Portable devices monitor air pollution hotspots in cities

Scientists at our University are trialling a portable air monitor to gather precise air pollution data at a personal scale in order to help monitor pollution hotspots.

A BBC article looking into ways to potentially tackle air pollution outlines the project, featuring a volunteer, Logan Eddy, 14, carrying the device in a specially adapted backpack in Leicester that recorded details of the air he was exposed to.

Exactly where he walked was then displayed as lines on an electronic map, the colour of those lines conveying how unhealthy the air was at different points.

The World Health Organization (WHO) calculates that as many as 92% of the world's population are exposed to dirty air - but that disguises the fact that many different forms of pollution are involved.

The device found that air quality can become much worse than WHO guidelines recommend in different circumstances - for example, being almost off the scale in a sheltered spot beside an arcade of shops where a car was parked with its engine idling.

The personal monitor is one of a range of devices being deployed in Leicester to build up a detailed picture of where pollution hotspots form - and when. In many cases, they can be short-lived, appearing during rush-hours when traffic jams develop.

For Professor Roland Leigh from the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Leicester Institute for Space and Earth Observation, understanding precisely where and when vehicles slow to a crawl or stop will help manage the flow of traffic in a way that minimises the impact on the most vulnerable people - the young and the elderly.

Professor Leigh said: "One of the things we can all do is to improve our transport systems so that our congested traffic is not queued up outside of primary schools and old people's homes but instead is queued in other parts of the city where there's going to be less harm."

A video of Professor Roland Leigh discussing air quality research at our University is available below: