Come and visit us at the AQE Show on the 22nd/23rd April.
Click here to register for the show.
We will be hosting some of the workshops at the AQE Show.
Workshop topics will include:-
New Airborne Dust Monitoring Technologies
AQMesh - Low Cost Ambient Air Monitor
Industrial VOC Monitoring
Internet of Environmental Things
Friday, 27 February 2015
Advanced technology improves airborne pathogen measurement
Many traditional methods for detecting airborne sources of contamination rely on the deposition on these materials on to a surface. For example, surface swabs might be taken, or bioaerosol sampling might be undertaken with a sampler that relies on the impact of biological particles on to a solid growth medium. “These methods are unable to deliver an accurate measurement of airborne load,” says Air Monitors MD Jim Mills. “In contrast, the ‘Coriolis µ’ employs a wet-walled cyclone technology that improves bioaerosol sampling for bacteria, pollen, endotoxins, viruses and fungal spores.”
By passing sample air through liquid in a cyclone, the Coriolis µ is able to collect airborne particles in a liquid at a high flow rate (300 l/m) with validated efficiency. The liquid containing the particles can then be tested using one of a number of the latest rapid microbiological analysis methods.
The Coriolis µ offers advantages for sampling air with a high bioaerosol burden (which would saturate traditional solid media) because the liquid can be divided into multiple agar plates. However, this technology is also ideal for cleanroom applications in which air has a low burden, because the Coriolis µ can sample for an extended period.
Summarising, Jim Mills says “This technology is ideal for a wide variety of applications including pharmaceutical manufacture, hospitals, surgeries, care homes, cruise ships, animal housing, composting and any other facilities in which airborne pathogens represent a risk.”
Friday, 16 January 2015
Traffic management lowers air pollution
In December 2014, on the same day that the Environmental Audit Committee published a report saying that air pollution is a ‘public health crisis’, a group of scientists reported the results of CARBOTRAF, a European project to develop a decision support system for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) and black carbon (BC) emissions by adoptive traffic management.
CARBOTRAF is a Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) of the European Commission, and the project participants came from a number of European countries, but the monitoring and control systems that have been developed were deployed in Glasgow, Scotland, and Graz, Austria. With 7 partner organisations from 4 countries and a budget of €4.4m, the CARBOTRAF project studied the relationships between traffic states and CO2 and BC emissions, and a model was developed linking traffic states to emission levels. A decision support system for online prediction of emission levels used real-time and simulated traffic and air quality data. Based on this prediction a low emission traffic scenario is generated by imposing measures such as re-routing and the adjustment of traffic light sequences.
Air Monitors provided the BC monitors, the meteorological equipment, mobile air quality and traffic monitoring equipment, and Envirologger (an associate company of Air Monitors) provided real-time data collection, cloud-storage and website display technology. Other partners include Imperial College London, the Austrian Institute of Technology, VITO (Belgium), ETS (Belgium), EBE Solutions (Austria) and IBM.
The systems are now up and running in both cities and it is clear that emissions reduction opportunities exist. Initial results indicate that about 3% reduction is possible network-wide, but 10% reduction is possible in specific locations. Jim Mills from Air Monitors pointed out that particles and nitrogen dioxide remain major problems, so he hoped that CARBOTRAF will help to raise the profile of the problem and contribute to a better understanding of ways to resolve air quality problems. All speakers agreed that the best prospect for systems such as this is most likely to be in localised hotspots where air quality is most affected by traffic.
To demonstrate the system, Martin Litzenberger from AIT in Austria logged into a preview version of the CARBOTRAF system in Graz which provides traffic management staff with live data during the peak time of 6am to 9am. However, whilst traffic centre operators are very interested in being able to improve air quality, it is not their primary goal, so the decision to adopt CARBOTRAF has to be political.
