Scientists unveil ‘shark-shaped’ air pollution monitor

A new type of ‘shark shaped’ sampler designed to hunt ‘fugitive’ air pollutants has been unveiled by scientists at Lancaster University and the Environment Agency.

The Directional Passive Air Quality Samplers will attempt to measure pollutants present in industrial emissions, including particulates and gases such as ammonia and nitrogen dioxide.

The 'shark-shaped' pollutant monitor developed by Lancaster University and the Environment Agency

The ‘shark-shaped’ pollutant monitor developed by Lancaster University and the Environment Agency

The sources of these fugitive pollutants, such as airborne particles thrown up by transportation or extraction of raw materials, and intensive agriculture, cannot be identified by standard fixed integrated monitors.

But the new equipment, which is shaped like a basking shark, will monitor pollutants caused by industrial activity or traffic – which can be difficult to record effectively.

The monitor was developed with help from the Lancaster Product Development in Lancaster University’s Engineering Department, and pivots in the wind to capture wind-blown particles through its ‘mouth’.

It contains 12 vials in a static carousel that collects samples from different directions for analysis, and can be left in position for a month without additional supervision.

Research into the project will continue until 2016 when it is hoped the sampler will be available for commercial use. Scientists are keen to see it replace the costly and bulky monitors already available on the market.

USA

Additional interest has also come from the United States, where environment regulators are seeking new ways to monitor fugitive air pollutants in areas such as roadways and ports.

Dr Maria Angeles Solera García, a senior research associate at Lancaster University, said: “Industrial site operators, in order to comply with the permits issued by regulators, put in numerous costly control measures to tackle fugitive air pollutants in these complex environments. However, these are mostly untargeted as they do not have access to the evidence that more mobile and cost-effective monitors may provide. This is what our research is looking to achieve.

“At Lancaster University, in partnership with the Environment Agency, we are developing monitors that are easily deployable in the field, that do not require a power source and are affordable. This will enable operators to more efficiently target their resources on effective controls to reduce the volume of fugitive pollutants in the environment.”

Professor Roger Timmis, lead Environment Agency scientist for the project and co-inventor, added: “The Directional Passive Air Quality Sampler (DPAS) is a successful collaboration between LEC and the Environment Agency’s Evidence Directorate. By using the DPAS to resolve sources of air pollution we can regulate them more effectively to protect people and the environment.”