Smart City Air Challenge Resource Pages: Air Quality Sensors

Low cost air quality sensors are an emerging technology and are now commercially available in a wide variety of designs and capabilities. While they’re not yet suitable for regulatory use, these new sensors offer communities several benefits. People can use these sensors – which generally cost less than $2,000 — to easily collect highly localized, real-time data. With this technology available on smartphones and tablets, citizen scientists can easily use these sensors to collect highly localized, real-time data on air pollution. Communities that are interested in harnessing this technology and engaging citizen scientists can take advantage of many resources about sensors. EPA recommends that communities carefully evaluate the quality of sensors and the associated data. Please refer to the sensor evaluation reports below to learn more about independent sensor testing by EPA and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. EPA will evaluate the submissions and award prizes to the communities only if they have adequate data quality practices.

As you consider your air quality sensors, please keep these questions in mind:

  1. What sensors will you procure and how will you select them?
  2. How will you procure the sensors?
  3. On what basis will you deploy the sensors?
  4. How will you track the sensors in order to know if they are operational?
  5. How will you ensure the accuracy and precision of the sensors both initially and over time?
  6. How quickly can you get the project into operation (faster is better)?

EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation and the Office of Research and Development has produced many resources about sensors.

Air Sensor Guidebook

This Air Sensor Guidebook has been developed by EPA to assist those interested in potentially using lower cost air quality sensor technologies for air quality measurements. This document attempts to provide useful information concerning some of those questions.

Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists

EPA’s Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists provides information and guidance on new low-cost compact technologies for measuring air quality.

Communicating Instantaneous Air Quality Data: Pilot Project

EPA is launching a pilot project to test a new tool for making instantaneous outdoor air quality data useful for the public. The new “sensor scale” is designed to be used with air quality sensors that provide data in short time increments – often as little as one minute. EPA developed the scale to help people understand the 1-minute data the stations provide and how to use those data as an additional tool for planning outdoor activities.

DRAFT Roadmap for Next Generation Air Monitoring

The Draft Roadmap is intended to summarize major findings from literature reviews, workshops, and discussions with experts about the Next Generation of Air Monitoring (NGAM), particularly sensor technology.

Evaluation of Elm and Speck Sensors

Particulate matter (PM) is a pollutant of high public interest regulated by national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) using Federal Reference Method (FRM) and Federal Equivalent Method (FEM) instrumentation identified for environmental monitoring.

Evaluation of Field-deployed Low Cost PM Sensors

This report represents the first step in evaluating some of the commercially available low cost PM sensors and comparing their data-collection capabilities to that of collocated FEM samplers during field evaluations.

Mobile Sensors & Applications for Air Pollutants

The Innovation Team of EPA’s Office of Research and Development is leading an initiative to understand the state of progress for mobile sensors and applications for air pollutants. Key objectives are to identify opportunities for strengthening current monitoring programs and to catalyze and facilitate community-based monitoring.

Next Generation Air Monitoring (NGAM) VOC Sensor Evaluation Report

This report summarizes the results of next generation air monitor (NGAM) volatile organic compound (VOC) evaluations performed using both laboratory as well as field scale settings.

Sensor Evaluation Report

This report is the result of low cost air quality sensor performance trials conducted in the EPA’s National Environmental Research Laboratory’s on-site laboratories located in the Research Triangle Park, NC during 2012-2013.

Air Quality Sensor Performance Evaluation Center  Exit

By the South Coast Air Quality Management District

SCAQMD’s AQ-SPEC program aims at being the testing center for low cost air monitoring sensors to establish performance standards by which sensors are evaluated.  The program evaluates sensors in both controlled laboratory conditions and in the field. In the field, sensors are tested alongside one or more of SCAQMD’s existing air monitoring stations using traditional federal reference or equivalence methods to gauge overall performance. Sensors demonstrating acceptable performance in the field are then brought to the AQ-SPEC laboratory for more detailed testing in an atmospheric chamber under controlled conditions.


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