The CARBOTRAF final report meeting took place at the Royal Society of Chemistry buildings at Burlington House in London’s Piccadilly. However, the UK participants were completely unaware that within a few days, the UK Government would issue a consultation on Local Air Quality Management that, if adopted, would seriously undermine the monitoring and management of local air quality in the UK. Ironically, one of the speakers said: “for a system like CARBOTRAF to become integrated into traffic management, it would have to be identified politically as a tool for tackling air pollution,” but following the UK Government’s consultation, it appears that such political will is sadly missing in London. However, CARBOTRAF has demonstrated that the technology is now available to manage traffic in a way that minimises air pollution, so it is hoped that enlightened politicians will wish to exploit this opportunity to tackle the public health crisis that exists in European cities.
Friday, 05 December 2014
How many of us have bought something because it was a bargain, and later regretted doing so? Often, these are impulse purchases and no harm is done. However, when that decision relates to a service contract, choosing the lowest bidder can have serious and long-term consequences, so it is vitally important for tenders to clearly specify the deliverables and the required levels of performance. This is because the cheapest bid is usually cheap for a reason – either it does not include everything that would normally be regarded as good standard practice or it does not represent a sustainable, commercially viable proposition.
Obviously, service providers must possess a high level of technical competence. They should be authorised by relevant manufacturers, their engineers should undergo regular training, they should follow manufacturer approved written procedures, and their company procedures should be ISO 9000 Quality Management certified.
It is also vitally important for the bid process to assess the equipment and personnel capability of bidders for service contracts. If the bidder operates a team of service engineers offering national coverage from a variety of locations, the cost of each visit will be lower. It will also be possible to provide cover for holidays and illness, or periods of heavy workload. Furthermore, small service teams will be less likely to be able to respond quickly to requests, so bidders should be explicit in describing their capability.
Once a trained service engineer is onsite, it is important that he or she is able to undertake as much of the required work as possible, without incurring a need for further visits. They should therefore carry genuine original manufacturer spare parts along with all necessary test and calibration equipment, and if onsite repair is not possible, the client should know if replacement monitors are available and if there is a cost associated with this.
One of the reasons for low value bids in service contract tenders is failure to include normal operational costs in the bid. For example, there might be extra fees for service visits above a certain number, or there might be extra charges for call-outs, out of normal hours work, spare parts, consumables, ancillary equipment or even telephone support.
The purpose of monitoring is to produce reliable data, but some service plans do not include data management, which is unfortunate because while some clients may prefer to handle this themselves, it often makes sense for the service company to implement a data management system. It is vitally important for data to be stored correctly and delivered in a timely, user-friendly manner because this can affect data capture and reliability.
Datalogging and telemetry are common components of a monitoring station, however, the service plan should include daily checks to ensure that data are being collected, stored and backed-up, and that the telemetry system is functioning correctly. Ideally it should be possible to log in to all sites in order to view live monitoring data, not just because this is extremely useful from an air quality management perspective, but also because it enables the service provider to implement a proactive station management programme. This is because the service company’s engineers will be able to monitor the performance of every station remotely; often detecting the onset of problems before they occur. As a result, engineers are able to plan their site visits according to need, rather than a timed schedule. This proactive service capability prevents the possibility of significant down-time and substantially improves data capture rates.
Air Monitors Ltd
As a service provider, it is the source of great frustration when a tender is issued without some of the details outlined above, because this opens the door to bidders that are happy to issue unsustainable proposals that are unlikely to deliver good quality data capture. We have invested heavily in staff, training, equipment, spares, vehicles, technical support and communications technology, and we have long-standing relationships with the world’s leading manufacturers, so it is no coincidence that our data capture rates lead the field and we have an impressive contract renewal rate over the last ten years of over 95%.
With 9 full-time members in our service team and 2 part-time experienced contract engineers, Air Monitors is able to deliver a highly effective and sustainable service. We operate a fleet of specially designed vehicles which are stocked with parts, as well as test and calibration equipment. Some of these vans have been fitted out with a fully powered workshop so that monitors can be maintained in the comfort and safety of the vehicle, allowing us to work in all weathers.
I hope that this article has helped to highlight some of the key features of a good quality service contract, but we do appreciate that everyone has different requirements so it is often necessary to work with our clients to develop a contract that precisely meets their needs.
In summary, my advice when choosing a service partner is to take time to specify the terms of the contract; study the published performance data of service providers, and finally, I am very proud of my team so don’t just take my word for it; ask our customers...
