Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 14:37 UK

Mobile pollution sensors deployed

Mobile pollution sensor
The smallest devices can be linked to people's mobile phones

Cyclists, buses, cars and even pedestrians will become mobile pollution detectors in an initiative launched on Tuesday.

Led by Imperial College London, the project will trial three types of mobile, wireless pollution sensor.

These will measure traffic pollutants throughout the UK, and transmit their data via the mobile phone network.

Scientists say such detailed mobile measurements could help improve the management of air quality.

Four UK universities are collaborating on the project, which will deploy 100 sensors in London, Leicester, Gateshead and Cambridge.

Each one will measure up to five different traffic pollutants simultaneously, including carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide.

"We will be able to gather much finer detail about pollution, and really understand its microstructure," Neil Hoose, coordinator of the Mobile Environmental Sensing System Across Grid Environments (Message) project, told BBC News.

He explained that the measurements would be fed into a database that could be accessed "in real time".

"Each sensor has a satellite positioning system, so we could have a bus create a map of the air pollution as it drives along its route," he said.

"This data could be used to provide people with local information - perhaps advice for those with respiratory problems about their journey to work .

"In a wider sense, it could also be used by traffic managers, helping them decide how to phase traffic lights in a way that might reduce traffic pollution."

Pollution sensor on lamppost
Larger sensors also measure noise levels and temperature

The smallest sensors can be carried by people and linked up to their own mobile phones. These "electrochemical cells" convert pollutants into a small electric charge.

Larger devices, capable of monitoring temperature and noise levels as well as pollution, have been designed to be attached to lampposts and traffic light poles.

The most sophisticated and largest of the three devices, which is designed to be fitted to vehicles, uses ultraviolet light to differentiate between the pollutants.

"There is a lot we do not know about air quality in our cities and towns because the current generation of large stationary sensors doesn't provide enough information," said the project's director, Professor John Polak, from the Centre for Transport Studies at Imperial College London.

"We envisage a future where hundreds and thousands of mobile sensors are deployed across the country."

Print Sponsor

Why do we succumb to hot weather?
30 Jun 09 |  Health
Pollution kills '3,000 in a year'
01 May 09 |  London
Pollution 'fights global warming'
23 Apr 09 |  Science & Environment
City air pollution 'shortens life'
12 Apr 09 |  Health
Pollution link with birth weight
08 Apr 09 |  Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific