Next Generation Air Measuring
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.
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.
- Scientists evaluate air sensors developed during EPA's Air Sensor Evaluation and Collaboration Event
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.
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:
- Apps and Sensors for Air Pollution (ASAP) - technologies that include small portable, low-cost devices are being developed and applied by industry, academia and individual innovators and do-it-yourselfers.
- Mobile Monitoring – technologies that continuously (by the second) monitor levels of air pollution while mounted on a vehicle driving in close proximity to an air pollution source.
- Passive Fence-Line Monitoring – low-cost technologies that are easily deployed in multiple locations to monitor concentrations of pollutants around a facility.
- Enhanced National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) Federal Reference Methods – new state of science technologies to measure compliance with ozone and nitrogen oxide NAAQS and new methods to address monitoring needs for the Lead NAAQS.
- Satellites – usage of satellite technology to enhance air quality management activities including air quality forecasting, emissions estimation and exposure assessment for human health studies.
- Data Fusion Approaches – integration of state of science modeling results with monitoring data to fill in the spatial and temporal gaps of monitoring networks to supplement and possibly reduce monitoring requirements.
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
EPA has hosted numerous meetings, conferences and webinars involving many areas of air sensor research and development. These conferences bring 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.
Tim Watkins (firstname.lastname@example.org), Deputy Director, Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program, EPA's Office of Research and Development, 919-541-5114.