Tuesday, 23 September 2014
In response to growing demand and a changing market, Air Monitors Limited, a leading provider of air quality monitoring equipment and related services, has invested in a new fleet of state-of-the-art vehicles.
Service Manager Nigel Grey says: “Our service work has changed enormously in recent years and it is vitally important that we adapt accordingly, ensuring that all of our engineers are equipped with the latest technology so that they can provide the highest levels of service.”
Air Monitors services a high proportion of the UK’s air quality monitoring networks, and published data capture rates demonstrate that the company is able to offer the highest levels of service available. However, many of Air Monitors’ customers now employ cloud-based data collection so that they are able to view air quality data in almost real-time. This facility has radically changed Air Monitors’ service capability: “Instead of responding to customer calls when they find that an instrument is down or damaged, we now continuously monitor the performance of all of our customers’ online monitors,” adds Nigel. “As a result, we are often able to detect issues before they become a problem, and despatch an engineer much sooner - most problems are fixed before the customer knows they have one!”
To support the new pro-active service capability, the new Air Monitors vans are equipped with all of the latest service, calibration and communication technology, coupled with a comprehensive suite of spares and consumables.
Friday, 22 August 2014
The Environment Agency of the Faroe Islands together with the municipality of Tórshavn has installed two ambient air quality monitoring stations as part of its commitment to monitor the environment and provide air quality data to the public and other interested parties. The stations, which were supplied by Air Monitors Ltd, provide continuous meteorological measurements and air quality data for NO2, NOx and a range of different particulate factions.
Rakul Mortensen, an Environmental Chemist for the Agency, is responsible for air quality monitoring. She says: “Air quality measurements have been made in the past, but only on a short-term basis by researchers and consultants, so we are absolutely delighted to be able to conduct our own continuous monitoring, so that we can establish a database of background air quality data.
“The creation of two sites, one urban and one rural, will enable us to determine whether any pollution incidents have arisen from local sources or externally. For example, we received a significant quantity of dust following the volcanic eruptions that took place in Iceland in 2010 and this equipment will enable us to measure any future instances with greater accuracy, so that we can provide the public with informed advice and reassurance."
One of the stations was installed in a remote rural location and the other was installed in Tórshavn in the main urban area near the harbour, which is the area most likely to be affected by local sources of pollution.
The Faroe Islands is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark but are not part of the European Union so it does not have to comply with EU Air Quality Directives. However, the Environment Agency is keen to be able to provide the Islands’ 50,000 population with information on air quality. Rakul says: “The main factors affecting air quality are likely to be road traffic and emissions from the large number of ships that travel to and from the Islands’ ports. However, the monitoring stations have already demonstrated that air quality in the Faroes is generally good, and well within the requirements of the EU air quality standards."
Each of the two monitoring stations included a Thermo Gas analyser Model 42i measuring NO, NO2 and NOx in addition to a Lufft WS600 smart weather sensor for measuring wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, pressure and precipitation. Particulate monitoring is being undertaken with the most advanced technology available; each station has been equipped with a FIDAS, (Fine Dust Analysis System) which provides continuous real-time simultaneous mass concentration measurements of TSP, PM1, PM2.5 and PM10 and TSP providing additional information on particle size distribution from 0.18 to 18 microns and particle number in each size range. All of the monitoring equipment is connected to web loggers manufactured by Envirologger, Air Monitors' sister company.
Jim Mills, Air Monitors' MD, travelled to the Faroe Islands in March 2014 to assist with the installation of the monitoring stations. He said: "The monitors are similar to many of the stations that we have installed in the UK; they are fitted with web loggers that utilise 'cloud' storage for the data and our software engineers are working with the Environment Agency of the Faroe Islands to develop a website so that the public will have quick and easy access to air quality data."
Friday, 18 July 2014
Vivienne Westwood and Duffy joined a crowd of cyclists on the ‘Cleaner Air Bike Ride’ that took place during the Urban Outdoor Festival in Camden on Saturday 5th July. The event was designed to raise awareness of several environmental issues including climate change, air quality and the benefits of cycling rather than petrol/diesel transport.
