How about a portable pollution detector? Wondering what it might be? Then just check what's in your hand now, Yes Your Smartphone! Smartphones can now detect and combat a deadly form of air pollution, revealed Australian and Chinese researchers in a breakthrough discovery.
A new cost-effective and reliable method of detecting nitrogen dioxide (NO2) has been developed by researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.
According to the World Health Organization, NO2 is considered a significant air pollutant that contributes to more than seven million deaths worldwide each year, The gas increases the risk of respiratory disorders in children and severely affects elderly in particular.
"Not only would it improve the quality of millions of people's lives, but it would also help avoid illness caused by nitrogen dioxide poisoning and potentially even death," he added.
The main contributors of nitrogen dioxide are the burning of fossil fuels, particularly in coal-fired power stations and diesel engines, which can impact on the health of people in urban areas.
"A lack of public access to effective monitoring tools is a major roadblock to mitigating the harmful effects of this gas but current sensing systems are either very expensive or have serious difficulty distinguishing it from other gases. The method we have developed is not only more cost-effective, it also works better than the sensors currently used to detect this dangerous gas," he said.
The sensors, which operate by physically absorbing nitrogen dioxide gas molecules onto flakes of tin disulphide, not only increase the level of sensitivity to accepted EPA standards, but outperform any other nitrogen dioxide sensing solutions on the market.
Tin disulphide is a yellowish-brown pigment generally used in varnish for gilding. To create sensors, researchers transformed this material into flakes just a few atoms thick. The large surface area of these flakes has a high affinity to nitrogen dioxide molecules that allows its highly selective absorption. The study is published in the journal ACS Nano.