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ANSTO commercially launches black carbon detection tech

Image Credits: ANSTO, Press Release

The modular desktop technology can be used to distinguish black carbon particles from two primary sources: diesel vehicles and biomass burning, such as bushfires or crop burning regimes. Thomson Environmental Systems in Caringbah NSW, co-located in the Sutherland Shire with ANSTO, has been licensed to sell MABI.

Distinguished Research Scientist Prof David Cohen, who was instrumental in the development and testing of the device, said it was an important tool which can provide environmental managers and researchers with new information about pollution.

As part of the extensive validation and testing, the device was distributed to 43 countries around the world and performed well. He notes that it started as a research instrument, it is time to push it out there to the commercial world. The technology complements the extensive range of instruments being sold for measuring air pollution in the atmosphere.

The Director of Innovation and Commercialisation at ANSTO stated that the solution is a great example of how decades of experience in monitoring pollution led to the development of the innovative technology with environmental and health benefits, as well as commercial opportunities for a local science-based business.

In July 2019, it was reported that ANSTO scientists, who are experts in the monitoring of fine particle pollution, developed a research instrument to measure the concentration of black carbon in the atmosphere and determine its source.

Black carbon is a key component of fine particle air pollution; its quantification will produce a better understanding of the role it plays in climate change.

Typical aerosol filter samples used for fine particle pollution monitoring can be loaded in the instrument for measurements. Because the instrument can measure light absorption at seven different wavelengths, it can distinguish different black carbon particle sizes and types.

MABI, which is powered from a simple USB cable has inbuilt software to record and export transmission data which can be converted to black carbon concentrations through standard equations. The equations are provided and the users can measure their black carbon mass absorption coefficients for each wavelength and for their particular region and sampling site. This ensures that the calculation is specific to their sampling site and a more accurate estimate of the black carbon content in their air.

The instrument works by inserting a filter paper into a beam of light. This light goes through the filter and into a detector. Measurement is taken for an unexposed filter and then an exposed filter. By taking the log of the unexposed reading subtracted from exposed reading, you can calculate the amount of black carbon on the filter.

The light from seven LEDs in the unit extends to wavelengths from 405 nanometres to 1050 nanometres. And the process is fast, taking less than 35 seconds to complete the seven-wavelength measurement.

The idea for the instrument came from ANSTO’s fine particle pollution sampling program. The team used to measure black carbon at one wavelength and use a single mass absorption co-efficient to cover all particle sizes. This assumed that every particle was the same size and density.

Facilities which purchase the instrument are asked to provide their data back to ANSTO to be added to the global database the researchers maintain on fine particle pollution. Ideally,  the instrument could be used by all the environmental protection agencies and environmental monitoring facilities sampling air pollution using filters, Cohen noted.

Critical event management has come to the fore with the pandemic. Forecasting, planning and management of critical events help organisations and authorities prevent disruption of life and damage to property.

Governments rely on several, specific systems for critical event management. Such programmes are essential to national well-being especially with the increase in natural disasters. But, more often than not, they operate in isolation of each other. According to world experts in Critical Event Management – Everbridge, this siloed approach can create duplication in information and processes, data contradictions and, when unchecked, could lead to loss of life and damages.

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With the pandemic forecast to be around for some time, planning responses to adverse events must continue alongside COVID-19 management. In light of this, it is expedient for governments to re-look at their systems, tools, processes and platforms they have in place to manage critical events.

October 28, 2020 | 10:30AM IST | 1:00PM SG/HKT | 4:00PM AEST


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