Air-monitoring nanosensor installed on university roof

A solar-powered station that uses a nanosensor to monitor the concentration of air pollutants has been installed on a roof at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia, as part of an international study.

Alexander Malaver, a masters student of the QUT School of Engineering Systems, said the sensor used in the station is the prototype for a planned network of solar-powered sensors that will monitor the environmental concentration of three main pollutants: nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from engines and combustion, nitrous oxide (N2O) and ammonia (NH3) from manure and fertilisers.

‘These gases are not commonly studied because they are found in low concentrations in the environment, but nitrous oxide and ammonia are more polluting than carbon dioxide, and we are developing new, cheap sensors [that are] able to detect them,’ Malaver said.

He added that the gas sensor network would be wirelessly connected so that every node could ‘speak’ to the others and feed data in real time to a central monitoring station. He said the roof station was already providing data that could be visualised by any computer within the QUT network.

The new sensors, which are based on metal oxide nanowires and carbon nanotubes, were produced by QUT’s research partners at Brescia University. The dye-sensitised solar cells that power them were developed at Roma Tor Vergata University using technology patented by Australian company Dyesol.