ramblings of an electronic engineer.

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Air Quality Logger Project – Research and Specifications

While riding my bike around a few weeks or so ago I was wondering what the air quality was like on the Gold Coast compared to other cities for example Brisbane and the world for that matter. Around the same time I had also seen a project that logged sunlight data to a sd card to determine which plant would be most suitable for the location. So an idea quickly came together to create a device that I would be able to attach to my bike and log air quality data as I go riding about.

Air Quality Factors

So after doing some research on air quality I found out the following:

  1. The three main factors that determine the air quality are:
    • Particulate matter (PM2.5/PM10)
    • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
    • Ozone (O3)

    There are others but these are the commonly measured factors.

  2. The Gold Coast only has two air monitoring station (in Helensvale and Beenleigh)
  3. “Air pollution problems may occur in the next 20-30 years” due to increase in traffic.

I won’t really require data for comparison until I’ve completed the majority of the project and have some data of my own and finish calibrating the system. I actually had a bit of trouble finding current data but got there eventually (amazing what happens when you read the entirety of an article rather than jut skipping to the data and graphs) and found the current air pollutant data at the National Pollutant Inventory.


Considering the initial research on the topic it’s important create some specifications of what the project once fully completed should be able to perform. Here is what I have come up with.

  • Detect particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen dioxide.
  • Detect location of measurement (GPS).
  • Store air quality and location data.
  • Have enough power for one day of measurement.
  • Portable and weatherproof.

Realistically some of these may not be possible to budget and practicality constraints but the specifications can always be changed at a later stage.

The Plan From Here

Alright so from here over the next few weeks I’ll hopefully be getting some parts for the project in (sensors) and I’ll be  working on a circuit diagram for the project. I plan to use the Arduino microprocessor for the project because I’m familiar with it’s architecture and programming however once I have the system working properly I plan to redesign the system to operate on a microprocessor that is just sufficiently covers the technical requirements of the project. This should reduce power consumption and price of the system. To start off I’m going to start work on getting each component working individually then interface multiple components. So to start off with I’m going to work on the data logging aspect of the system, mainly because the hardware (a sd card breakout board) has already come in and I can start to work on it. I’m thinking since my sensor hasn’t come in yet I’ll try logging air temperature because I’m 90% certain I have a temperature sensor lying around.

I’m really excited about this project and the various challenges I’m sure I’m face but it should be a fun ride. I’ll be posting progress here as I go and I’ve created a separate page on my blog where I will update with technical information from my posts. Any questions about the project or comments and suggestions let me know by leaving a reply.

Oh yeah I almost forgot, I plan for the whole project to open source and open hardware including all of the data I collect from the project. So you can build your own and use the data for free.