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Next Generation Air Monitoring

Next Generation Air Monitoring

Old Sensor


Traditionally, air pollution is measured by expensive, stationary and complex air-monitoring instrumentation. Only a few organizations, like Federal, State and some industries, typically collect data of such high quality. Even so, this limits the amount of environmental monitoring data that is often available for exposure and health assessments. As air quality management problems become more complex, there is a need for enhanced air quality and exposure monitoring capabilities.

Phone NGAM

To meet this growing technological need, EPA, the commercial sensor industry, academic institutions, and others, are developing, evaluating and applying a variety of innovative technologies. Currently, EPA is investigating the means to monitor personal air quality in community settings, and other areas of interest.

These air sensors range anywhere from an application on a cell phone to a device that gives by-the-minute, real-time data while interacting with the public, like the Village Green Project.

Village Green Pergola

This project developed a solar-powered air monitoring system in the shape of a bench, and encourages the public to interact and learn more about their local air quality. People can interact with the bench system with their Smartphones and see current local air quality and meteorological conditions. The air pollutants being measured include ozone, black carbon and particulate matter where the system automatically sends collected data to an online, open-sourced website. This system is charged by two solar panels and will automatically turn off in dark, cloudy conditions and re-start once the sun again comes out.

The main areas of air sensor research at EPA includes:

Air Sensor Studies

Rapid developments in technology led to the production of small, low-cost air pollution sensors. These new technologies, used by academics, industry, communities and individuals, symbolize the future of air quality monitoring. New technologies have the potential to serve many purposes, including:

  • In-plant sensor networks and “fenceline” monitoring – facilities could use sensor networks to detect fugitive emissions
  • Monitoring near emissions sources – helping communities understand near-source exposures
  • Wearable sensors – engaging citizens in personal monitoring, and learning about exposures during exercise and the exposure of sensitive family members
  • Mobile sensor platforms – developing spatially resolved data on air quality in local areas
  • Supplementing current air quality monitoring networks with a high density sensor network

Moving Forward with Collaboration

ASAP Collage

EPA has hosted numerous meetings, conferences and webinars involving many areas of air sensor research and development. Three Next Generation Air Monitoring (NGAM) conferences took place over the past two years. These conferences brought together governmental agencies, academics, community groups and innovative do-it-yourselfers to learn more about current air sensor research, see air sensors in action with tech demonstrations and, most importantly, network and discuss with fellow air sensor fanatics.

In September 2012, app and sensor developers from across the U.S. and select European countries gathered at EPA’s Research Triangle Park (RTP) facility for initial discussions on laboratory evaluations of their air-monitoring devices. Read more about the Air Sensor Evaluation and Collaboration.

EPA at World Maker Faire

EPA also attended the World Maker Faire in New York that September. EPA scientists showcased some of their most innovative sensor projects that measure pollutant levels in water and air. Learn more information regarding EPA’s involvement.

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Tim Watkins (watkins.tim@epa.gov), Deputy Director, Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program, EPA's Office of Research and Development, 919-541-5114.

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