southwest Sciences has been selected by the USDA to develop a compact, inexpensive optical sensor for H2S and CH4 with high sensitivity and rapid time response suited for field monitoring of animal manure systems (contact: Joel Silver,).
Nitrous oxide is the third most important greenhouse gas (GHG,) with an atmospheric lifetime of ~114 years and a global warming impact ~300 times greater than that of CO2. An accurate assessment of N2O emissions from agriculture is vital not only for understanding the global N2O balance and its impact on climate and also for designing crop systems with lower GHG emissions. Under a recently awarded DOE SBIR Fast Track grant, Southwest Sciences and Princeton University are developing new open-path eddy covariance techniques and instrumentation for continuous and fast (10 Hz) measurement of nitrous oxide emissions. (Contact: Alan Stanton)
Southwest Sciences and the University of New Mexico are partnering to investigate the use of light filaments for the detection of uranium compounds. Light filaments are formed by nonlinear interactions between high intensity, short pulse laser beams and air and allow propagation of nondivergent beams over significant distances. Such beams can be used for remote sensing via emission spectroscopy. This work is funded by the DOE/NNSA STTR program. (Contact: Kris Peterson)
Diamonds as sensors
DOE is funding an experiment to measure the electric dipole moment of neutron. This sophisticated experiment tests the standard model of particle physics by monitoring the response of neutrons in crossed electric and magnetic fields. Southwest Sciences has teamed with physicists at the University of Illinois to develop a method for measuring the strength of these electric and magnetic fields within the interaction region. It is a challenging environment, because access to the interaction region is limited, the temperature approaches absolute zero, and the sensors must cause minimal perturbations to the fields. The research will investigate a fiberized, all-optical sensor based on nitrogen-doped diamonds. (Contact: Chris Hovde)
DOE has selected Southwest Sciences to develop an analyzer to measure pollutants in groundwater. The analyzer is based on a novel cavity-enhanced spectroscopy. The development and testing program includes field tests and comparison to existing analytical techniques. The analyzer will initially target Cr(VI) ions. Contact: Chris Hovde
Measuring the growth and structure of fine roots is important to understanding carbon uptake by plants, biogeochemical cycling and crop productivity. Southwest Sciences is developing a fast, high-resolution 3-dimensional optical tomography method for imaging plant roots in-situ. Contact: Eli Rosen
Methane is an important greenhouse gas released to the atmosphere during fossil fuel extraction and processing. Development of a diode laser-based analyzer that can be flown on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will facilitate wide-spread and accurate measurement of atmospheric methane concentrations. Contact: Mark Paige
Development of an instrument for fast, high precision carbon dioxide isotope ratio measurements on a UAV platform will aid researchers in identifying sources and sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide for climate studies. Contact: Tony Gomez
SWS and Avisa Pharma have recently signed a license agreement for development of diode laser-based instruments for the detection of lung infections.
Office Manager Retires
Southwest Sciences employees had a chance to thank long-time office manager Vickie LeDoux for her many years of service. Vickie joined the company when there were just three other employees. As the business grew, so did her responsibilities, which she met with characteristic efficiency, and she still had time for a glass of wine before volleyball games. In a related personnel move, Debbi Brody has been promoted to Office Operations Manager in recognition of the additional responsibilities she has taken on.
Southwest Sciences selected as "Best Place to Work"
Southwest Sciences was one of New Mexico Business Weekly's Best Places to Work. The award is sponsored by Albuquerque Business First and honors New Mexico companies which are rated highly by their employees (as determined by surveys conducted by the business journal) as good places to work. Southwest Sciences was a winner for 2012 in the small business category.
Fire Sensing on the International Space Station
NASA has selected Southwest Sciences to develop a replacement combustion products monitor for the International Space Station. A laser-based analyzer in a rugged, hand-held package will detect multiple gases that are indicative of smoldering or burning for enhanced crew safety. This technology is also applicable to earth-based needs for fire sensing, stack emissions monitoring, and air quality measurements. For more information contact Dr. Joel Silver
DARPA funds proof-of-concept research to show how doped diamonds can be used to measure magnetic fields with high spatial resolution. Nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamond act as local magnetic probes. We are collaborating with Berkeley (Prof. Dimitry Budker) and TAMU (Prof Phil Hemmer). Contact: Chris Hovde