At CO2Meter, we get just as excited about science fair projects as the students. we also get a vast amount of inquiries when it comes to science projects and research.
So, it comes as no surprise when we heard from a 14-year old student named Matthew Siracusa and his inquiry on an upcoming project titled, ‘A Method for the Mobile Study of Fracking Sites.”
Matthew was looking for a way to monitor the air around shale oil hydraulic fracturing (fracking) sites from a moving vehicle. About 50% of these sites in the US are currently being monitored. His project was to create a platform using gas sensing technology that would reduce the cost of public monitoring of all the sites.
However, I was pleasantly surprised when Matthew informed us that his project had been entered into the Google Science Fair. After winning a Google local award and becoming a regional finalist, he has now gone on to compete with students internationally for a $25,000 scholarship and prizes from Google, the National Geographic Society and others to further their interest in science.
For me, the project started out as a simple enough question: How do you inexpensively measure methane (CH4)? A typical non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) sensor to measure low concentrations (<1%) of CH4 are not only physically large, but are fairly expensive.
To stay within a budget, I had an alternative. Our lab testing had shown that NDIR CO2 sensors are cross-sensitive to other gases by varying degrees. For example, the COZIR CO2 Sensor is measurably cross-sensitive to methane (3.4 µm wavelength) and other gases at a similar wavelength to CO2 (4.25 µm).
When methane is present, the COZIR reports it as an increase in CO2. On the other hand, the SenseAir CO2 sensor has near zero cross-sensitivity to methane because of its narrow filtering around the 4.25 µm wavelength of CO2.
Therefore, in theory one could predict that the difference between the CO2 levels reported by the 2 sensors should be an accurate measure of CH4.
To test this, we started by zero referencing both sensors to nitrogen, then span calibrating them within the working range for reference. We found that using the COZIR and SenseAir sensors in combination solved both the CO2 and CH4 environmental measurement tasks simultaneously.
During the process, Matthew developed his own calibration techniques and learned gas law principals for compensation for pressure and temperature – things you don’t think about until you are attempting to measure with some precision. In the end, of course, CO2 and CH4 gas measurements were only one aspect of the project, yet we were fortunate to be able to work with Matthew and wish him the best in his future endeavors.
How do you measure CO2 in an experiment?
For those also looking to orchestrate similar experiments to Mathews, gas sensors can be a great tool in gaining accurate gas analysis, as well as cross-sensitivity to other gases. For measuring carbon dioxide specifically, a CO2 sensor is most commonly used.
The K30 10,000ppm CO2 Sensor is an incredibly popular sensor module that is used throughout many scientific and research experiments in order to measure indoor air quality applications.
What experiments can you do with carbon dioxide?
There are many additional simple and cost-effective science experiments that can be used to teach principles of chemistry, physics, and environmental monitoring.
Below, we have highlighted a few specific projects that can be done with our favorite gas, carbon dioxide.
- Inflating Balloons - using CO2 to show a chemical reaction between vinegar and baking soda.
- Carbon Dioxide and Respiration - using CO2 gas as an experiment with red cabbage juice as a pH indicator.
- Soda Explosion - using CO2 to show a reaction with diet soda and Mentos candy.
- Monitoring Air Quality - using CO2 sensors and our own exhaled breathe to analyze the chance in CO2 levels in a indoor air environment.
- Investigating Cellular Respiration - using invertebrates, germinating seeds, or other small organisms to collect respiration data and analyze environmental factors.
For more information on carbon dioxide sensor technologies or to further understand how to incorporate CO2 in your next project - contact us today or call us directly at 877-678-4259.