Correlation Spectrometer

Technology Summary

Correlation spectrometers measure trace amounts of a chemical in the presence of many other chemicals by comparing the light transmission of a sample to a known reference. Sandia National Laboratories has developed a correlation spectrometer capable of determining the concentration of a target compound in a sample. 


Working for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Sandia optical engineers created a new instrument for measuring trace amounts of chemicals like methane or carbon monoxide.

The spectrometer encodes dozens of reference signals onto a compact disk, alleviating the need to port around reference gas samples or run samples to a lab for gas chromatography. The disk-encoded correlation spectrometer enables rapid, high confidence point-of-service measurements of trace gases.

The spectrometer can measure the transmission spectrum from a given sample of gas using infrared light. The spectrometer can detect the transmission or emission spectra in any system where multiple species are present in a known volume.

In contrast to many conventional spectrometers, the SNL spectrometer is simple and can be miniaturized.  


  • Optimized for infrared chemical signature detection
  • Eigen-spectra encoded on a rotating mask enables lock-in detection of gas concentration
  • Ideal for detection where other gases interfere and spectral lines are not fully resolved

Applications and Industries

  • Consumer Furnace Safety: Carbon Monoxide Testing
  • Gas Pipeline Safety/ Methane Sensing
  • Industrial Processing Monitoring
  • Safety: Hazardous Gas Monitoring
  • Environment: Air quality/pollution, Greenhouse Gases
  • Hydrogen (H2) fueling stations

Intellectual Property

ID Number
Patent Number
Correlation spectrometer 10165.1 7,697,134 04/13/2010
Technology IDSD#10165Development StageDevelopment - Sandia estimates this technology at Technology Readiness Level 4. Basic technological components are integrated to establish that the pieces will work together.AvailabilityAvailablePublished07/31/2014Last Updated04/01/2013