Novel Sensors Help Clear the Air - New Technology

Traditional analytical techniques are in danger of being replaced by new competing technologies, which are not only more advanced but also more convenient.

Pollutants from vehicular exhaust such as oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds create ground-level ozone. Sensing technologies are already available for on-vehicle emissions analysis, but manufacturers are developing new technologies for products that are still emerging.

Regulatory bodies are stepping up pressure on industries to comply with environmental laws, especially with the ratification of several international protocols. The Clean Air Act of the U.S. Government mandates select industries to use technologies that will control air toxics discharge.

“As required under the Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a list of source categories that must meet control technology requirements for these toxic air pollutants,” states Technical Insights Analyst Miriam Nagel. “The EPA is required to develop regulations for all industries that emit one or more of the pollutants in significant quantities.”

Samples from chemical waste dumps where toxic spills have occurred are typically collected and transported to laboratories for analysis. A recently developed and EPA-verified technology can do the job of established sensors in real-time at far lower costs.

“These devices are based on an array of polymer-based microsensors known as chemiresistors that are packaged in a waterproof housing that is designed to detect volatile organic compounds in harsh subsurface environments,” says Nagel.

Advanced smart sensors now address environmental safety in workplaces, on roadways, in airports, or inside buildings. Technologically advanced sensors are available to monitor road conditions on site and warn air traffic authorities of wind shear on runways and lightening strikes.

Intelligent sensors warn against exposure to accumulated radon in buildings, even in areas of high density and variable occupancy. They can also be used to provide data that can help correlate the characteristics of a seismic wavefield with structural response.

“Key words in the industry today are small, smart, wireless, and embedded,” notes Nagel. “Smart sensor technology, which was developed for environmental sensing, may well soon be in everyone’s future, everywhere.”

Posted 12th November 2003

Date Added: Jan 9, 2004 | Updated: Jun 11, 2013
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