Sat, Nov 28, 2015 - Page 3 News List

EPA develops low-cost PM2.5 sensors, software

DIESEL POWER:The agency said it has adopted a new diesel vehicle inspection method that gauges the exhaust opacity of heavy-duty trucks and tour buses

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has developed low-cost mobile PM2.5 sensors to monitor pollution at local levels, designating Nantou County’s Puli Township (埔里) as the first trial zone of a pilot monitoring project, the agency said, adding that it has proposed a new diesel vehicle inspection measure to curb pollution.

The EPA said it commissioned National Chi Nan University (NCNU) to develop inexpensive sensors to be distributed across residential areas to detect non-industrial emissions, such as vehicle exhaust gases, cooking fumes and burning incense and agricultural waste, providing data to supplement the agency’s air quality monitoring stations, which are mostly at higher elevations and whose data represent the air quality of a region as a whole, instead of local levels.

NCNU professor of information technology Day Rong-fuh (戴榮賦) said the PM2.5 — fine particulate matter measuring 25 micrometers or less that is small enough to penetrate the deepest parts of lungs — monitoring system his team developed consists of low-cost sensors and an app, with sensors costing about NT$2,000 each, making them affordable enough for most residents.

Sensors are to be installed at specific intervals to establish an air pollution monitoring network, and data collected could be instantly processed to determine possible sources of pollution during an incident, Day said.

The system can report potential pollution incidents and their location to local environmental agencies to facilitate rapid pollution control and remediation, he said, adding that the sensor could also be fitted to an aerial drone to conduct inspections at night, he said.

At least 30 sensors are to be installed in Puli by the end of this year to coincide with the advent of the northeast monsoon — which transports a large amount of pollutants to Taiwan — and could potentially be deployed to the rest of the nation, the EPA said

Puli was chosen as the trial area after pro-transparency Web site www.g0v.tw reported consistently elevated PM2.5 levels in the township last year, after which Puli was nicknamed the “big black ball” due to black pollution indicators above the township on the Web site’s air pollution monitoring system, EPA Department of Air Quality and Noise Control Director-General Chen Hsien-heng (陳咸亨) said.

Meanwhile, to help curb emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks and tour buses — the transportation sector’s major PM2.5 contributors, which account for 12 percent of total PM2.5 pollution in Taiwan — the EPA has adopted a new vehicle inspection method that gauges the opacity of vehicle exhaust, the agency said, adding that it would establish “air quality purification zones” in scenic spots, industrial zones and harbors, where random emission tests of diesel vehicles would be increased.

Owners of vehicles that fail the opacity test would face a fine of between NT$5,000 and NT$20,000, as well as follow-up inspections.

The EPA said there are about 100,000 diesel trucks in the nation, with about 10,000 vehicles under an EPA self-management program, which requires owners of the vehicles to acquire an emissions certification from the agency and undergo regular emissions tests and maintenance.

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