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Exposure Research

Scientists evaluate air sensors developed during EPA’s Air Sensor Evaluation and Collaboration Event

Attendees of the US EPA Air Pollution Sensor
Evaluation and Collaboration event discuss
potential laboratory evaluation procedures

Ron Williams, the senior EPA investigator discusses
the unique nature of the nine Material Cooperative
Research and Development Agreements (MCRADAs) being established between the EPA
and the individual research teams.

Sophisticated ozone (shown) as well as other environmental monitors will be used in the
evaluation of sensor performance

Russell Long (EPA) demonstrates one
of the specialized test chamber apparatus
to be used in establishing basic sensor
performance characteristics.

On September 11 and 12, app and sensor developers from across the U.S. and select European countries gathered at the EPA’s Research Triangle Park (RTP) facility for initial discussions on laboratory evaluations of their air monitoring devices. The event represents the beginning of air monitoring sensor evaluation collaboration between outside developers and EPA scientists resulting from a recent open invitation.

The call for developers began in March 2012, when EPA held an Apps and Sensors for Air Pollution Monitoring Workshop at RTP. During the workshop, developers sought EPA’s guidance on sensor technology technical requirements, including issues such as sensitivity, accuracy and calibration. The meeting was a union of diverse backgrounds including robotics, design, computer science, and engineering — most participants having little knowledge of air quality monitoring. The aforementioned invitation for collaboration provided EPA an opportunity to continue the conversation with innovation teams participating in the workshop as well as additional inventors.

The developers have successfully created a wide variety of low cost monitoring devices with the potential to enhance air monitoring techniques. These sensors could be used by communities, researchers, and government agencies in a variety of applications to assess air pollution exposure. The devices of interest in the current collaboration include portable sensors and smart-phones that carry their own power supply and are able to provide continuous or near-continuous determinations of nitrogen dioxide and ozone.

The collaborators are currently in the process of providing EPA with working models of their device which EPA scientists will evaluate for basic air quality performance characteristics. At the invitation-only September 11-12 gathering, EPA scientists met individual with representatives from a total of nine collaborating institutions to learn more about their device and its operation and then collectively with all collaborators on planned sensor evaluation procedures. As part of the collaboration, EPA will provide technical feedback to the collaborators on performance of their device under controlled laboratory conditions. Such information was deemed useful by both EPA scientists and the collaborators in helping to advance sensor technology for air monitoring applications. EPA scientists hope to complete laboratory data collections by late 2012 and provide preliminary findings to the collaborators at that time.

The goal of this collaboration is to promote information exchange between sensor developers and EPA scientists working on and with exposure-assessment sensors. It allows EPA to quickly respond to the enthusiasm of app and sensor developers and encourages them to consider a wider range of applications for their creations.

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