Drive-By Technology: Biology Professor who uses Google Streetview cars to test methane will speak at TED Talk event on CSU campus

Joe von Fischer, biology professor at Colorado State University and faculty affiliate of the Energy Institute, will be giving a Ted Talk during the TEDxCSU event that takes places on March 4, 2017.

Von Fischer will be speaking about his work with analyzers set on Google Streetview cars that identify methane leaks in urban areas.

Von Fischer and a car-mounted methane sensor

Currently, von Fischer has four Google Streetview cars that travel the country and analyze methane leakages in cities. The project is a collaboration between CSU, Google and the Environmental Defense Fund. Von Fischer said that his TED talk “is really about the different groups of people that we ended up working with to develop the technology and then to apply the technology.”

The project is particularly helpful for utility companies with natural gas pipelines, as the analyzers set atop the cars can provide data on not only the number of leaks in the pipelines but also the size of each leak. With this information, utility companies are able to effectively target and replace pipeline sections that are leaking methane.

As a biology professor, von Fischer researches the connections between the environment, plants, and soil microbes. He focuses on biological systems that emit methane, like wetlands and arctic tundra. He became an affiliate faculty member of the Energy Institute in order to make connections with others at CSU who are involved in methane research. Affiliate faculty have access to collaboration and funding from the Energy Institute.

“Methane, my favorite gas, doesn’t only come from biological sources and so I’ve been interested in developing broader connections across campus, and that’s why I became an affiliate with the energy Institute because I have a lot of colleagues who are doing related kinds of projects over there,” von Fischer said. “I’m eager to develop closer collaborations with like-minded faculty over there.”

Joe von Fischer

TEDxCSU takes place at the Lory Student Center on March 4th from 11:00 am to 4:30 pm. Tickets are available here.

For more information about von Fischer’s research, check out his website.

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