Research and Application News
Pinpointing pollution from the skies
17 September 2013
Pioneering new technology could monitor levels of harmful Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) from space, allowing countries to pinpoint pollution hotspots and improve air quality in cities all over the world.
It all began with an innovative highly compact spectrometer designed by SSTL, which was adapted by The University of Leicester's Earth Observation Science Group to analyse the absorption of blue visible light by NO2 gas, and thereby measure its concentration in air. Working in partnership with SSTL under funding from the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI), the University team built and tested a very compact and cost effective new prototype instrument called CompAQS in 2008, based on the SSTL design, for measuring concentrations of common air pollutants.
This instrument has since been successfully harnessed in the University's Cityscan building-mounted pollution monitoring system, and this year it was taken to the skies as the Airborne Air Quality Mapper (AAQM) to map NO2 concentrations over Leicester. It means that for the first time in the UK entire cities can be mapped from the air, providing wider ranging and more efficient air quality monitoring than the traditional method of fixed sensors at known hotspots.