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Gas carrying VOCs enters the PID and passes over the face of the ultra-violet lamp (with a standard output of 10.6eV), which subsequently ionises the VOC sample if it has an ionisation potential less than the output of the lamp.
The charged ions flow to charged plates in the sensor and current is produced. This current is measured and a gas concentration is shown on the display. Only a fraction of the sample is destroyed during this process allowing for sample collection and more detailed laboratory analysis.