TSI has been producing air quality monitoring equipment since the 1960s, helping to better understand emissions from a diverse range of sources. AirQualityNews spoke to their product manager, Myles Quigley, about staying ahead of the curve, the challenges of working in different markets and why Google could change the game for air quality data.
What have been some of TSI’s significant milestones over the years?
Our measurements were used by NASA in 1971 when they used our instrumentation on the first Viking mission.
In terms of measuring particulate matter and identifying and characterising what it actually is, the technology we use and deploy in the field has been around a while and is a robust and reliable way of capturing the data, but of course, things have moved on and there’s a need now to measure air quality a much smaller scale.
Institutions want to see what’s going on with their air quality on a nanoscale. That’s an area of research and development that we’ve been involved with over the years.
For example, we’ve brought new technologies to the market that can measure ultrafine particulates so we can now count the number of particles in the air down to seven nanometers.
We’re also able to perform chemical characterisation so we can determine what the chemical composition is of a particulate, which is really important. We can identify what the potential source is and link that back to its source, backed up with scientific data.
There have been instances in the past, such as in Marseille, where one of our instruments was used to detect a cruise ship coming into the port that was still burning its heavy fuel. We were able to detect the increased sulphur and traced it back to that one particular ship.
In the mid-80s we developed and launched respirator kit testing equipment, prior to that it was all done on the qualitiative method where you would ask a series of questions directly. It wasn’t a very effective or scientific method for determining how well these respirators were working. So we brought to the market a quantitative way of doing it, the PortaCount.
This generates a known aerosol and circulates it into the mask to measure if there was any leakage. There is no subjective interpretation.
The technology was adopted by the US and Canadian military and we’ve gone on to do further work with militaries on biohazard detection. It disrupted the market and is now widely used throughout the world.
What products are TSI working on that you are excited about?
We are involved in several pilot studies throughout the world that look at ways to supplement existing air quality networks. We’re trying to investigate how you can put lower cost centres into these networks, and how can that data be used.
We’ve been working with several companies across Asia who are trialling the use of low-cost sensors in both fixed locations and public transport networks. We’re also expanding our range of environmental monitors for the fugitive emissions market. What we’re seeing is tightening of regulations and local authorities are attaching more and more planning conditions related to air quality and for monitoring to take place. We see more activity in that space and certainly, in construction, there’s a growing demand there.
We’ve been working with cities in Mumbai and Delhi for example who are trialling our technology.
We have a project building an MCERT certified aerosol monitor. It’s aimed more at the fugitive emissions market. What we’re seeing is tightening of regulations and local authorities are attaching more and more planning conditions related to air quality and for monitoring to take place. We see more activity in that space and certainly, in construction, there’s a growing demand there.
There is not one universal measurement for air quality. Is this a challenge for you when you work in different markets?
Yes, there are many different air quality standards and it’s very challenging to have one instrument that can fit all of the different markets and requirements! In Europe, we have the EU Directives which sets out what the reference measurement standard is and you can demonstrate how your products can measure the data quality that they require.
In Europe and the United States, it works but there is a need to try and supplement these networks elsewhere and make a wider more real-time data network.
Which countries have the most progressive governments on air pollution?
The UK leads the way. London’s ULEZ is really progressive and they are part of the C40 Cities network who share their data with other cities. Also what’s very good is MCERTS, the certification scheme used by the Environment Agency.
It’s a pretty reliable way of demonstrating the performance of environmental monitoring equipment and all our monitors are MCERT certified. For anyone in the industry, that’s the benchmark they want to see.
Is enough known about indoor air pollution?
There is a growing awareness of indoor pollution and we see an increase in enquiries for this type of product.
We have handheld devices for walkthrough surveys so occupational health or industrial hygienists can use these to do point source location. That could even be a printer in the corner of the office. That emits a certain amount of particulates into the air.
What we are seeing with post-built completion checks and the BREAM standard, it’s all about increasing wellbeing inside buildings.
Is it an exciting time to be working in air quality?
Definitely. There’s a huge need to expand monitoring networks and also understanding the data and modelling of that data. Information can easily be disseminated. Different technologies can feed into the whole package with AI and machine learning, we’ll see more in the way of predictive air quality forecasts, like the weather.
There’s a whole thing about hyperlocal monitoring, the idea is to get as many networks as possible into the urban environment and what we’ll see is real-time maps of different pollution forming and what their concentration levels are, with technology that will only improve.
Big players are coming into space like Google, and it won’t be too long before these guys have a way of showing that information in a really easy and concise way for everybody to understand.
Read more about TSI’s air pollution monitoring here.