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How Does Air Quality Sensor Work

With climate change on the rise, air pollution has affected everyone. People have been trying to come up with ways to measure this phenomenon. Air quality sensors are critical for measuring and researching pollutants. These are pollutants that may be hazardous to public health and the environment.

Smaller, cheap, and satellite-based sensors with new capabilities have resulted from technological advancements. Ensuring the appropriate interpretation and quality of sensor data can be difficult.

Air quality sensors provide an estimate of particulate matter (PM). They can also measure gaseous pollutants in the air. It depends on measuring something unrelated to the actual pollutant. But, it is much easier to measure. For example, the sensor could measure the amount of light scattered by particulate matter. It increases as pollution levels rise. We sometimes present these results on a low, medium, and high scale. In the case of very basic air quality monitors such as smoke detectors, we present them on a binary scale.

What are air sensors

The term “air sensor” refers to a type of technology that has become more popular in recent years. It has the characteristics of reading a pollutant in the air and being smaller. They sell them at a price that allows for a more significant number of monitoring locations. RayMing PCB and Assembly use low-cost air, quality, and air sensor devices to describe this technology.

We have differences in the physical design of these technologies. They include monitoring air pollutants, managing data, and fueling the equipment. Some air sensors are usually used at a fixed location, while we mount others on vehicles or worn by the user. There are several variations in how these technologies get priced. The changes depend on whether the sensors get sold or leased. It also depends on maintaining and holding data from company to company.

Dangers of air pollution

Air Quality Sensor control pcb

One of the most serious risks to humans in modern society is air pollution. Poor air quality is to blame for so many of our ailments. That is why air quality measurement devices are essential for maintaining safety. Even if you can’t see the pollutants in the air, they are present and causing problems inside your body. It exacerbates health problems like asthma and can cause serious problems for people.

Individuals and families are better able to control their indoor air quality. But whether they take action to reduce their risk of pollution exposure indoors depends on how they perceive this risk. The awareness that risk is one of the essential prerequisites for this risk perception. Giving people personalized information about their risks impacts their attitudes and behaviors. So, research shows that people use experiential processes to understand risk. It also indicates that assisting people in experiencing risk may help them learn more about it.

What pollutants get measured by air sensors

Today, air sensors on the market measure a wide range of air contaminants, but not all of them. But, the main problem is if the air sensor will detect the target pollutant. This is in a combination of other pollutants and at the required concentration range for the application of interest. The EPA and outside parties focus their testing on real-world situations. They plan on expanding the number of air sensors that assess the six criterion pollutants controlled. They use National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Consumer sensors can detect two basic forms of pollution. This is regardless of whether they are sensing inside or outside. They include:

1) particulate matter

2) gases.

There are many types of airborne pollutants. But these are the two that most consumer sensors can currently detect.

Particulate Matter

Particulate matter (PM) has both solid and liquid droplets. Some can be visible with the naked eye (for example, visible dust). At the same time, others need a microscope to view. PM10 and PM2.5 are the two principal size fractions of concern (size up to 2.5 micrometers).

The average human hair measures 70 micrometers in diameter. This is around 30 times the greatest diameter of PM2.5. The size of the object is crucial. PM2.5, for example, is small enough to enter the circulation after inhalation into the lungs.

Importance of Particulate Matters?

Health risks from airborne particles depend on their deposition in the respiratory system. The cilia, mucosa, and trachea work together to filter the thickest particles. They are about 5 mm in diameter. Particles with half to five millimeters can deposit in the bronchi. They can even get to the pulmonary alveoli. But they are quickly removed by the cilia of the bronchi and bronchioles. Particles with a diameter of fewer than 0.5 m can penetrate deep into the lungs and deposit in the alveoli.


Both outside and inside, several gaseous contaminants get discovered. For example, gases like nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) get produced when we use fuel. It does not matter whether in a town industry, in your gas stove or furnace, or your car. These types of gases get found in your home.

Some portable sensors seek to measure volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They are airborne molecules, in addition to CO and NO2. You can find VOCs in household items’ off-gassing or cleaning sprays.

