Tech Tuesday is an ongoing series profiling the Forum’s Technology Pioneers. The Tech Pioneers are companies that have been recognized by the Forum for groundbreaking and innovative approaches in tackling some of the world’s most wicked problems. Each week we will showcase some of the 2012 Tech Pioneers. You can learn more about the Technology Pioneer Programme on the Forum’s website.

Picarro pushes the envelope in developing the world’s highest performance gas analysers

In a world increasingly conscious of the impact of greenhouse gases on climate change, the precision measurement of gas emissions is taking on critical importance.

Picarro’s wide range of high performance gas analysing equipment serves a wide spectrum ranging from atmospheric scientists to local public utilities. The latter is particularly relevant since hydraulic oil shale fracturing, known as fracking, has suddenly made natural gas abundantly available. Burning natural gas creates one-half the carbon emissions of coal. Unfortunately, natural gas is mostly methane, which is 20 times, as a greenhouse gas, as potent as carbon dioxide.

Spotting gas leaks is now a priority, and Picarro, which employs a laser-based cavity ring-down spectrometer, which can be put in the back of a car and can detect leaks on any street in a matter of minutes. A city’s gas leaks can be mapped in one or two weeks. A recent assessment by Picarro showed that Boston and San Francisco both have invisible methane plumes hovering overhead that are 15 times the normal global level. As more countries opt for natural gas over nuclear power, this type of measurement becomes increasingly critical. Picarro has been tapped to develop sophisticated sensors that will help assess gas leaks at the national and regional level in the US. Picarro’s work on precision laser measurements has made it a pioneer in the effort to provide the hard data needed to move beyond polemics in the climate change debate and develop fact-based solutions.


Picarro Inc.
Michael Woelk, Chief Executive Officer
Location: CA, USA
Number of Employees: 90
Year Founded: 1998

Picarro, Inc.
3105 Patrick Henry Dr.
Santa Clara, CA 95054
Telephone: +1 408 962 3900