Analytical Instrumentation

Working of Infrared Gas detector


The infrared (IR) Gas detection method is based on the absorption of infrared radiation at specific wavelengths as it passes through a volume of gas. Typically, two infrared light sources and one infrared light detector measure the intensity of two different wavelengths, one at the absorption wavelength and one outside the absorption wavelength. If a gas intervenes between the source and the detector, the level of radiation that falls on the detector is reduced. The gas concentration is determined by comparing the relative values between the two wavelengths. This is a double beam infrared Gas detector.Single beam Infrared Gas detector is shown above figure


The detection of infrared gas is based on the ability of some gases to absorb IR radiation.Many hydrocarbons absorb IR at approximately 3.4 micrometer and in this region H2O and CO2 are relatively transparent. As mentioned above, there are some hydrocarbons and other flammable gases that have little or no response in a general purpose IR sensor. In addition to aromatics and acetylene, hydrogen, ammonia and carbon monoxide can not be detected using IR technology with general purpose sensors of 3.4 micron specifications.


The major advantages of IR gas detectors:

  • Immunity to contamination and poisoning.
  • Consumables (source and detector) tend to outlast catalytic sensors.
  • Can be calibrated less often than a catalytic detector.
  • Ability to operate in the absence of oxygen or in enriched oxygen.
  • Ability to operate in continuous presence of gas.
  • Can perform more reliably in varying flow conditions.
  • Even when flooded with gas, will continue to show high reading and sensor will not be damaged.
  • Able to detect at levels above 100 % LEL.


The limiting factors in IR technology:

  • The initial higher cost per point. IR detectors typically are more expensive than catalytic detectors at initial purchase.
  • Higher spare parts cost.
  • Gases that do not absorb IR energy (such as hydrogen) are not detectable.
  • High humidity, dusty and/or corrosive field environments can increase IR detector maintenance costs.
  • Temperature range for detector use is limited compared to catalytic detectors.
  • May not perform well where multiple gases are present

Do you want to know about Working of Flame Ionization Detectors

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