Working towards more accurate CO2 measurements of the future


In Toulouse Martijn Smit (instrument scientist), Geert Keijzer (design engineer) Rob Wolfs (electronics engineer) and Jens Johansen (instrument software engineer) tested whether their SPEXairborne design fits well on the Falcon 20 and whether the instrument behaves properly in flight as designed. (Film editing: Luna Rose Smit).

Measurements of greenhouse gases can be much more accurate if greenhouse gases and aerosols in the atmosphere are measured simultaneously. Developers of space instruments in the EU are therefore working on SCARBO, a set of small satellites that can combine measurements of CO2, CH4 and aerosols.

The aerosol meter SPEX is being developed at SRON by scientists, engineers and instrument makers. In order to properly test what such a measurement combination can produce, they are first making SPEX suitable for combined test measurements on a Falcon 20 aircraft: SPEXairborne.

What do they like most about their work?

Geert Keizer “The best thing I find is that I see the things I design become reality. I also have fine colleagues with whom I share a fascination for science and technology”.

Rob Wolfs: “The nice thing is that in projects like this you are in one team with all disciplines. So you don’t engineer for an anonymous client who places a set of demands on you. You really understand why the end user of the instrument wants your part to meet certain requirements. The lines to the other disciplines are short, so you can sometimes solve some requirements more easily in another domain”.

Meanwhile, CO2 and aerosol have been measured simultaneously for the first time.

What is SPEX?

SPEX is a spectropolarimeter concept that allows us to study light that has passed through an atmosphere. Aerosols in the atmosphere change the polarisation of light, so scientists can derive information from the degree of polarisation about average quantities, sizes, and form of aerosol present at that location in the atmosphere.

What is the use of aerosol measurements?

Aerosols in an atmosphere absorb or reflect radiation depending on their properties. They have a cooling or heating effect on the planet and influence the accuracy of greenhouse gas measurements. Greenhouse gas measurements can therefore become more accurate if aerosols are measured simultaneously.

See also: SCARBO programmawebsite.