National Physical Laboratory

Measuring life-saving pollution sensors

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is helping Duvas Technologies Ltd (Duvas) develop improved air quality monitoring instruments.

Car exhaust
Cars are major sources of air pollution in
urban areas (image courtesy of iStockphoto)

Currently over one billion people a year suffer from respiratory disease associated with pollution and, according to the World Health Organisation, over three million a year die from its effects. And its not just the health effects that are worrying, as the UK Government currently faces a fine of £300 million for air quality in London falling below EU standards.

Duvas is short for Differential Ultra Violet Absorption Spectroscopy. It uses UV light to detect a range of pollutants simultaneously - replacing the need for multiple instruments. Duvas quickly provides mapping of wide areas, as well as local snapshots of the chemical composition of the atmosphere, that show how pollution varies over time and space. These data can be correlated with weather patterns and traffic flows, or overlaid on map programs to provide visual representations of pollution, leading to better decision making and minimising human health impacts.

In order to effectively market their technology, Duvas needed to demonstrate instrument validity, measurement traceability and performance. To help the company address this, NPL performed a range of experiments on the Duvas prototype instrument to determine its ability to meet a performance specification.

Novel, state-of-the-art gas dilution facilities developed at NPL were used to generate traceable standards of emission gases at ambient concentrations, similar to those found at the roadside.

John Hassard, Founder and Chairman of Duvas Technologies said: "Without NPL's unique abilities and world-class reputation, the acceptance of the Duvas approach by decision-makers would be significantly more difficult. Additionally, their scientific excellence has helped Duvas refine the technology and its use, as well as validate its findings."

Air pollution is a serious problem that needs to be managed to improve quality of life and, as Duvas scientist Steven Wilkins said in a recent article in The Engineer: "In order to be able to manage a problem, you have to be able to measure it well."

Find out more about NPL's work on Analytical Science and Environmental Measurement

For more information, please contact Paul Brewer

Last Updated: 10 May 2012
Created: 21 Jun 2011