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Monday, February 22, 2016

Air Quality Monitor help you to see what you breathe

People typically think about clean or dirty air only when they're outside, but air quality can be a significant problem even indoors. And now, using a new gadget, people can identify pollutants — some smaller than the width of a hair — in their homes, and this could help ward off some illnesses, the device's creators said.

AirVisual Node
The AirVisual Node can show pollution levels, temperature, humidity and stuffiness, both indoors and outdoors.

AirVisual — a global team of scientists, engineers and others — is producing the gadget, called the AirVisual Node. The Node's bright and colorful screen can illuminate pollution, temperature, humidity and stuffiness, both indoors and outdoors. The team hopes to change the approach to air-quality collection, said Yann Boquillod, co-founder of AirVisual.

People generally have some understanding of what they're breathing outdoors, because most governments actively monitor the air, Boquillod said. Indoor air, on the other hand, is a "big unknown," he told Live Science.

"You spend 80 to 90 percent of your time indoors, so if you are able to actually control your indoor air quality," then you can protect your and family's health, Boquillod said.

Using this monitor, "I have the visibility of how much pollution my children are breathing," he said.

Indoor air pollution can come from stove tops, fireplaces and wood products, among other sources, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Burning food, especially, can release contaminant-laden smoke into the air, Boquillod said. The Node can identify these contaminants, which can include microscope particles, or particulate matter, called PM2.5. The "2.5" comes from the diameter of the particle, which is 2.5 micrometers. "It's a very tiny particle, much smaller than a hair," Boquillod said.

The Node can measure particles up to 10 micrometers (PM10) in diameter, which includes dust. Particles smaller than PM10 can be inhaled into the lungs and get past the body's normal defense systems, eventually entering the bloodstream, Boquillod said. This can give rise to health issues like eye, nose and throat irritation, he added. The smallest particles can wedge deeply into the lungs, causing respiratory infections, bronchitis and even lung cancer, according to the EPA.

The Node is able to measure the particles using laser technology, the company said. Inside the Node, there is a fan that sucks in ambient air, a laser that shoots a sharp and precise laser beam, and a photo-sensor under the laser. "Whenever particulate matter passes in front of the photo-sensor, it breaks the laser beam," causing interference that is picked up by the photo-sensor, Boquillod said. "The photo-sensor counts how many times the laser beam is broken."

The device relies on a powerful algorithm that identifies the size and number of particles for each intake and extrapolates data from successive intakes to determine overall air pollution, Boquillod said. In addition to examining particles, the device also measures carbon dioxide levels, which can indicate how well a room is ventilated.

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