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Ugandan Scientists Create a Bespoke Air Quality Measuring Device

Kampala, like many other cities in sub-Saharan Africa, has a critical data gap on the scale and magnitude of air pollution. Kampala is Uganda’s political capital and financial district contributing to over 30% of Uganda’s GDP. The city hosts more than 32% of the country’s manufacturing facilities and so industrial emissions from activity – such as metal processing, furniture, textiles and plastics – will contribute a significant amount of pollution to the air. Engineer Bainomugisha – along with other scientists at AirQo, Makerere University – has developed a machine that monitors air quality. The locally developed system has been designed and optimised to help African cities – with limited resources and poor infrastructure – to measure and track air pollution trends. AirQo devices primarily measure particulate matter – a mixture of solid particles in the air – which can have adverse effects on our health when we inhale them. The devices continuously take samples of air from a location and use a light scattering method to quantify the concentration of particulate matter. These measurements are transmitted, in near real-time, to the cloud-based AirQo to predict local pollution. The devices are locally designed to withstand the environmental conditions of many African cities, such as dust and extreme weather. They also include a wide range of data transmission and power options so they can operate in areas where there is limited access to power or poor internet connectivity.