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Low-cost sensors offer improved monitoring of air quality

Airborne pollutants are a threat to researchers and citizens alike. Using low-cost sensing technologies, the EU-funded VIDIS project hopes to deliver more accurate assessments of particulate matter exposure. Routine monitoring of air quality could offer significant health benefits for EU citizens.

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The VIDIS project aims to redefine our approach to air quality monitoring. By leveraging low-cost sensor systems, a more widespread deployment is possible, allowing for better tracking and understanding of air pollution patterns. Such deployment, however, requires new workflows and support tools.

“With these technologies, we can make the data more accessible and meaningful for various stakeholders, from municipalities to citizens and young activists,” explains Milena Jovasevic-Stojanovic, full research professor at the Vinča Institute of Nuclear Science and coordinator of VIDIS. 

Bridging knowledge gaps through technological innovations

The project’s approach involves rigorous calibration techniques, comprehensive reporting of results, and opening new research opportunities once the sensor networks are in place. 

By developing novel calibration techniques, the project is tackling challenges related to the cost of deploying large sensor networks while ensuring the reliability of results, avoiding downtime and providing higher consistency. 

Once the low-cost sensor network is in place, its accuracy and spatial coverage can also be increased via different types of supporting monitoring tools such as offline and online research-grade static and mobile instruments. These were used in VIDIS to deepen scientific understanding of urban particulate matter pollution in Novi Sad, Serbia. 

“We have conducted a large mobile monitoring campaign targeting the most toxic main pollutant – particulate matter – covering 25 fractions from 10 nm to 10 mm,” adds Jovasevic-Stojanovic. “These are very important air quality parameters, but they are not routinely monitored.”

Around 500 000 geolocated data points were collected in the Novi Sad urban area, during periods when the district heating systems were in operation and when they were not. 

Advancing knowledge on all fronts

Launched in November 2020, the VIDIS project not only aims to introduce innovative technologies, but also strives to bridge the knowledge gaps in air quality monitoring. The project’s approach also facilitates further research into urban particulate matter pollution and delivers informative results to interested stakeholders.

“We fostered a strategic partnership with international counterparts NILU (Norway), ENEA (Italy) and QUT (Australia), known for their research on low-cost sensing. Each partner contributes their unique expertise to form a well-rounded team capable of handling multidisciplinary challenges. This approach enables us to successfully navigate various issues and disseminate knowledge through collaborative activities, international workshops and conferences,” says Jovasevic-Stojanovic.

Notably, the VIDIS project has initiated the development of the VIDIS Centre, an internationally recognised hub for research and innovation in air quality monitoring. The future of the centre is already secured through several new projects WeBaSOOP, which explores the sources of atmospheric particles in the Balkans, and EURAMET’s FunSNM, which studies the fundamental principles of sensor network metrology. 

Collaboration with organisations such as UNICEF Serbia and the Novi Sad municipality have also enhanced the societal relevance of VIDIS.

Before the project concludes in April 2024, project partners intend to keep producing research papers and to host several important events, including a summer school. The project will leave a lasting legacy, a cornerstone of which will be the Institute’s Vinča research strategy crafted to include users and collaboration partners from beyond the academic community. 

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Project details

Project acronym
VIDIS
Project number
952433
Project coordinator: Serbia
Project participants:
Australia
Italy
Norway
Serbia
Total cost
€ 946 250
EU Contribution
€ 899 125
Project duration
-

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