The demand for extensive in situ observations, which provide detailed characterization of physical and chemical properties of the Earth's atmosphere, poses a major challenge. UNH's Targeted Wind Sensing program is developing low-cost sensors to conduct such observations on regional-to-global scales. During the first year of this project (2004) UNH developed a miniature (mass = 160 g) ozone (O3) sensor. In collaboration with NOAA and the University of Hawaii, this sensor was integrated into the Smart Balloon system and flown over the North Atlantic in the ICARTT international air quality field campaign during summer 2004. The goal was to conduct regional scale atmospheric studies over the northeastern U.S. and to track polluted air masses (urban plumes) leaving the U.S. We used the balloon system to follow air mass chemical evolution over the Atlantic using O3 as a diagnostic indicator of photochemical activity. This was the first time that an autonomous platform equipped with a sensitive chemical sensor was deployed and integrated into a large-scale field campaign.
We are also exploring a new generation of spectroscopic chemical sensors that utilize a unique multi-pass cell design (i.e., path lengths of many meters in a few centimeters of real physical space). Such innovations will help us expand our measurement capabilities to include aerosol scattering as a function of size distribution. We are also working on sensors for CO2 and CO.