Development of Volcanic Carbon Atmospheric Flux Experiment (V-CAFÉ) Project uri icon

DCO ID 11121/6366-5348-4160-9840-CC


  • Two portable volcano mass spectrometers were built and extensively tested in the laboratory and in the field with partial DCO instrumentation support. The prototype instrument’s primary purpose was to autonomously monitor CO2 emitted from Earth’s volcanoes—essential to achieving DCO’s Decadal Goals. The system can be programmed to measure additional gases (N2, Ar, O2, CH4, He, H2) every ten minutes and store the data, which is downloadable to a laptop computer. This instrument can collect data autonomously for 3 to 4 days with a power consumption of 25 watts when measuring and less than 1 watt in sleep mode. With minor improvements and new power supply options (e.g., solar panel, wind generator), the system could be deployable for weeks without maintenance.

    In 2012, the instrument was deployed at Lassen Volcano, California and at Halemaumau Crater, Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii. At present, the University of New Mexico is providing support to add solar panels and a water trap system that will make the system autonomous in harsh environments. High H2O concentrations depress the CO2 signal, which negatively affects detection limits. The current work is focusing on reducing the amount of sample drawn into the fore-line, thus reducing the overall amount of water and also removing the remaining water with the newly designed trap system. Once these issues are resolved, the instrument will be connected to a telemetry system that will allow investigators to control sampling intervals and collect data from the instrument remotely.

    Besides monitoring volcanic gases in plumes, potential instrument applications include monitoring of gases on oilrigs or pipelines, at CO2 sequestration sites, or for continuous monitoring of gases from geothermal production or exploration wells. In addition to the DCO-supported prototypes, a deep-sea version was developed that is capable of measuring gases dissolved in water at seafloor depths. Thus, this instrument version may be of interest for deep sea drilling operations where up-to-date gas compositional information could be critical.

    The DCO funds for this project were leveraged with support from the University of New Mexico and the Center of Excellence for Research in Ocean Sciences (CEROS) program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a related submarine autonomous mass spectrometer (PI, Gary McMurtry, University of Hawaii).