Categories of sensors:

– Gas sensors

– Dust monitors

– VOC (volatile organic compounds) sensors

– Ionizing radiation sensors.

A comprehensive sensor suite will include all these categories. In addition, different technologies allow for detecting hazards. These are that would otherwise go undetected at the same level. Some examples include high levels of radiation or substances with low toxicity. But they have high global warming (GW) power. We cannot detect the GW through infrared or chromatography technology.

Gas sensors

Gas sensors measure the concentration of gas in the air. We often use these sensors to measure indoor air quality and detect hazardous gases.

There are two basic types:

– Direct gas sensors measure specific gases. For instance, methane, ammonia, or carbon monoxide.

– Chemical gas sensors use chemical reactions to detect specific gases. For example hydrogen sulfide, or flammable gases, such as methane or propane.

Air quality sensors measure the concentrations of specific airborne substances. They include particulates (dust, smoke, pollen) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). Particulate sensors consist of a source (a fan), an optical system with a light source and detector. It passes through the particulate-laden air. The Electronics System performs digital signal processing on the detector signals.

VOC (volatile organic compounds) sensors

We detect VOCs by either infrared spectroscopy or gas chromatography. An important variant of VOC sensors is the VOC and carbon monoxide sensors. It detects specific hazardous gases in addition to VOCs.

Ionizing radiation sensors

Ionizing radiation sensors measure ionizing radiation (alpha, beta or gamma rays) or neutrons. We use ionizing radiation in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. But they can also occur naturally. The primary sources of this ionizing radiation are cosmic rays. They come from deep space and radon gas emitted by the earth’s crust. We process the data for further analysis after taking the measurements.

The range of different sensors used for air quality monitoring has grown over the years. In addition, companies are developing new technologies that detect lower radiation levels or different substances.

How do air quality sensors work?

The Technology

Air quality sensors detect gases such as ozone and particulate matter. Both are hazardous to human health and the environment. Governments work together to manage stationary air quality monitors that use sensors. These monitors are costly and need a supporting infrastructure. Officials use the resulting data to address pollution or issue air quality alerts.

A good example is the days with unhealthy ozone levels or during wildfires. These networks may overlook pollution at smaller scales and in rural areas. They don’t measure more localized pollutants that can cause long-term health effects. Some examples include ethylene oxide and toxic metals. Two advancements in sensor technology may aid in closing these gaps.

To begin with, we learn how low cost air quality sensor may now get used almost anyplace. They include fences, cars, drones, and clothing. People are now using these less expensive sensors. They use them to comprehend a variety of environmental and public health issues.

Second, for decades, agencies have been using satellites equipped with sensors. They track air quality to understand weather patterns and conduct research better. Recent satellite launches have sensors with improved air monitoring capabilities. The researchers use them in large-scale pollution investigations.

How does it work

To test air quality, low-cost sensors use various techniques. They include lasers. They estimate the size and number of particles passing through a chamber. We also have meters to estimate the amount of gas moving through the sensor. Most sensors use algorithms to turn raw data into usable readings. The temperature that affects sensor measurements is a factor in the algorithms. Humidity and other factors also. Other characteristics of higher-quality devices can improve findings. For example, adjusting the air temperature in the sensors provides consistent observations over time.

Satellite-based sensors track energy reflected or emitted in the atmosphere to identify pollutants. Some sensors track a single spot throughout time. At the same time, others track several portions of the globe.

To detect the creation, transport, and variability of pollutants and increase measurement reliability. Sensor installation in the network is essential. Combining data from several sensors can also improve their use. However, this raises the level of skill required to check the results. This is especially when the data comes from diverse sensors.

How mature is it?

Sensors have unique designs to perform specific tasks. They monitor the air within a building is now smaller and less expensive. As a result, they can now fill in gaps in monitoring and research in various ways. Local governments use wearable sensors to track different sources of air pollution. Scientists can use them to examine the exposure of research volunteers.

