Environment: ENEA develops innovative, low-cost method for urban air pollution monitoring


The Air quality site suitability map provides detailed information on urban air pollutants through a network of low-cost monitoring stations, both fixed and mobile, integrated with regional systems currently in use. Developed at the ENEA Portici Center in collaboration with the University of Naples Federico II as part of the project Air-Heritage, funded with 4.1 million euro by the  third European Urban Innovative Actions call, it employs an innovative method that allows the control units to be optimally positioned considering territory and local-scale pollutant variability in urban aereas, according to a model tested in Portici, near Naples. The ENEA research was chosen as the cover story of the international monthly journal Atmosphere (https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4433/11/11).

"The monitoring network developed and tested in Portici consists of mobile sensory devices and fixed stations creating a high-resolution spatial-temporal mapping of pollutants in a complex urban environment ", Grazia Fattoruso, the ENEA researcher coordinator of the study, explained.

"The devices are the low-cost portable 'smog-tracker' sensors MONICA (Cooperative Monitoring of Air Quality), developed in our Portici laboratories and already used by citizens mounted on strollers, scooters and backpacks. Fixed stations, although commercial, are low cost. Our network integrates  the fixed monitoring stations of regional ARPAs, already present in urban areas but few in number due to their high cost”, Fattoruso said.

The sites suitable for the control units were chosen based on two geographic variables, vehicle emissions and urban landscape, that play a significant role in the formation and dispersion of urban-scale air pollutants.

"The 3D model of the buildings, vegetation and road network of Portici, created deriving the geometry of buildings and roads,  enabled us to identify the 'urban canyon effects' for the whole city," Fattoruso said.

The canyon effect can occur in heavily trafficked streets flanked by buildings on both sides, where pollutants  stagnate and accumulate to reach very high concentration levels.

"By integrating this data with the daily traffic flow, simulated for the entire urban road network, we identified the hot spots areas characterized by high local spatial variability of pollutants. These areas represent the sites suitable for control units installation", Fattoruso concluded.


For more information please contact :

Grazia Fattoruso, ENEA – Photovoltaic Systems and Applications Laboratory, grazia.fattoruso@enea.it

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