UBC’s Rapid Air Improvement Network (RAIN) is installing a network of air quality sensors on the campus this summer, with plans to also use mobile monitoring and sophisticated analysis instruments to locate and study air pollutants.
The goal is to gather necessary details for fast and effective interventions. Air pollution is linked to as many as nine million deaths per year worldwide and 14,000 annually in Canada.
The team plans to leverage the university’s traffic, population and operations data, which can be quickly tuned to improve air quality. The mobile monitoring station will be used further away, including communities affected by wildfires and other areas in urgent need.
The data will be translated into effective interventions, including control strategies for engines, traffic flow and building ventilation.
“Air pollution is chemically and physically complex, and concentrations outdoors and indoors can vary dramatically with location and over time,” said principal investigator Dr. Steven Rogak, a professor of mechanical engineering in the faculty of applied science. “With RAIN, we are looking to produce meaningful information that can help the public, industry and governments take smarter actions on health and climate around the world.”
The RAIN team includes experts in health, chemistry, meteorology, engineering and environmental policy, working with academic, government and industry partners. The project is receiving $2 million in new infrastructure funding from the federal government through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).
Rogak, an aerosols expert, adds that air quality has become even more important in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
“We are looking for solutions that improve air quality and promote healthy homes and workplaces through the current pandemic, and after,” he said. “And they should be relevant not only in Canada but also beyond, including in lower-income countries.”