We report, to our knowledge, the first optical detection scheme for short-chained hydrocarbon isotopologues. The sensor system is based on photoacoustic spectroscopy (PAS). Two continuous wave, thermoelectrically cooled, distributed feedback interband cascade lasers (DFB-ICLs) with emission wavelengths around 3.33 and 3.38 μm, respectively, served as light sources. The investigations comprised the main stable carbon isotopologues of methane (12CH4, 13CH4), ethane (12CH3-12CH3, 13CH3-12CH3, 13CH3-13CH3), and propane (12CH3-12CH2-12CH3, 13CH3-12CH2-12CH3). They were selected because of their importance for numerous applications from climate and planetary research to natural gas exploration. Multiple measurements of single components in nitrogen and synthetic mixtures were conducted at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. Depending on the investigated hydrocarbon isotopologue, detection limits ranging from 0.043 ppmv to 3.4 ppmv were achieved. For a selective concentration determination, multivariate analysis (MVA) was applied. Partial least-squares regression (PLSR) was used to calculate concentrations from the PA spectra. The implementation of MVA has shown that the PA setup in principle works reliably and that the selective concentration determination of short-chained hydrocarbon isotopologues is possible.
Keywords: ethane; gas sensing; hydrocarbons; interband cascade laser; isotopologues; methane; multivariate analysis; partial least squares regression; photoacoustic spectroscopy; propane.