Detecting pollution with smartphone sensors

As we’ve written before, air pollution is responsible for a hell of a lot of ill-health throughout the world. While it’s not fixing the problem at source, Australian and Chinese scientists have developed a super cheap sensor that can detect unhealthy levels of nitrogen dioxide, and hope that their public research will ensure the mass adoption by smartphone manufacturers.

Detecting pollution with smartphone sensors

The sensor is made of tin disulphide, a pigment typically found in varnishes, and is just a few atoms thick. “

This was a magic material,” explained Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh from RMIT’s Centre for Advanced Electronics and Sensors to Mashable. “The surface of this material has a nice energy that attracts nitrogen dioxide gas molecules selectively onto the surface.”

The reason the sensor is so effective, according to Kalantar-zadeh, is that no other gases are attracted to tin disulphide, making it more effective than current sensors which struggle to differentiate between gases.air_pollution_nitrogen_dioxide_sensor

It’s also very cheap to manufacture – Kalantar-zadeh reckons it costs around 47p to manufacture one, making mass adoption a realistic ambition.

“At the moment, you must have a smoke detector everywhere. There’s no regulation that requires people to have a nitrogen dioxide sensor,” he explained. “For areas near heavy traffic, and emissions coming from trucks with diesel engines, it should be required.”

Research into the device has just been published in the science journal ACS Nano, and Kalantar-zadeh is hopeful that others will pick up the baton and begin a full-scale manufacturing process. “This is why we put it in the public domain, to make sure people benefit right now, today.”

READ THIS NEXT: This map shows the most polluted places on Earth

Images: Shirokazan and Friends of the Earth Scotland, used under Creative Commons

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