What’s in the air? Information, sensors and guides for a building DIY Air Quality Sensor

Today, New York City’s air quality hit “the worst level on record”. While the sky outside Adafruit’s NYC factory looks like a scene out of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, the fine particulate matter sitting in the air causing the haze is a serious health concern:

I’ve heard people talk about the “AQI” – what is that?

via New York State’s press release:

The AQI was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value indicating a greater health concern.

So how does this AQI correlate with the particulate matter in the air?

via New York State’s press release:

Fine particulate matter consists of tiny solid particles or liquid droplets in the air that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter. PM 2.5 can be made of many different types of particles and often come from processes that involve combustion (e.g. vehicle exhaust, power plants, and fires) and from chemical reactions in the atmosphere.

DEC and DOH issue Air Quality Health Advisories when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100.

I can measure the AQI myself? What kind of sensor would I need?

You can! We sell air quality sensor breakouts such as the PMSA003l Air Quality Breakout (with a handy + fast I2C interface) that can measure PM1.0, PM2.5, and PM10.0 concentration in both standard & environmental units. If you’d like to use a UART interface instead, we also stock the PMS5003 Air Quality Sensor and Breadboard Adapter Kit.


Why would I want to build an Air Quality Monitor?

Citizen Science

Soon after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, trustworthy information about radiation levels was publicly unavailable. An international volunteer organization, Safecast, designed devices for radiation mapping and openly shared their measurements with the public.

With the increasing amount of natural disasters, building an open-source air quality monitor is a step toward citizens being able to monitor and share data about essential environmental measurements without the need to trust an environmental regulatory body or wait for an official government response.

Open Source Science

We noticed a large amount of the current air quality sensor offerings on the market are closed-source software and have a private API. This means it’s impossible to send data from a DIY air quality sensor to their web service. If we purchased one of the company-sponsored sensors and the company went out of business, we’d be left with a sensor that couldn’t send data to the internet.

Building your own open-source air quality monitoring sensor lets you control the hardware going into your IoT air quality sensor, the software running on the sensor (right down to the firmware!), and the web platform data is being sent to. We are using Adafruit.io for most of our guides, but you are free to modify the code to send data to other services such as Amazon AWS IoT, Microsoft Azure IoT, or your own server!

Do you have guides on how to assemble and program my own Air Quality Sensor?

We do – here are some of our favorites:

GUIDE: IoT Air Quality Sensor with Adafruit IO

You’ll assemble an open-source air quality sensor. Then, you’ll program the sensor using CircuitPython to measure air quality data and periodically send measurements to Adafruit IO, our incredible IoT Service. Finally, you’ll create a beautiful Adafruit IO dashboard to visualize your sensor data from anywhere in the world.

Read more >>>

GUIDE: Low-Solder Air Quality Sensor with Enclosure 

Build a 3D-printed enclosure for your IOT Air Quality Sensor. This project is similar to our other air quality sensor guide, except it uses Adafruit STEMMA sensors and has minimal soldering required.

Read more >>>

Wearable Air Quality Monitor

You can build a compact air quality monitor with 3D Printing and CircuitPython. Powered by the Adafruit Feather ESP32-S2 Reverse TFT and a PMSA003I air sensor, this build can monitor air quality in real time! You can even read CO2, humidity and temperatures with a SCD4x sensor. The 3D printed case houses all the components to make a portable environmental monitor that you can even wear!

Read more >>>

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