Deadly Pollutants Detected With New Technique

First Posted: Nov 11, 2015 12:45 PM EST

Researchers have created a new technique that can be used to detect nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is an air pollutant. The new method is cost-effective and reliable in recognizing varying levels nitrogen dioxide, which causes over seven million deaths each year globally.           

"The revolutionary method we've developed is a great start to creating a handheld, low-cost and personalized NO2 sensor that can even be incorporated into smartphones," Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, from RMIT University in Australia and lead author of the study, said in a news release"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."

Children and the elderly are mostly affected by the presence of nitrogen dioxide, which increases the risk of respiratory illnesses. Nitrogen dioxide is released from the burning of fossil fuels, which has a major impact on human health. Kalantar-zadeh claimed that this could be prevented if persons were equipped with devices that can detect the presence of harmful gases during early stages.   

"A lack of public access to effective monitoring tools is a major roadblock to mitigating the harmful effects of this gas," Kalantar-zadeh said. "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."

The researchers' sensor detects nitrogen dioxide gas molecules, where it converts it into flakes of tin disulphide.

Tin disulphide is a yellow-brown pigment which is used in varnish. The researchers converted this pigment into flakes, which are a few atoms thick. The flakes are similar to nitrogen dioxide molecules, which allows it to have a high selective absorption feature. 

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