Researchers at Linkoping University’s Case Studies Department of Environmental Change have developed a simple greenhouse gas flow recorder. It is built using inexpensive and readily available parts and provides data on methane, carbon dioxide, temperature, and humidity levels. David Bastwicken, professor of environmental change, spoke about the new invention in the journal Biogeoscience.

Until now, measuring instruments have been so expensive that they have had to rely on crude models to map society’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is imperative that scientists and enthusiasts are able to make as many measurements as possible at different locations. This will help verify if the emission reduction measures are actually working. Scientists hope that their simple and cost-effective recorder can facilitate more such measurements.

The current limitation in determining greenhouse gas fluxes is the lack of reliable and inexpensive measurement methods that can be readily available. In 2015, David Bastwicken and colleagues described and published a carbon dioxide recorder that is currently used for various types of environmental measurements. However, methane still required more sophisticated and expensive measurement equipment. In their article, the researchers describe an inexpensive sensor for it.

Methane, CH4, is one of the most important long-lived greenhouse gases that contributes significantly to global warming. Since the 1750s, its relative increase in the atmosphere has been greater than for other greenhouse gases. There are many different sources and examples, including incomplete combustion, natural gas and biogas processing, and microbial production in agriculture, wetlands, and lakes.

However, the large number of sources, which can vary greatly in ways that are not fully understood, make it difficult to quantify gas flows. This further inhibits the development of new strategies to reduce flows. In addition, the discovery that lakes, rivers and flooded forests are major sources of methane, made by David Bastwicken and colleagues back in 2011 and later, shows that scientists do not know all the sources of greenhouse gases.

Scientists have created and tested a simple logger based on open-source Arduino hardware. Parts are available at many electronics stores; they can be ordered online for about € 200 (about 17 thousand rubles). Scientists have also developed more accurate methods for calibrating the methane sensor. This will make it possible to measure greenhouse gas flows at a very low cost.

The researchers hope that the recorder will make it easier for all stakeholders, such as education and environmental monitoring, to control greenhouse gas emissions.

We also offer simplified but satisfactory sensor calibration methods that do not require constant access to advanced research laboratories. This can simplify measurements, for example, in developing countries.

David Bastwicken, Professor of Environmental Change at Linkoping University