Singer-songwriter Duffy mingled with the crowds during the event and joined the bike ride which travelled north from Camden Market, crossing Hampstead Heath before returning to Camden Market. Having completed the ride a breathless Duffy said: "North London is famously a ‘hip’ place to live … I figured that the people in this area would be keen to know how they can get ahead of the game, so I joined Vivienne to help promote awareness of issues such as air quality."
ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law organisation, fitted one of the bikes with an AQMesh air quality monitor so that live readings could be viewed during the festival, and the graph below shows Nitrogen Dioxide levels (one of the most important pollutants) during the ride. Andrea Lee from ClientEarth’s Healthy Air Campaign rode the three-wheeled Cargo Bike and collected the air quality data. “NO2 levels declined overnight, but increased sharply as the morning traffic started,” she reported. “However, it is interesting to note that pollutant levels dropped significantly as the cyclists travelled away from the traffic through Hampstead Heath. This highlights how traffic affects people’s health through increased exposure to air pollution.”
The day was opened by Dame Vivienne Westwood who led the Cleaner Air Bike Ride around Camden demonstrating low pollution cycle routes. She was joined by Duffy, Sally Gimson (Labour councillor for Camden and cabinet member for sustainability and environment), members of the public, Camden Council and local cycle groups.
The overarching theme of the day was to recognise and address air pollution and sustainability within the borough of Camden and city-wide. Guest speakers talked passionately about using green transport, growing your own food and protecting natural spaces.
Duffy was particularly interested in the development of localised air quality data. “It’s over 60 years since the Great Smog of London which killed an extra 4,000 people, so it’s astonishing that a similar number of people still die prematurely every year in London as a result of air pollution,” she said, adding: “Air quality information needs to be made available in a way that can help people make informed decisions – where to live, where to send their kids to school, which route to travel to work and even where to jog or cycle.
“Despite the fact that air quality is a bigger killer than obesity, alcohol or road accidents, air quality is not a priority in most people’s lives. As a nation, we have just scraped ourselves out of a pretty deep economic hole, leaving many people feeling vulnerable and demoralised; your home is your security - home is where the heart is (and all that); people need to know the air quality on their street as it will start to impact on where they want to live.”
She continues: “So, when air quality affects people’s pockets, they will surely take notice, and make decisions that reduce pollution – walking more, cycling more, driving less and buying cars with cleaner (non-diesel) emissions? This is not just about climate and environment; this is about people and the economy. In a nutshell … house prices will someday be affected by the quality of the air. So act now, to sustain the value of your home …”
Thursday, 19 June 2014
Situated in the south west of Wales, in a largely rural area bordering the Brecon Beacons, Carmarthenshire’s air quality is predominantly good. However, there are areas of concern where major roads pass through some of the County’s larger towns, including Llanelli, Carmarthen and Llandeilo, where air quality is dominated by the effects of road traffic. The County Council is therefore testing new monitoring technologies so that it will be better able to track the effects of improvement measures.
Carmarthenshire County Council operates a network of passive diffusion tubes as part of its commitment to Local Air Quality Management under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995. However, in 2013, Air Monitors supplied the Council with a new type of air quality monitor, ‘AQMesh’, that is able to provide continuous air quality readings for a range of important parameters. This new technology is small, wireless, lightweight and battery powered, which means that it can be quickly and simply mounted in almost any location.
The Council’s monitoring programme has identified Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) from traffic emissions, mostly diesel vehicles, as the pollutant of greatest concern. A number of locations in the centre of Llandeilo have been shown to be in breach of European air quality standards, so an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) has been established in the town. Whilst NO2 levels are not sufficiently high to cause immediate health effects, the current levels could cause adverse health effects over the long term, particularly in people suffering from respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
NO2 reduction by about 25µg/m3 is the main objective of the air quality action plan, but the Council is determined to ensure that all pollutants remain at safe levels, so the ability of the AQMesh to monitor a wide range of parameters (Ozone, Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Temperature, Humidity and Atmospheric Pressure) is a major benefit.
Stephen Hoskin from Air Monitors says: “There are a number of important new features in AQMesh that are fundamentally changing the way that air quality is monitored; firstly, it can be located where air quality matters most – where people are breathing.
