July 2, 2018

Hybrid QCL Laser Technology “No Brainer” for Enhancing Ethylene Product

By Khadra Helminski, Global Integrated Marketing Manager, Rosemount Gas Analysis, Emerson Automation Solutions

In the highly competitive ethylene market, purity is of the utmost importance, while speed of processing and certification assure a producer will be able to meet commitments at the optimum product price. But speed and purity don’t always go together. That’s why the entry of hybrid QCL/TDL laser technology into ethylene production as both a gas purity analyzer and certification device is immensely exciting to ethylene producers. A recent article in Hydrocarbon Processing by Emerson‘s Amanda Gogates and Jeff Gunnell explains how the QCL provides a real improvement in terms of speed, precision, reliability, and cost in the critical areas of the plant.

The figure to the right shows how the novel design of the QCL laser reduces the portion of the laser beam exposed to the air to near zero. The analyzer can combine up to six quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) and tunable diode lasers (TDLs) in a single system for multiple gas measurements in this zero-gap configuration.

QCL and TDL lasers are semiconductor devices that produce light in the IR region. They are fabricated to emit light at a desired wavelength, and are made to scan a spectrum using a laser chirp technique.

When the laser is pulsed with electrical energy to start the laser process, it heats up. As the temperature increases, the wavelength of the emitted light also increases. A laser chirp lasts about one microsecond. In this span, a spectrum of between one to three wavenumbers is scanned. The raw detector signal is then processed to convert it into a spectrum from which the concentration of analytes can be calculated. QCL and TDL lasers can be chirped at a frequency of up to 100 kHz, enabling many thousands of spectra to be gathered in a few seconds and processed to provide a strong signal with a good signal-to-noise ratio. Response time is a major issue in these applications, as well. In a QCL/TDL, the sample flows through a measurement cell where laser beams continuously analyze the gas. The response time is typically less than 10 seconds to achieve 90% of a step change.

Before exporting to customers, ethylene must be analyzed to ensure that it meets product specifications in a step that is critical to profitability. Traditionally, this analysis has been carried out using grab samples and laboratory analysis with GCs. However, components such as ammonia, methanol, nitrogen monoxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) can now be measured online in one analyzer using the hybrid laser technology. This multi-component measurement is valuable in product certification, which would normally take 3-6 instruments to measure. Speed is critical at this stage of the delivery process, but precision of measurement should not be compromised for rapidity. The QCL laser technology allows for both, and online, real-time product certification can be achieved.

In risk averse environments like ethylene production, the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” usually applies. But when a newer technology can be shown to have significant bottom line impact without increasing risk, the new adage becomes “no brainer.”

The Hydrocarbon Processing article can be viewed here: https://www.emerson.com/documents/automation/optimizing-ethylene-production-laser-technology-en-4845068.pdf

July 31, 2017

QCL Technology Provides Never Before Achievable Performance in Gas Purity Measurement

By Amanda Gogates, Cascade Global Product Manager, Emerson Automation Solutions

Precise and cost-effective measurement of gas purity significantly impacts the bottom line in a number of industrial applications. I’d like to share a new technology with you that will overcome many of the most common problems manufacturers face in this area, including poor sensitivity, costly consumables, and outmoded equipment requiring high levels of technician resourcing to operate and maintain. You may be aware of the Emerson line of Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) technology for measurement applications such as Continuous Emission Monitoring or CEMS. Now, this remarkable technology has been extended to some of the most demanding markets in the world and is a quantum leap over previous generation solutions.

First, a little background on the technology. Emerson’s QCL technology offers fast, high-resolution spectroscopic detection to identify a range of compounds. QCLs operate in the mid-infrared spectral region, where molecules typically exhibit strong absorption bands that can be exploited to improve measurement sensitivity. Coupled with Tunable Diode Laser (TDL) spectroscopy, a single instrument is now able to broaden measurement capability and exploit both the near- and mid-infrared regions.  The result is that a single analyzer is able to monitor an increased number of compounds compared to preceding technologies. The system uses what is called a laser chirp technique. In this technique, a QCL is pulsed with electrical energy and heats up and as the temperature increases, the wavelength of the emitted light also increases. A laser chirp lasts about one microsecond, and in this time a spectrum of between one and three wavenumbers is scanned, sufficient to detect unique absorption features from one or multiple gases. This data can then be interpreted in terms of absolute concentration, minimizing the need for complex and frequent instrument calibration. QCLs can be chirped at a frequency of up to 100 KHz, enabling many thousands of spectra to be gathered in a few seconds, resulting in a high signal-to-noise ratio, while maintaining a rapid response time.

