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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Florentin Bulot

PhD Studentship in assessment and application of a low-cost air quality sensor network

Florentin Bulot's Photo

Hi, I'm Florentin Bulot and I am a Leverhulme Trust Doctoral scholar studying within the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute, University of Southampton.

The multidisciplinary aspect of the Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholarship enables me to combine in a very sensitive way all the domains I have been involved throughout my previous work experiences and during my studies. To me, this multidisciplinarity is the only way to enable us to tackle complex environmental issues.

My research project will focus on the performance characterisation and the application of a low cost air quality sensor network. Recent report from the Lancet stated the air pollution may have been responsible for up to 6.2 million deaths in 2015 out of the 9 million deaths related to environmental pollution. The number of deaths attributable to air pollution is likely to rise resulting from: the progress in the identification of the associations between health effects and air pollution and the increase of pollution in many countries. Air pollution has an estimated global welfare cost of $3.8 trillion per year and it is also likely to increase.

While “reference” monitors used to measure pollution levels for compliance with legislative limits provide high quality, robust data, the equipment is highly expensive and requires significant expertise for maintenance, and therefore spatial resolution of measurements is difficult to achieve. Furthermore, such equipment is not usually suitable for deployment in the developing world. Therefore, low-cost solutions to monitor air pollution need to be investigated to evaluate the extent to which they can provide valid data to study this global problem, by increasing the granularity of the data available. The key pitfall of the use of low cost sensors is the quality of the data, which may be susceptible to drift over time, interference from other pollutants and climate conditions, differing performance in differing environments, and lack of reproducibility between sensor units. Therefore, there is a pressing need to understand the performance of these sensors in a range of conditions and how data may be used and processed to maintain sufficient robustness.

The principal aim of my project is to investigate the potential uses of low-cost air quality sensors to produce reliable data for different use-case scenarios, for example regulation, source identification, awareness-raising. The eventual aim is to develop our understanding of these sensors and their outputs to deploy low-cost sensor boxes in a city-wide air quality monitoring network. The project is highly multidisciplinary, involving electronics, sensor technology, computing, chemistry, health, and public engagement.

I will be supported for this project by a vibrant and varied multidisciplinary supervisory team: Dr Steven J Johnston (Senior Research Fellow for the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment within the Computational Engineering and Design Group), Prof Gavin Foster (Professor of Isotope Geochemistry within Ocean and Earth Science at the National Oceanography Center), Prof Simon J Cox (Professor of Computational Methods and Director of the Microsoft Institute for High Performance and Computing within the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment), Dr Matthew Loxham (BBSRC Future Leader Fellow in Respiratory Biology and Air Pollution Toxicology in the Faculty of Medicine) and Dr Andrew Morris (Ocean Technology and Engineering at the National Oceanography Center focusing on sensor testing and characterisation). The project progress alongside another PhD project supported by a Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholarship on “A Multidisciplinary Investigation into Urban Air Pollution in a Port City“ , being conducted by Natasha HC Smith.

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