Air pollution could be measured on every street corner
The technology is already in use in western Sweden, and researchers and other interested parties hope that the sensor could soon be used in many broad contexts. A collaboration with the University of Sheffield is also underway.
“Air pollution is a global health problem. To be able to contribute to increased knowledge and a better environment feels great. With the help of these small, portable sensors, it can become both simpler and cheaper to measure dangerous emissions extremely accurately,” says Chalmers researcher Irem Tanyeli, who has helped develop the small sensors, which measure nitrogen dioxide with great precision.
For the hi-tech sensors to make the move from the lab out into the real world, Irem Tanyeli worked with the Gothenburg-based company Insplorion, co-founded by Chalmers researcher Christoph Langhammer in 2010. With help from financier Mistra Innovation, he has been involved with the company’s efforts at taking on the great environmental challenge of precisely mapping air pollution.
“This is a great example of how a university and a company can collaborate. Both parties contribute with their expertise to create a new product, contributing to a more sustainable society,” says Christoph Langhammer, Professor at the Chalmers Department of Physics.
Exhaust gases from road traffic are responsible for the majority of nitrogen dioxide pollution in the air. Breathing in nitrogen dioxide is harmful to our health, even at very low levels, and can damage our respiratory systems and lead to cardiac and vascular diseases. According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution is the single biggest environmental health risk worldwide.
For the last two years, Irem Tanyeli has been working with optimising the sensor material and conducting tests under differently simulated environmental conditions. The technology is now installed in a streetlight in Gothenburg, as part of a collaboration with lighting company Leading Light, to measure the quantity of nitrogen dioxide molecules in the urban environment.
A sensor is also installed on the roof of Nordstan in Gothenburg, one of Scandinavia’s biggest shopping malls, and soon more will be placed along the route of Västlänken, a major railway tunnel construction project, also in Gothenburg.
“There is a lack of small functional nitrogen dioxide sensors on the market. We find this nano plasmonic solution interesting, and look forward to the test results,” says Professor Martin Mayfield at Urban Flows Observatory, University of Sheffield.
Other interested parties include Stenhøj Sverige, a company, which develops gas and smoke analysers for automotive repair shops and vehicle inspection companies, as well as IVL, Swedish Environmental Research Institute. IVL works with applied research and development in close collaboration with industry and the public sphere to address environmental issues.
The new sensor technology is not limited to measuring nitrogen dioxide but can also be adapted to other types of gases. There is, therefore, potential for further innovation.
Feature Image: Insporion/Johan Bodell.