First system for remote traffic pollution detection created in Spain

16 September 2013
By Tereza Pultarova
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A team of Spanish researchers has developed a system for real-time pollution monitoring to be used to evaluate automobile traffic

A team of Spanish researchers has developed a system for real-time pollution monitoring to be used to evaluate automobile traffic

A group of Spanish researcher centres and companies, including the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, has developed the first infrared system for real-time remote detection of pollutants from cars on highways.

The system, currently capable to monitor up to three lanes in real time, should eventually enable conducting a global test of automobile emissions.

Collecting data on traffic density and associating them with emissions and consumption of each vehicle, the system can analyse the impact of traffic on the environment and advise how to improve road safety.

In essence, the system works similarly to a radar, but detects excess pollutants from each individual vehicle.

The prototype, developed in the Infrared Lab of the company UC3M, is based on the modification of an infrared multispectral image camera with interferential filters. Its creators have started from the premise that all toxic gases have an emissions signature in the infrared which enables them to be detected by remote technology.  

“These filters are located in a wheel that turns at a high speed in front of the detector and they provide consecutive images of the same scene on different bands, which allows for remote detection of some unburned gases, like CO2, CO and HCs,” explained Fernando López, head of the UC3M’s Infrared Lab.

The team has recently tested the prototype on a busy highway near Madrid. They believe the technology could be used in the future to improve the analyses of emissions from automobiles in a city or region, possibly enabling new ways to tackle the increasing pollution.

The government could, for example, use the measurements obtained through the system to ban the most polluting vehicles. According to available data, less than five per cent of vehicles are responsible for more than 90 per cent of toxic emissions.  Identifying and possibly excluding from traffic the worst emitters, would not only reduce emissions but also increase the overall energy efficiency of road transport.

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