London to have first 360° monitor to measure air quality

Technology to monitor nitrogen dioxide emissions developed by Leicester University is believed to be a world first, writes Steve Eminton.

Scientists at the University of Leicester have released details of what they believe is the first instrument of its type in the world to monitor nitrogen dioxide emissions with an entire 360 degree panorama.

Releasing details of plans today (April 30) to use the technology, known as CityScan, during London’s Olympics this summer, the researchers said it will be used to monitor the impact of increased traffic on pollution levels in London during the Olympics.

A CityScan monitor in place in London

The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are expected to draw 11 million visitors from around the world to the UK’s capital for seven weeks, and three million extra car journeys are anticipated on the busiest day.

The team of researchers will use their CityScan technology, which gathers scattered sunlight to scan whole cities and take readings of air quality, to investigate the impact of this extra traffic on pollution.


Rather than existing technology, which can only give an accurate reading for certain “hotspots,” CityScan, according to Leicester University, can show the air quality “over every point of the city – including individual roads, playgrounds and other buildings”.

It will also reveal the days and times when pollution levels are at their highest.

A panoramic view of London taken in January 2012 using the CityScan technique

Sensors will be set up on a 30-storey building in North Kensington and a 14-storey building in Chelsea, in the west of the city, as well as a third location which is yet be determined.

sensors will give readings of nitrogen dioxide, which is produced from traffic emissions and can decrease lung function and increase the risk from respiratory illnesses, including bronchitis and asthma.

Team leader Dr Roland Leigh, of the university’s Earth Observation Science Group, said: “We will be able to map the pollution in 3D to show emissions of nitrogen dioxide and how far they spread.”

“Traditional sensors take in a single point measurement, giving a very accurate measurement that might be by a roadside. Between two or three CityScan instruments, we can map out a complete urban area and tell you where the nitrogen dioxide is in that space.”


Dr Leigh added: “CityScan makes the link between emissions and poor air quality downwind, enabling better management of the respiratory health of sensitive individuals.

“We want to make a practical difference, and contribute to systems which inform people when and where poor air-quality may occur.”

The technology is already being tested in Leicester, and the scientists hope their findings will help councils all around the country improve environmental planning and traffic management issues.

The CityScan announcement comes during Universities Week 2012 and links in with the ClearfLo (Clean Air for London) Project.

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Leicester University




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