Air pollution monitoring rocket ready for lift-off

A pollution monitoring system is set to be launched into the atmosphere on board a rocket on Wednesday, to record how greenhouse gases dissipate with distance from the Earth.

The system has been developed by scientists at the University of Leicester to build upon previous work done mapping air pollution across entire cities from planes, cars and ground sensors by aerial survey company Bluesky.

“We have already had great success mapping air pollution from an aerial survey plane giving us a better understanding of how dangerous gases, such as nitrogen dioxide, operate in the vertical plane,” commented Bluesky’s technical director and industrial associate at the University of Leicester, James Eddy. “However, we hope this launch will take air pollution monitoring to another level.”

Critical issue

The Tempest Research Rocket is a 4.1 metre tall rocket that can reach speeds of up to 200mph and will hit an altitude of 3,000ft on the flight before being safely recovered via parachute. It is expected to launch at 10:30am from Capesthorne Hall, Cheshire, in front of an audience of hundreds of pupils and teachers from more than 30 schools.

Data obtained from the rocket will add to results already obtained from trials of the University of Leicester’s world-leading Compact Air Quality Spectrometer. The technology has previously been used as part the CityScan project with devices mounted on tall buildings in Leicester, Bologna and London during the Olympics to build 3D maps of pollution across the cities.

Dr Roland Leigh, academic supervisor at the University of Leicester added, “Air Quality continues to be a critical issue in our urbanising society, requiring us to explore novel solutions for monitoring, management and damage mitigation.”

Breathe Better Together

Meanwhile, London Mayor Boris Johnson has been tackling this ‘critical issue’ in London with the launch of a major new quality public awareness campaign last week. The Breathe Better Together campaign hopes to encourage people to make small behavioural changes that can make a positive impact on air quality, such as switching off vehicle engines when stationary for long periods.

The campaign will work closely with airTEXT, London’s air pollution alerts provider which sends a free information text service informing people of pollution levels.

This latest campaign follows a £330m fund announced by Johnson in December for 2,400 hybrid buses, zero-emission taxis and 10,000 street trees to aid in the creation of the world’s first ultra low emission zone in central London by 2020.

 Video: Boris Johnson’s air quality campaign

Lucinda Dann

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