“Secondly, in comparison with large reference stations, with only a small drop in levels of accuracy, the cost of monitoring is reduced dramatically, which means that users will be able to measure air quality in more locations, and this will reduce the UK’s current dependence on modelling to ‘guesstimate’ air quality.
“Finally, by providing near real-time data over the internet, useful air quality data can be made available to a much wider audience via smartphones, tablets and computers.”
The AQMesh in Carmarthenshire is being operated by Oliver Matthews, one of the Council’s Environmental Health Practitioners with specific responsibility for air quality. He says: “In the past we have not continuously monitored this range of parameters because doing so would have involved the installation of a large, expensive air quality monitoring station that would have probably required planning permission.
“These reference stations offer high levels of accuracy, but come with large capital and operational costs, and cannot typically be moved, whereas the AQMesh can be quickly attached to a lamp post or other item of street furniture at a fraction of the cost.
“Alternatively, we could install passive diffusion tubes, one for each parameter of interest, but the disadvantage of this method is that the tubes are left in place for four to five weeks, so we are only provided with an average figure over that time, with no indication of the peaks and troughs that occur. For example, a recent road closure resulted in the diversion of traffic and, with the benefit of AQMesh, we were able to track a significant short-term rise in NO2.”
With the assistance of key stakeholders, the AQMA draft action plan has identified a number of options to improve air quality, and the AQMesh unit has been installed in order to help assess the success or failure of each initiative.
Interestingly, the development of the AQMA action plan benefitted from essential gas main works that were required in Llandeilo because this involved the closure of the main trunk road (Rhosmaen Street) for a period of up to three months, which provided an opportunity to identify the effects of traffic diversions on air quality.
Options that are being considered as part of the action plan include improving traffic management and seek to prevent vehicular ‘stop/start’ and promote a smooth flow of traffic. Typically, these options could include the provision of extra parking outside of the AQMA, the removal of some on-road parking within the AQMA, better parking enforcement, relocation of bus stops, reviewing pedestrian crossings and improvement of bottle necks.
Summarising Oliver says: “The network of diffusion tubes has enabled us to identify hotspots, and these are the locations at which the AQMesh will be of greatest use because we will be able to study trends and look for the causes of elevated pollution levels at specific times of the day.
“Data from the AQMesh are provided on a website via the ‘Cloud’ so, looking forward, this technology has the potential to make a major difference to air quality improvements and to the transparency and availability of data. For example, it may become possible to integrate air quality monitoring with automatic traffic management.”
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Jim Mills, Managing Director of Air Monitors and Envirologger, a developer of machine to machine (M2M) technology, was recently invited to speak at the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) in Dallas, USA. The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) was the central theme of the Conference, which sought to identify the potential for wireless ‘smart’ systems in applications as diverse as the remote control of domestic appliances with smartphones to space robotics and personal medical devices.
With 18,000 employees worldwide, Freescale is a leader in embedded processing solutions for the automotive, consumer, industrial and networking markets. From microcontrollers and microprocessors to sensors, analogue integrated circuits and connectivity, the company’s technologies are employed in many of the devices that we use every day.
Developed with the embedded engineer in mind, the FTF events drive innovation and collaboration amongst the global developer community, drawing nearly 60,000 attendees worldwide since their inception in 2005. The Dallas Conference was attended by around 2,000 engineers and speakers include Freescale’s CEO and senior management with guest presentations from some of the world’s leading technology innovation companies, including General Motors, Oracle, ARM, etc.
The guest speakers were invited to demonstrate that the IoT is already being employed successfully in a wide variety of applications and Jim Mills was asked to show delegates how Envirologger has web-enabled much of the UK’s air quality monitoring network. Jim outlined the ways in which Envirologger exploits Freescale technology to provide real-time access to remote monitors for air quality, traffic, meteorology and noise. “The Envirologger Gateway can be connected to just about any monitor, collecting data and passing it to our cloud-based servers,” he explained, adding: “We have also built Freescale technology into the wireless nodes that we have developed, which can be connected to individual sensors.”
