Dyson backpack monitors air quality to report on pollutants that London's kids are breathing

Dyson has lifted technology from its air purifying fans and heaters to equip a backpack with tech to detect the pollutants that children breathe when walking to and from school. 

Working with researchers from King’s College London, as part of the Breathe London initiative, the high-tech backpacks will be distributed amongst children at five London schools, gathering data to find out how much pollution they encounter. 

Dyson had to shrink the size of its components with three main sensors used to detect and record nitrogen dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and PM2.5 and PM10. The latter two are different sizes of particular matter, including but not limited to dust and pollen, and down to much finer matter, like brake dust or soot. The hardware also detects humidity and temperature. 

It’s well-known that cars produce a wide range of pollutants and air quality in vehicles or along busy roadways can often be extremely poor, especially around rush hour when kids are going to school. 

The bespoke Dyson rucksacks will be able to capture a week of data thanks to a rechargeable battery, so that academics can get a true picture of the air the children are breathing. The children will be aged between 8-11 years and over 250 will take part in the study. 

The flipside of the study is to examine how behaviour changes once children – and parents – are aware of the level of pollutants that they are exposed to.

Air quality is high on the public health agenda. It’s a key driving force in the argument for the adoption of zero emission vehicles, such as electric cars, as well as any number of innovative air purifiers aiming to clean up the air that we’re breathing. 

Dyson uses similar technology in its purifying fans, monitoring air quality indoors so that it can report on pollutants and filter them out. There has also been an increase in in-car air purifiers – like Airbubbl – aiming to cut out those pollutants from the interior of your car.

Dyson’s special air monitoring backpack is for research purposes only and sadly, won’t be available to buy. However, you can be sure that the results will get plenty of attention.

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