As a result of this unique design, the new CT5800 enables highly accurate measurement of concentrations of impurities down to sub-ppm levels in a variety of gas streams. This makes it ideal for hydrogen purity, nitrogen purity, and ethylene purity applications. With up to six laser modules housed inside the same enclosure, the CT5800 analyzer can measure up to twelve components simultaneously, greatly reducing the need for multiple analyzers while still meeting the real-world analysis needs of these markets.

The key outcome of this new technology is that the combination of this measurement performance and analyzer capabilities has not been possible before – not with existing lasers or other measurement technologies. Of course, not every application needs this level of performance, but when taking the example of ethylene product quality, time and product contamination is money in this volatile industry. When multiple, highly sensitive measurements can be made in seconds by a QCL, excursions in the product quality can be rapidly detected, facilitating decisions to suitably manage plant operation, and minimize losses. QCL technology provides a speed and quality level never before possible. Likewise, the low levels of detection not only improve product quality for the user, but they also open up wider market options and help meet guidelines.

Over the next months, I’ll be sharing about ways to optimize gas analysis in different critical markets. For now, if you have questions about how QCL technology might work for you, please contact me at Amanda.gogates@Emerson.com.

How do you currently measure gas purity?

June 20, 2016

Have an Ammonia Slip Problem? Start Thinking QCL Laser!


Hi. I’m Ruth Lindley and I’m happy to get the chance to tell you how to solve a significant problem in refining in a relatively simple and straightforward manner. The problem is ammonia slip.

TypicalNOxNitrogen oxides result from the combustion process in turbines, crackers, combustion engines, boilers, and other locations within a plant. NOX is a powerful pollutant, so it is important to control and contain NOX emissions. Both selective catalytic and selective non-catalytic reduction (SCR and SNCR) are techniques used worldwide to remove NOX. However, this process can result in a byproduct of unreacted ammonia, or ammonia slip. Continuous measurement and monitoring of ammonia slip can be a challenge to ensure sample integrity is maintained, especially in high-dust, high-temperature applications. But regardless of the complexity, to adhere to environmental guidelines, operators must balance using the precise amount of ammonia – not enough ammonia results in waste, too much can lead to emissions.

So how to solve the ammonia slip problem? The answer is QCL/TDL laser technology. (You may not have been expecting that!) In fact, capable, fast Rosemount QCL/TDL technology delivers the needed measurement precision (0–100 ppm) to ensure production is at its optimum and avoid overdosing issues that result in both economic and environmental problems and cost.

Quantum Cascade Lasers monitor ammonia slip to avoid the formation of damaging ammonia salts downstream or emission of 5100captionammonium chloride or gaseous ammonia, and the regulator fines and penalties that result. Here are some of the benefits of Quantum Cascade Lasers in this challenging application –

  • Interference-free monitoring of the presence of ammonia slip in the toughest environments
  • Thousands of measurements per second are recorded using patented laser chirp techniques to ensure identification of even trace levels of ammonia
  • Ammonia slip detection and insight into the efficiency of the plant’s NOX reduction system resulting from real-time measurement and analysis
  • Rugged, modular design delivers outstanding reliability and measurement stability in extreme operations
  • Monitoring of up to twelve critical component gases for all industrial applications, toxic gas detection, and plant-wide emissions monitoring
  • No consumables, no calibration, and no in-field enclosure or shelters reduce cost and simplify maintenance and upgrades

For additional information on the specific QCL/TDL laser products that might work for you, click HERE.

The QCL/TDL laser solution to ammonia slip may seem almost too good to be true – but it’s real and operating in plants worldwide. It’s time for all of us to adjust our thinking on the ammonia slip issue, accepting that there is a better way to overcome it efficiently, reliably, and cost-effectively.

Have thoughts or questions about QCL/TDL laser technology? Post them HERE!

June 2, 2016

TDL/QCL Technology Redefines Process Gas Analysis

By Amanda Gogates, Product Manager for Quantum Cascade Laser Analyzers, Emerson Process Management

You may have seen a few stories already on the innovative QCL laser technology. That technology has now been successfully implemented in Emerson’s Rosemount™ CT5100 continuous gas analyzer. It is the world’s only hybrid analyzer to combine Tunable Diode Laser (TDL) and Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) measurement technologies for process gas analysis and emissions monitoring. The CT5100 provides the most comprehensive analysis available (down to sub ppm) for detecting a range of components, while simplifying operation and significantly reducing costs. The CT5100 can measure up to 12 critical component gases and potential pollutants in a single system – meeting local, state, national, and international regulatory requirements.

