Advances in Air Quality Monitoring via Nanotechnology
- Cite this article as:
- Baraton, MI. & Merhari, L. Journal of Nanoparticle Research (2004) 6: 107. doi:10.1023/B:NANO.0000023239.56676.12
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Urban air pollution has become an inescapable issue due to its serious consequences on public health and, therefore, needs more accurate tracking through denser networks of air quality monitoring (AQM) stations. A higher density of these networks can be afforded by cities only if the costs of future individual AQM stations decrease. We review here the outcome of two European projects where our objective was to provide an alternative approach consisting in the development of cost-effective mobile microstations based on semiconductor sensors and capable of complementing the expensive and bulky current AQM stations. Improvement of the sensor sensitivity to detect very low levels of pollutants (CO, NO, NO2, O3) in air was the major challenge to take up. This was achieved by using metal oxide nanosized particles with both controlled size and surface chemistry, and by adapting the screen-printing process to the nanometer size specificity. The detection thresholds for NO2, NO and O3 of our nanoparticles-based sensors have been decreased by a factor of 3–5 compared to currently commercialized sensors. The lowest detectable concentration of CO has been reduced from 5 to 3 ppm without affecting the selectivity. In terms of sensitivity performance, our sensor prototypes can now meet the criteria for outdoor AQM whereas the commercial semiconductor and electrochemical sensors still cannot. As for the implementation of the network as a whole, our technological approach is outlined.