Pollution sensors send out a clear message

Nov 13, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- New technology that can tell us the exact level of traffic fumes we are breathing in at any moment in time is being trialled in the North East.

The Mobile Environmental Sensing System Across a Grid Environment – MESSAGE – has been designed by experts at Newcastle University and produces real-time, second-by-second, metre-by-metre data on traffic pollutants such as carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and even noise.

Using a system dubbed SMART dust technology, sensors called ‘motes’ are placed at regular intervals along busy roads where they continuously monitor the level of pollutants in the atmosphere. This data is then fed back and can be accessed in real-time via Google map.

Being trialled for the first time in Gateshead, the project has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Department for Transport. The aim is to understand the links between traffic flow – in particular congestion – and pollution levels.

But it also means that individuals – drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and any other road users – can potentially track the exact levels of pollution they are exposed to while going about their daily lives.

Phil Blythe, Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems at Newcastle University, said: 'Common sense tells us that pollution levels will be higher during rush hour than at other times of day but we need to understand exactly how these levels vary – inside and outside the car, at different temperatures and humidities – before we can start to tackle the problem.

'What we hope is that this data will be used to inform new traffic management plans that will improve urban air quality and transform the way we travel.'

Professor Margaret Bell, professor of Transport and the Environment at Newcastle University, said: 'Pollution levels in cars and buses are often actually higher than they are outside, so for short journeys it makes more sense to walk.

'It’s all a question of balance – if you walk, then you’re exposed to less intensive pollution levels, but for a longer period than if you travelled the same journey by car.

'If you’re driving aggressively or laboring your engine you’re increasing the pollution behind you, so your bad driving is causing those behind you to breathe in more pollution.

'This data will be vital in helping us to understand fluctuations in air pollution so that we can find ways to keep traffic moving more freely and ultimately improve air quality in our towns and cities.'

Placed along some of the busiest roads in Gateshead, this is the first time a local authority has monitored vehicle pollution on such a large scale and the project has attracted interest across the UK as well as other parts of the world.

The plan now is to set up a transport observatory based at Newcastle University that could be used to inform the way traffic flow and pollution is managed up and down the country.

Professor Blythe added: 'In future, tens of thousands of tiny low-cost sensors could create intelligent transport infrastructure that aids decision-making at all levels.

'MESSAGE shows how new information and communication technologies will impact on the way we travel and think about travel in the years ahead, and on many other aspects of daily life too.'

Provided by Newcastle University

Explore further: Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

When air quality governs traffic management

Mar 21, 2014

Poor air quality costs Europe more than €700 million per year, in health expenditures and loss of economic performance, according to official EU sources. To tackle such major issue, the EU-funded MACC-II ...

Voice-based phone recharging

May 10, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The noise that we produce can be a lot of things. It can be a valid means of communication. It can be an annoyance when you are trying to get to bed at night. It can be a migraine waiting ...

Recommended for you

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

1 hour ago

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

New study outlines 'water world' theory of life's origins

4 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Life took root more than four billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed ...

Agriculture's growing effects on rain

Apr 15, 2014

(Phys.org) —Increased agricultural activity is a rain taker, not a rain maker, according to researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and their collaborators at the University of California Los ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

GrayMouser
not rated yet Nov 14, 2008
"Pollution sensors send out a clear message"
Especially to hypochondriacs...

More news stories

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.