But if you’re thinking that the CT5100 is remarkable but “bleeding edge” technology that your application can’t afford – think again. The Rosemount CT5100 operates reliably with no consumables, no in-field enclosure, and a simplified sampling system that does not require any gas conditioning to remove moisture – truly “next generation” technology which chartsaves you money at every turn. The CT5100 is a unique combination of advanced technology and rugged design, and is highly reliable. Its patented laser chirp technique expands gas analysis in both the near- and mid-infrared range, enhancing process insight, improving overall gas analysis sensitivity and selectivity, removing cross interference, and reducing response time. This laser chirp technique produces sharp, well-defined peaks from high resolution spectroscopy that enables specificity of identified components with minimum interference and without filtration, reference cells, or chemometric manipulations.

The rugged Rosemount CT5100 analyzer features –


  • Multi-laser, hybrid QCL/TDL configuration for up to 12 measurements simultaneously per analyzer
  • Accurate and sensitive gas measurement
  • Excellent linearity of response and repeatability
  • Fast and continuous gas measurements using the patented chirp technique
  • Low maintenance and low lifetime costs
  • No long-term drift due to inherent stability of spectroscopic measurement technique
  • Continuous health diagnostic reporting
  • Embedded ARM processor for fully autonomous operation
  • Modular architecture is easily serviceable and upgradeable in the field
  • Superior spectral analysis to eliminate cross-interference and improve measurement accuracy
  • Intuitive, simple front-panel user interface allows access to all instrument functions

Give your Emerson representative a call and discuss the potential of the CT5100 in your process gas analysis, continuous emissions monitoring, and ammonia slip applications. This could be a whole new solution to some costly problems. Click HERE for more information on the CT5100.

January 21, 2016

A New Approach to Online Data Validation

By Jeff Gunnell

How would you like an online analyzer that, after commissioning, starts up already in perfect calibration? That during its life, checks that it is in calibration without needing test samples? That works for very long periods without maintenance, but when eventually intervention is required, the analyzer raises a flag, gives a description of why maintenance is needed, and explains exactly what to do? Would this be desirable? Of course! But is it feasible?

Cascade Technologies analyzers from Emerson open up a powerful new approach to real-time validation. They are based on Quantum Cascade Lasers (QCLs): semiconductor devices which produce radiation in the mid infrared range. For spectroscopy, this is the fingerprint region where most molecules exhibit strong, sharp absorptions.


An Information Rich Spectral Region Showing the Absorptions of Many Components


It might seem that congested spectra would make reliable measurements difficult to achieve, but in fact the opposite is the case. Using the complete set of information in a spectrum can reveal sources of error and hence remove the need for validation tests.

In order to develop a measurement application, first the absorption spectra of all components that are active in the measurement region must be obtained. This is done in the development lab and the information created is called a spectral database: it includes wavelengths, absorptions, and peak shapes as well as the effects that temperature and pressure have on spectra.

To make a measurement on a process stream, a spectrum is obtained. A mathematical process is then used to work out the concentrations of the components in the stream. An initial estimate of the stream composition is combined with the spectral databases to calculate a spectrum. This is compared to the measured spectrum and the result is used to generate a better estimate. As this process is repeated, a path is followed which eventually leads to the calculated spectrum almost exactly equalling the measured spectrum, and at that point, the estimated concentrations of the components almost exactly equal the real concentrations.


The Measured and Calculated Spectra of CO Plus Ethylene with the Residuals


This iterative methodology gives a novel way of validating measurement integrity. The process automatically takes into account all of the factors which could affect a spectrum. It starts with fundamental, unchangeable properties of the components in a sample, such as the absorptivity at each wavelength across a spectrum and the effects of temperature and pressure on peak shapes. It combines these properties in a way which matches the measured spectrum and looks at how close the calculated spectrum is to the measured one. A poor match is evidence of a failure somewhere in the system. For example, if an unexpected new component is present, that will be detected by failure to model peak shapes correctly and the details of why the match failed will indicate that it was due to something new in the stream. Similarly, such effects as laser drift can also be readily identified.

In addition to raising alarms when a failure is present, there is another powerful advantage of this approach. If the quality of fit is high, that is strong, positive evidence that the analyzer is operating perfectly; a good fit could never be obtained unless every part of the system, including its calibration, was working correctly.

It is the case, backed by field experience that the iterative approach is extremely robust and leads to very high reliability. The capability to have very long periods between maintenance visits, positive evidence of good operation, and smart identification of problems – together with a highly stable calibration – makes this technology especially valuable when analyzers are installed remotely from skilled maintenance resources, such as on natural gas pipelines. These are also important characteristics for legislative reporting, such as CEMS measurements. In a production environment robust, reliable measurements minimize losses so QCL technology is advantageous for online monitoring in manufacturing industries as diverse as petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Emerson’s Cascade Technologies QCLs are innovative spectroscopic analyzers which provide multicomponent measurements at high sensitivity and with extremely high reliability. You can find out more about the technology in this blog: Cascade Technologies QCL Analyzers. And if you have a potential application that might be solved by this approach, please contact the Emerson team to discuss your needs.