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  • Cheryl Tan

How I Became an “Air Quality Scientist” with Dyson… Well, Sort Of

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

There’s a really cool backpack that you might never have heard of, until now. A collaboration between Dyson and King’s College London, nine people around the world were provided with backpacks that measure air quality and send the data to be analysed.

By going about their daily lives with the backpack on, they’re gathering data about the quality of the air. With Covid-19, life ground to a halt for a few months and Dyson wanted to take a closer look at the air quality. We’re one of the few in the world that got our hands on the backpack and here’s how it worked.

It’s a pretty discreet backpack, made by Case Logic, and while it does have vents for the air quality sensors and such, it doesn’t look too outlandish. The backpack’s sensors are powered by a hefty powerbank that looks like it could be charged with solar energy.

The backpack is able to measure levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and PM2.5 particles, and the processor inside is taking all that data and analysing it.

Bobby took the backpack along when walking his dog and when out cycling, and his data got sent back to Dyson headquarters for analysis. After crunching the numbers, Dyson actually found that while overall concentration did not increase, Bobby’s personal exposure showed a 49% increase in PM2.5 pollutant once the Circuit Breaker period was over. So this is could be from the dust caused by traffic, walking past construction or someone smoking that Bobby was exposed to.

Frederic Nicolas, Category Development Manager of Environmental Care at Dyson said: “These results highlight the hyperlocal aspect of air quality both indoor and outdoor enabled by personalised exposure monitoring. Some of the sources of air pollution like traffic, construction or cooking in the home can be mitigated and are to some degree within our control to avoid, reduce or change to lower our exposure. However, some wider causes of pollution are less avoidable as they impact pollution levels on larger scale such as city scale. This removes our ability to reduce our exposure significantly as the pollution source cannot be avoided.”

Overall, it was definitely an interesting experience and with this data and understanding our personal exposure to these pollutants, it may help us better adjust our behaviour.

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