Yellow smog clouded cityscape

Using low-cost sensors to improve air pollution monitoring

I’m Chloe Gray, a PhD candidate from Blackpool where I live with my partner, our dog and 2 guinea pigs. I earned my undergraduate degree in Chemistry from University of Liverpool. In my spare time I like to keep active with plenty of outdoor activities such as rock climbing and white-water kayaking. I also have a creative side and enjoy playing the piano.

 My research 

I am investigating the properties of a type of air pollution called particulate matter (PM) which is pollution made up of tiny particles of solids or liquids that are in the air such as dust, dirt, soot, smoke or drops of liquid. 

My first step is to create a profile for each PM that comes from different sources. I can then use those profiles to track PM from multiple locations across Liverpool with a network of 34 low-cost sensors. 

My aim is to understand which sources of air pollution in Liverpool are having most impact in different locations in the city. It will also help increase our understanding of how air pollution travels in an urban environment. 

My favourite thing about my research is getting to see individual pollution particles on the scanning electron microscope. It’s pretty eye opening to be able to see the tiny particles that we all breathe in on a daily basis. 

Here are some images of the particulate matter I am investigating as seen from the scanning electron microscope in a lab.

I love sharing this research with others as it starts important conversations with those who are interested. It’s really important to share my work with a range of audiences because different people will have a range of perspectives, whether it’s a room full of experts who can share insights on how to progress my work, the general public who want to learn more from my research or aspiring researchers who want to pursue their own career in this area. 

What are your next steps? 

I’m currently preparing for my primary data collection for my thesis which is very exciting. I’m so excited to see the results from my work so far! As well as my data collection, I am also preparing for some piano exams as well as training for a half marathon, so I have lots of goals to work towards. 

My 3-minute thesis 

What I found most rewarding is that everyone I competed against in the 3MT were so supportive of each other and really wanted to see each other succeed. It did feel like a competition at all and felt more like a celebration of everyone’s amazing research. It was great to be surrounded by incredible researchers and find out more about their work. 

I was delighted to be awarded the People’s Choice Award which was an award voted for by the live audience. I am so pleased that my work resonated with an audience in such a short space of time. 

Watch my 3MT Presentation

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