Europe turns to sensors to monitor vehicle emissions

European consortium seeks to solve air pollution from vehicle emissions
Researchers at the Institute of Electronic Sensor Systems at TU Graz are working on simplifying the measurement of vehicle emissions. (© Nady--AdobeStock)

With air pollution continuing to challenge the quality of life in European cities, researchers at Graz University of Technology are working together with European partners on new ways to measure vehicle emissions.

As part of the Horizon 2020 research project CARES (City Air Remote Emission Sensing), an international research consortium is working on contactless exhaust measurement methods that will enable municipalities to take emission-reducing measures. The researchers want to develop new sensors that can be attached to roadsides, crash barriers or traffic signs which instantly detect the exhaust emission of passing vehicles.   

"We want to monitor vehicle emissions in cities and environmental zones under real conditions, without having to interfere with free-flowing traffic," explains Alexander Bergmann, head of the Institute of Electronic Sensor Systems at Graz University of Technology. He and his team are primarily responsible in the project for all aspects of particle measurement.

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“The aim is to detect the exhaust class of each individual vehicle using these measurements,” continues Bergmann. A number of ideas are being considered, such as restricting access for vehicles whose pollutants fall outside acceptable limits or imposing higher tolls on vehicles with higher emissions. The sensors could also be calibrated to identify vehicles whose engines have been modified for higher performance, and thus higher emissions.

According to Bergmann, low-cost remote sensors to measure emissions will be ready for series production by the end of the 2022 project at the latest. Bergmann is already optimistic over the first promising tests at the institute in which conventional tuning forks are used. The particles between the fork are excited through laser pulses, which in turn produce acoustic signals which are recorded and played back by the tuning fork. The number of particles is proportional to sound volume. The volume can then be used to determine how many particles are in the environment.

The technology is already being used for gas measurements. "Our institute was now able to show for the first time that this also works with particles and could be a possibility for a low-cost sensor," said Bergmann. The researchers at TU Graz hope that the measuring method will also prove its worth in the metropolises of Milan, Prague and Krakow, where the investigations will be carried out in live operation as part of the CARES project.

The research project CARES is funded within the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme of the European Union with EUR 3,326,735.50 and is anchored in the Field of Expertise "Information, Communication & Computing."

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