Tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy (TDLAS) is a technique for measuring the concentration of certain species such as methane, water vapor and many more, in a gaseous mixture using tunable diode lasers and laser absorption spectrometry. The advantage of TDLAS over other techniques for concentration measurement is its ability to achieve very low detection limits (of the order of ppb). Apart from concentration, it is also possible to determine the temperature, pressure, velocity and mass flux of the gas under observation. TDLAS is by far the most common laser based absorption technique for quantitative assessments of species in gas phase.
A basic TDLAS setup consists of tunable diode laser light source, transmitting (i.e. beam shaping) optics, optically accessible absorbing medium, receiving optics and detector/s. The emission wavelength of the tunable diode laser, viz. VCSEL, DFB, etc., is tuned over the characteristic absorption lines of a species in the gas in the path of the laser beam. This causes a reduction of the measured signal intensity, which can be detected by a photodiode, and then used to determine the gas concentration and other properties as described later.
Different diode lasers are used based on the application and the range over which tuning is to be performed. Typical examples are InGaAsP/InP (tunable over 900 nm to 1.6 µm), InGaAsP/InAsP (tunable over 1.6 µm to 2.2 µm), etc. These lasers can be tuned by either adjusting their temperature or by changing injection current density into the gain medium. While temperature changes allow tuning over 100 cm−1, it is limited by slow tuning rates (a few hertz), due to the thermal inertia of the system. On the other hand, adjusting the injection current can provide tuning at rates as high as ~10 GHz, but it is restricted to a smaller range (about 1 to 2 cm−1) over which the tuning can be performed. The typical laser linewidth is of the order of 10−3 cm−1 or smaller. Additional tuning, and linewidth narrowing, methods include the use of extracavity dispersive optics.