During his presentation, Jim provided a live demonstration, featuring a global map showing the locations of Envirologger monitoring stations. For the purposes of the demonstration, Jim had configured carbon dioxide monitoring points at Freescale locations in both Scotland and Dallas, from which both historical and live data could be viewed.
Commenting on applications for the IoT Jim said: "We are seeing strong growth in the market for environmental monitoring and our customers are constantly finding new ways to exploit the value of live data.
"In essence, our customers need data, so with monitoring information stored in the 'cloud' we are finding that more and more customers prefer to rent data rather than purchase equipment and run it themselves. In addition, by web-enabling the data, users are able to provide information to an enormous number of people, which massively increases the value of the data."
All of the FTF presentations were filmed and are available online at http://www.freescale.com/webapp/sps/site/overview.jsp?code=FTF_AMERICAS_VIDEOS&vid=0. Jim's presentation can be viewed 50 minutes into the presentations on the second day or on its own on YouTube using the link above.
Thursday, 03 April 2014
Recently, the Prime Minister’s car was covered by a thin layer of Saharan dust and air quality was suddenly a lead item in the national news. The dust itself does not pose a serious hazard to health in comparison with the finer particles (from diesel engines for example) that travel deep into the lungs, but Jim Mills, MD of Air Monitors, believes that the media attention that this event inspired should have a positive effect on the UK’s strategy for improving air quality: “This recent pollution episode demonstrates that people need to be able to see pollution before they become interested in it,” he says.
Just a few days prior to the Saharan invasion, the World Health Organisation reported that ‘in 2012 around 7 million people died - one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk.’ This extraordinary and alarming statistic barely made the headlines, so why is that?
In the 1950s thick smogs meant that air pollution was highly visible to the public and politicians, whereas today, ‘out of sight and out of mind’ is an apt description of political attitude to air quality.
The problem with solving urban air quality problems is that death certificates never say ‘Died from air pollution’ so the statistics that show 29,000 premature UK deaths (as a result of air pollution) pass largely unnoticed because the ‘cause of death’ is usually a heart attack, a stroke or some other cardiovascular ailment. The fact that this figure exceeds those for obesity, alcohol and road traffic accidents is largely ignored.
Jim believes that the problem needs to be made visible: “People need to know what the air quality is, but that information needs to useful – in other words, knowing that air pollution is bad in London today doesn’t really help. Londoners won’t decide to work in Sussex today as a result!
“Air quality data needs to be more spatially specific; people need to know which streets are particularly bad so that they can make decisions accordingly; such as choosing a route to work or selecting a school in an area with cleaner air.
“Greater detail and higher visibility of air quality data will also help to motivate politicians to implement measures to improve air quality.”
So, the answer is to find a way to improve the detail and visibility of data and Jim says this has been the focus of his company Air Monitors in recent years: “We have developed a bolt-on capability (AQWeb) for monitoring stations that utilises the latest communications technology and the ‘Cloud’ to make live data available via the Internet. In addition, working with the company Geotech, we have launched AQMesh, a revolutionary technology that dramatically reduces the cost and footprint of monitoring equipment so that air quality can be measured anywhere, and live data viewed at anytime from anywhere.”
In summary, it is unfortunate that media noise following the appearance of dust on the Prime Minister’s car raised concern about particles that were not the main culprit in the deaths that result from air pollution. However, it is encouraging that this event served to raise the profile of a critically important issue and that technology has been developed to provide air quality data that will be useful.
Sunday, 25 August 2013
Peter Lawson, formerly at Casella Monitor (Monitor Europe) joins Air Monitors team as Regional Sales Manager (Scotland). Peter has many years experience in the air quality monitoring industry and will be a valuable addition to the existing Air Monitors sales team.
Peter joined ETI, a company formed by our managing director Jim Mills, back in 1992 and worked with the company until he transferred to Monitor Europe, again formed by Jim Mills in 1998. Both ETI and Monitor Europe were sold to Casella Group in 2000 and Peter stayed on managing international sales until recently.
Air Monitors was formed in 2002 by Jim, who was later joined by six other staff who has previously worked at Casella/Monitor Europe so Peter will feel right at home amongst past friends and colleagues.
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