Thesis projections of Dr. Rodrigo Fuentes

The experimental work of atmospheric measurements, which gave rise to the doctoral thesis of Rodrigo Fuentes, opens new options for developing optical instruments that measure concentrations of atmospheric pollutants.

The measurement of compounds such as carbon dioxide (CO2) or nitrogen dioxide (NO2) makes it possible to gather relevant information about the state of the troposphere, the layer of the atmosphere closest to the Earth’s surface, which is important not only in environmental sciences, but also in volcanology or meteorology.

Rodrigo Fuentes, now a PhD in physics who was approved with highest honors, worked for four years on the development of optical instrumentation for atmospheric applications, configuring it for tropospheric NO2 measurements with DOAS (differential optical absorption spectroscopy).

Using a LED light beam, the DOAS technique establishes a relation between the light absorbed by a mirror at point “b” and the number of particles that lie in the optical path from point “a”, where the transmitter instrument is at a distance of one kilometer between the two points.

Fuentes explained that this technique can be adapted, “if you change the configuration to measure CO2, a very important substance in volcanoes, as it can reflect the magmatic activity of a volcano.” Currently, one idea which could be carried out now is the manufacture of UV cameras that measure this contaminant, developing an instrument with direct application to the area of volcanology.

For the researcher, optical instrumentation will be his goal now, with potential for development in the areas of air pollution, volcanology, or even a post doctorate abroad, as his work is in high demand at the international level.


Dr. Laura Gallardo, a specialist in atmospheric modelling and a professor at the University of Chile, was part of the evaluating committee of Rodrigo Fuentes. After the presentation, she spared no praise for the work of the CEFOP researcher, ensuring that it will have a far-reaching scope, including at the international level.

“The atmospheric community is small, the community related to radiative processes in the atmosphere is smaller still, and so this is one step toward independence in terms of instrumental development. And you not only have a sophisticated instrument, but also the development capacity associated with that, and that makes this a very significant contribution,” the researcher noted.

For his part, Dr. Carlos Saavedra, added that the Center now expects to work collaboratively with the Geophysics Department of the University of Chile in these aspects, and they expect to include a team member from the University of ConcepciĆ³n, in addition to two students from our university.

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