OSA Incubator Takes on Precision Measurements in Air Quality

OSA Incubator Takes on Precision Measurements in Air Quality

By ​Partha P. Banerjee


OSA Incubator Takes on Precision Measurements in Air Quality

Nasa
(Credit: NASA/EPA/NOAA/CIMSS IDEA program)
According to the United Nations Environment Program, more than 1 billion people are exposed to outdoor air pollution annually. Urban air pollution is linked to up to 1 million premature deaths and 1 million pre-native deaths each year. Urban air pollution is estimated to cost approximately 2% of GDP in developed countries and 5% in developing countries. Rapid urbanization has resulted in increasing urban air pollution in major cities, especially in developing countries. The World Health Organization and other international agencies have long identified urban air pollution as a critical public health problem. Air pollution puts a strain on sustainable urban development, which includes economic growth, social inclusion, human well-being, and the environment.
 
Air quality models predict air quality in terms of the concentration of specified pollutants in the air at a certain place. All air quality models need two kinds of input: 1. information about the input from pollutants in the air from one or more sources; and 2. information about factors that influence the dispersion of pollutants through the air such as wind speed and direction, turbulence in airflow due to presence of buildings, hills, bodies of water, etc. The models use all of this information to mathematically calculate and simulate how pollutants will spread, giving estimates of specific concentrations at specific places. It is therefore essential to monitor air quality as well as the effects of atmospheric turbulence for precise predictions on air quality not only near the source of pollution but also in places distant from the polluting source.
 
Consider, as an example, coal mines. These release a noxious group of harmful air pollutants known to be dangerous and in some cases lethal, including methane, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and other volatile organic compounds. Overall, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates more than 85 percent of all U.S. coal-mine methane emissions can be eliminated at a cost of $15/ton, although when factoring in health benefits, studies have found that the payback could be as much as $240/ton of methane reduced. An even greater concern is air quality within underground mines. Gases present include carbon monoxide and dioxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, methane, etc. Some air quality sampling systems are worn by workers to determine exposure to ambient particulates, gases, or vapors. Monitoring of air quality in mines is even more important in countries whose economy depends substantially on mining. For instance, the mining sector in Chile is one of the pillars of Chilean economy, and copper exports alone stands for more than one third of government income.
 
Optical remote sensing using ground-based, airborne and space based sensors is essential in the effort to detection and modeling of the air quality. By organizing this Incubator on Precision Measurements in Air Quality & Turbulence, OSA is helping bring focus to an important worldwide environmental issue. It is hoped that this Incubator opens the door to innovative and aggressive monitoring of air quality and predictions, leading to worldwide improvement of the quality of life.
 
Stay tuned for updates from the OSA Incubator on Precision Measurements in Air Quality & Turbulence: From Space-based Observations to Networked, Ground-based Point Sensors, 18-20 May 2016 hosted by the leadership of the Environmental Sensing Technical Group: Adam J. Fleisher, National Institute of Standards & Technology, United States; Partha Banerjee, University of Dayton, United States; and Jorge E. Pezoa, Universidad de Concepción, Chile.
 

Posted: 18 May 2016 by ​Partha P. Banerjee

Tags: Air Quality Monitoring Incubator, Energy, Incubator, OSA Incubator, The optical society