Low-cost sensors, on the other hand, have limits. They have fewer quality assurance systems in place than government-run sensors. The data they produce is of varying quality. It’s unclear how to install modern sensors or analyze the data to get the most value. Some low-cost sensors use artificial intelligence algorithms that the inventors cannot fully explain. This makes it challenging to comprehend variable sensor performance. Also, they frequently measure contaminants like ozone and particulate matter. There are hundreds of air toxins that could enjoy enhanced monitoring with sensors. But, there may be technological or other obstacles that make this impossible.

In the past, satellite-based sensors produced data infrequently and insufficiently detailed. So, newer sensors provide better data for monitoring air quality. It could help with rural monitoring and pollutant transportation, among other things. But, satellite-based sensor data might be challenging to interpret, particularly ground-level pollutants. Furthermore, current satellite-based sensor systems can only detect a limited number of pollutants. They include carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and particulate matter.

Comparison between different air sensors

Knowing which air quality sensor will work best with your Arduino/Raspberry Pi project is not easy. There are many different features and functions on the market. But, you won’t have to worry. You will learn various functions, applications, and accuracy of air quality sensors in the end. It will help you determine which one is best for your indoor project!

Air Quality Sensor Arduino

Have you ever wondered what’s in the air you breathe? Unfortunately, our cities are becoming increasingly polluted around the world. Air pollution is a silent killer that claims the lives of over 4 million people each year.

However, it is not only outdoor air that can be hazardous. When combined with poor ventilation, cooking can reduce indoor air quality. This is because burning fuels releases many tiny particles into the air.

Air quality sensors used to be expensive and difficult to obtain. We can now make our DIY air quality sensor Arduino in less than 15 minutes. One can use readily available microcontrollers like the Arduino and inexpensive DIY sensors.

Air Quality Monitoring

The methods for measuring air quality differ. It depends on whether you want to measure indoor or outdoor air quality.

Pollutants such as VOC, CO2, and dust can impact indoor air quality. We can get a good idea of indoor air quality by measuring one or more. However, for each of these pollutants, a different sensor’s required.

Pollutants from combustion engines are usually responsible for poor outdoor air quality. Fuel combustion produces tiny particles known as Particulate Matter (PM). These get classified according to their size.

The more dangerous the particles are, the smaller they are. For example, PM2.5 refers to particulate matter (PM) with a diameter of fewer than 2.5 micrometers in the atmosphere.

Long-term exposure to PM2.5 particles is hazardous to one’s health. The ability to measure your exposure to these harmful particles is crucial. In addition, it helps you to manage your exposure.

In this article, we’ll measure PM2.5 and its close cousins, PM1.0 and PM10.

The AQI is the most widely used metric for measuring. We also use it in comparing air quality levels in different cities worldwide.

This Arduino Air Quality Monitor gets used both indoors and outdoors. We use it to measure pollution from cooking, smoking, and other sources. Also, we can use it to monitor the air quality in your neighborhood.

Air Quality Sensors

A laser detects particulate matter in the most common air quality sensor for home that measures PM2.5. These laser-based sensors come in two varieties: those without a fan. For example, the Samyoung DSM501A and those with fans, such as the Plan tower PMS5003.

The fanless models are less expensive, but they are also less accurate. The Plantower PMS5003 is the best model at a reasonable price.

PMS5003 Air Quality Sensor

Particles are as small as 0.3 micrometers. Therefore, they can get detected by the Plantower PMS5003 sensor. This is why the sensor’s model number ends in ‘003’. The number 5 refers to the generation of the series.

On the back, you can see the air intake fan. This is what distinguishes this sensor from fanless designs like the Samyoung DSM501A.

The PMS5003 isn’t a current-generation model; instead, it’s the PMS7003. If you can find a more suitable deal on the PMS3003 or PMS7003 than the PMS5003, go for it. But, the Arduino code may differ slightly.

Working Principles

The PMS5003 scatters and radiates suspended particles in the air using a laser. The scattered light is then analyzed to produce a curve. It depicts how light scattering changes over time.

