Air quality sensors to help cities and their citizens

Tuesday, 28 January, 2020

Air quality sensors to help cities and their citizens

NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN) researchers have developed low-cost air quality sensors that use light to check the composition of airborne particles in real time.

The portable, laser-based sensors, developed by NSSN Research Theme Leader Dr Tomonori Hu and his team at the University of Sydney, can be deployed in large arrays and aim to provide more accurate, localised and up-to-date air quality data than existing devices, according to NSSN. 

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage-funded invention comes amid air quality concerns caused by sudden environmental changes — such as the recent bushfires and increasing numbers of motor vehicles and population densities.  

Sydney has experienced 38 days of ‘very poor’ air quality since November and NSW Health has issued 15 health warnings since the start of the bushfire emergency, NSSN said. 

Currently, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) issues air quality data on a rolling basis via a set of monitoring stations scattered across the state, NSSN explained.

In future, NSSN’s sensors could play a role in smart cities — with the invention leading to “further miniaturisation of sensors that will fit inside devices like smartphones, enabling citizens to measure local air quality and feed that information into a mass network of deployed air quality sensors”, the Network claimed. 

They could also help governments and communities “take actions to prevent and mitigate air quality degradation” while allowing individuals to better look after their health, NSSN said.

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