Reports, Case Studies & Assessments

Low-cost sensors for the measurement of atmospheric composition: overview of topic and future applications


This report considers sensors that are designed for the measurement of atmospheric composition at ambient concentrations focusing on reactive gaseous air pollutants (CO, NOx, O3, SO2), particulate matter (PM) and greenhouse gases CO2 and CH4. It examines example applications where new scientific and technical insight may potentially be gained from using a network of sensors when compared to more sparsely located observations. Access to low-cost sensors appears to offer exciting new atmospheric applications, can support new services and potentially facilitates the inclusion of a new cohort of users. Based on the scientific literature available up to the end of 2017, it is clear however that some trade-offs arise when LCSs are used in place of existing reference methods. Smaller and/or lower cost devices tend to be less sensitive, less precise and less chemically-specific to the compound or variable of interest. This is balanced by a potential increase in the spatial density of measurements that can be achieved by a network of sensors.