Air pollution sensor networks

Collaborative research to investigate emerging air quality sensor technologies and related data transmission and integration methods, and to develop and integrate sensor networks into future air quality monitoring in NSW.

There is an increasing demand for localised information on how air pollution levels vary from place to place, and particularly in areas near air emission sources such as transport corridors.

Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is collaborating with leading research partners and environment agencies in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland to develop and deploy air pollution sensor networks for real-time air pollution mapping.

Sensors refer to small air pollution measurement devices that are individually sufficiently low in cost to be replaced rather than fixed when they fail. Such sensors are not as accurate as the instruments deployed within the NSW Air Quality Monitoring Network to assess compliance with national air quality standards.

The benefits of sensors are due in part to the potential for their deployment in networks to supplement existing monitoring networks. Sensors placement may be stationary, such as on street poles, or mobile, such as deployed on buses, vehicles and even on unmanned aerial vehicles.

This research will support the future integration of data from sensor networks with high quality data from the NSW Air Quality Monitoring Network, projections from regional airshed modelling and remote sensing information.

Applications are expected to include intra-urban mapping of air quality to investigate pollution levels within transport corridors, supplement campaign community based air quality monitoring and network deployment to investigate the impact of smoke from bushfires and planned burns on NSW communities.

Developing advanced networks for air quality sensing and analyses

This three year research study, funded by the Australian Research Council Linkage Project (LP160100051), commenced on 1 July 2017.  This collaborative study investigates the development and use of advanced networks of air quality sensors to supplement high quality air quality information from government air quality monitoring networks.

Who is involved in the study?

The study is being led by Professor Lidia Morawska from Queensland University of Technology, with study partners as follows:

University partners:

  • Queensland University of Technology
  • RMIT University
  • Curtin University of Technology
  • Tsinghua University

Government agencies:

  • Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water
  • QLD Department of Environment and Science (DES)
  • VIC Environment Protection Authority
  • SA Environmental Protection Agency
  • Australian Bureau of Meteorology

What are the aims of the study?

The project aims to:

  • Characterise and optimise sensors and sensor platforms for real-time monitoring of atmospheric gases and particulate matter.
  • Develop approaches and modelling techniques for:
    • optimal sensor deployment
    • harvesting information from standard monitoring network sites and sensing networks
  • Establish a Database Management Centre; a scalable, open access, cloud platform providing online interface to a database for retrieving and managing sensors’ data
  • Establish stationary and/or mobile sensing networks in the state capitals of the partner investigators (NSW, QLD, VIC, SA) to:
    • visualise intra-urban variations in air pollution
    • develop air quality maps
    • facilitate smoke pollution management
  • Assess opportunities to utilise the sensor package for personal exposure monitoring and/or citizen/community science programs.

Progress updates

Information on progress being made by the study team was provided in a poster developing and utilising advanced networks for air quality sensing and analyses presented at the NSW Clean Air Summit on 27 June 2017.

The Katoomba Air Quality Monitoring Station is part of the Blue Mountains and Lithgow Air Watch Project led by NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA). As part of this project, 12 low-cost air quality (KOALA) sensors have been deployed at locations selected by community representatives.