Environmental Monitoring


The Department of Physical Sciences at MTU plays an important role in air quality monitoring on the Bishopstown Campus as part of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Air Quality Index programme. Several air quality monitoring stations, including Ozone, CO2, NO2, SO2 as well as particulate (PM2.5) monitors, are located on the Bishopstown campus and maintained by our departmental staff Mr Stephen Collins and Mr Eamonn Butler.



Particulate Matter (PM) Monitoring

PM are particles in the air typically measured as PM10 and PM2.5 with diameters of 10μm (microns) or 2.5μm. In Ireland, the main sources are solid fuel burning and vehicular traffic. Other sources are soil and road surfaces, construction works and industrial emissions or natural sources such as windblown salt, plant spores and pollens. These direct emissions are known as primary PM. Particulate matter can be formed from reactions between different pollutant gases (secondary sources). Small particles can penetrate the lungs and cause damage. There are high levels of PM10 in many cities and towns.

For further details on the environmental impact of Particulate Matter, please see the Environmental Protection Agency's AirQuality.ie website. 

The image above shows the Beta-ray Attenuation Monitor which is located inside the larger monitoring unit at MTU's Bishopstown campus. This measures particulate matter concentration in the air by determining the degree by which a beta radiation source is attenuated by the particulate matter. 

The reference method for PM measurement involves the collection and weighing of PM on special filters that must be weighed using a high resolution micro balance under strictly controlled conditions of temperature and humidity. At our department, we have developed a specialised weighroom for this task. 

Harmful atmospheric gas monitoring.  

The department also monitors the presence of hamful gases such in our atmosphere and this data is used to support the EPA's airquality.ie monitoring network. This information is essential to understanding the presence of harmful emissions from transport vehicles (e.g. NOx) but also gases that contribute to atmospheric heat absorption and global warming such as CO2. 


Post Graduate Research in Environmental Monitoring

The Department is also involved in a number of international research collaborations to develop next generation sensors for environmental analysis through our CAPPA and Mass Spectrometry research groups. Projects include: 
  • Passepartout: aims to advance the development and deployment of miniature, hyperspectral optical based sensors based on Quartz Enhanced Photo-acoustic Spectroscopy and Photo-Thermal Interferometry for a wide range of ambient pollutants. This is a major EU project with a consortium consisting of the Centre for Advanced Photonics & Process Analysis (CAPPA), Munster Technological University (Ireland), and partners from Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro (Italy), nanoplus Nanosystems and Technologies GmbH (Germany), Green Lab Hungary Engineering Ltd (Hungary), Politecnico di Bari (Italy), Argotech AS (Czechia), Technische Universität Wien (Austria), Technische Universität München (Germany), ETG Risorse e Tecnologia S.r.l. (Italy), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique – Université Côte d’Azur (France), Ecospray Technologies S.r.l. (Italy), Vario-Optics AG (Switzerland), Techno Sky (Italy), University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (Switzerland), Haze Instruments d.o.o. (Slovenia), Le Verre Fluoré (France), AUG-H Signals Hellas (Greece) and Comune di Bari (Italy)
  • STREAM: By monitoring the Coastal and Estuarine environment around both Ireland and Wales STREAM is gathering valuable data on parameters such as the temperature, nutrients, oxygen content and phytoplankton of the marine/ estuarine environment. This is being achieved using commercial sensors and later using sensors developed by STREAM engineers and scientist. The performance of the STREAM developed sensors will be tested rigorously against the industry standard. Using these sensors a temporally and spatially sophisticated array of sensors is being deployed that will monitor the coastal and estuarine environment in high resolution.


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