We then calculate the number of particles of various diameters per unit 0.1L volume of air by the sensor.

The PMS5003 is capable of producing the following:

· Concentrations of PM1.0, PM2.5, and PM10.0 in both standard and environmental units

· 10um, 5.0um, 2.5um, 1.0um, 0.5um, and 0.3um sizes of particulate matter per 0.1L air

Raspberry Pi air quality sensor

The Raspberry Pi is a cheap computing device created by an open-source foundation. It encourages the teaching of basic computer science in developing countries. The device became popular with makers who wanted an easy way to experiment with sensors and robotics. It created simple and miniaturized computers that fit on a single circuit board.

Since its inception, the Raspberry Pi has gone through four design iterations. It resulted in a larger format B model and a smaller Zero model. The Raspberry Pi’s appeal is that it is inexpensive and has a low entry barrier. If you can use a computer, you can use a Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi runs a Linux operating system. It includes networking, video, audio, and USB ports. This allows you to connect it to power, a screen, track, and keyboard. Also, you can write programs for it directly on the device!

Problems with Low-Cost Air Quality Sensors

The biggest issue with low-cost air quality measurement devices is the lack of data and accuracy they provide. These devices are notoriously inaccurate, and the information they provide isn’t always reliable. Measuring air quality is quite complicated. So opting for the highest-quality version is worthwhile.

You won’t tell the difference between each pollutant. This is mainly if you use low-cost air quality measurement equipment. You might find yourself in a situation where the meter says everything is fine. But the air contains a lot of ozone or other particulates. This is especially true for meters that can only measure a single type of contaminant. When this happens, it almost always leads to a health issue. It can cause you a lot of grief if people become ill due to attending your event. Low-cost quality measurement devices lack the technology required to provide accurate readings. The reading you need to aid in the fight against poor air quality.

Common challenges of using air sensors?

1. Air sensors may not be selective or sensitive for the target pollutant of interest. Real-world testing data can assist in determining whether a particular air sensor will produce data. This data should meet their application requirements.

2. Inaccurate readings result from low and high temperatures and excessive humidity levels. Air sensors may be imprecise, necessitating field calibration to get more precise data. Over time, many gas sensors become less sensitive to the target pollutant. This results in inaccurate readings. Some air sensors have a one- to two-year lifespan.

3. Not all air sensors are waterproof. Some air sensors need a physical enclosure to get protected from the elements.

4. Specific data communication technologies need air sensors, such as WiFi, cellphone, or Bluetooth.

5. It is possible that air sensors do not always collect data. Technology can fail, the power supply can run out, and weather can cause readings to get messed up. As a result, it’s critical to check sensors regularly to ensure they work correctly.

6. Performance. Low-cost sensors have a wide range of performance that is difficult to predict. Their algorithms may be opaque. Low-cost sensors used by various people may produce conflicting results.

7. Interpretation. Sensor data interpretation may need expertise. Sensors produce data in real-time that can be difficult to understand. They also don’t have short-term exposure health criteria. Many air sensors do not provide real-time data on a screen.

8. Management of information. Large amounts of data with inconsistent formatting get generated. This is due to increased monitoring, which will need to get stored and managed.

9. Alignment with requirements. Few low-cost, satellite-based sensors currently exist that can detect air toxics. Furthermore, low-income neighborhoods may have difficulties deploying low-cost sensors. These communities in studies are disproportionately afflicted by air pollution.

Testing The Air Quality in Your Home

Since home based air quality monitors have limits in their capabilities, you need good ones. If you care when it comes to air quality for home, we recommend measuring what’s in the outside air as the first step to undertake. You can do this using an outdoor-based air quality sensor. The outdoor conditions often determine indoor conditions. They measure only particle levels that are local airborne. They measure volatile organic compounds—gases such as cleaners, paint, and glue vapors. Radon and carbon monoxide, two fatal gases, are rarely measured. Numerous smoke detectors have the capability of detecting carbon monoxide.


Looking at the pollution, it is essential to have an air quality sensor in your home.




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