Friday, 6 March 2015

Optimal spraying of water could help in improving air quality in the city environments

This guest article is contributed by: Sunil Kumar Mittal
Sunil is an innovator and an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, from where he received his MTech degree. Prior to his current work, he served MCD for over 20 years in the capacity of a junior, assistant, executive and superintending engineer. His recent innovation has already fetched a patent from USPTO (United State Patent and Trade Mark Office) and another patent application is under examination of European Patent Office. He could be reached at

In a particular city area, health of residents, more or less, depends over prevailing AQI (Air Quality Index), which is a measurable parameter of air pollution. The AQI is influenced greatly by suspended particulate matter (including PM2.5 and PM10) in the air. Presence of such particulate matter in the air may attribute to nearly half of the weighting to AQI.  
The Issues 
These particulate matter enter into the city air from numerous exhaust (e.g. road vehicles) and industrial sources such as chimneys. Because of their very small size, these particles remains in air for a sufficiently longer time prior to finally settling down over body parts of human beings, leaves of plants, shrubs, in open areas (including road surface), or in closed areas (e.g. building) under the influence of gravitational settling.

A part of such settled particulate matter re-enters into the city air mainly due to agitation in leaves of plants (due to air flow, which may be, under influence of air pressure difference due to movement of vehicles); and/or due to movement of vehicles on roads (frictional force between tyres and road surface); and/or due to manual cleaning/sweeping of roads by our Safai Karamcharies.
From closed areas, such settled particulate matters, re-enters into the city air due to dusting and/or sweeping etc. of such areas. In this short article, I am concentrating over the particulate matters re-entering into the environment due to the reasons discussed above.
Health Risk and its effect over our economy  
Particulate matter get stick over skin of urban dwellers during the movement of a person in local city environment. This activity may be attributing closure of skin pores and also may be attributing skin related diseases.  Further, during respiration process such particulate matters enters into their lungs, which in due course may stick to inner wall of lung(s) and also may cause various lungs related (pulmonary) diseases. Such health disorders directly affect to the working capacity/capability of that affected person, his/her earning capabilities and thus in large to economy of that nation.
Practices followed in the past 
To have an effective check over this vulnerable issue, people in the past, used to spray water over road surface, open areas prior to their cleaning/sweeping. Also, they used to spray water over leaves of road side plant, shrubs to clear them from all deposited bacteria/fungus/particulate matter; to reduce in bacterial/fungus attack over leaves or other parts of plants; to increase in rate of photosynthesis process; to increase in their growth rate; and also to increase in rate of production of oxygen from them.

From experience, it has been observed that at major road crossing, where a sufficiently large number of vehicles stays (on red light) for changing in their movement direction and/or for better vehicular movement management; presence of suspended particulate matters in the air, is sufficiently higher than other parts of the same road. A recent study conducted in United Kingdom has revealed that air pollution at crossing and traffic lights can be up to 29-times more than other parts of the same road during free flow traffic conditions.

In order to find an effective solution to AQI problem, it is therefore suggested that we should adopt long back practiced processes of water spray over road surface and also over the leaves of road side plant and shrubs etc. For the purpose of spraying, water that is being produced in sewerage treatment plant (treated effluent), if permitted under the laws, could be used. We can spray water over road surface one-two times at or near road junctions, and once over other parts of same road in a day. Also, water can be sprayed over leaves of road side plants and shrubs once in a day, depending upon their water requirements.  
Present Scenario 
From experience it has been learned that presently, no water is being sprayed at road junctions or over the leaves of road side plants. If it is being sprayed, occasionally, it is being sprayed with the help of hands or with the help of a narrow-mouth pipes (hand tighten or fitted with a nozzle) connected with a continuous source of water.

From such a pipe, water exits with a sufficiently high pressure and flow rate. Due to that, parts of a plant (leaves, branches, stem or flower/fruit) may get damaged and/or soil at their beneath may get eroded to make the plants unstable.

From experience, it is been observed such practices not only results in non-uniform spray of water, but also results in wastage of precious water due to run-off, evaporation and infiltration etc., besides creating slippery road surface and mud formations. This may cause unstable skidding and/or muddy situation for vehicles and get stuck their tires. Consequently, this mud may travel a long distances with the vehicles, increasing susceptibility of re-entering of particulate matters into the ambient air.
Inventor’s solution 
To solve such problems and also to preserve precious water, I had developed a water spray gun based on a newly invented technology. This gun is connected with a continuous source of water (having water pressure of about 3 kg/cm2) through a pipe. Though, at upstream of this spray gun, inlet water pressure will be of about 3 kg/cm2 but at its downstream water pressure either will be negligible or zero. This would help in ensuring no mud formation, no erosion of soil beneath a plant and/or damage to any of its part.

This gun can easily be operated by keeping the same in the hands of an operator. Operator can have full control over the quantity of water to be sprayed at a desired location and thus would be saving huge quantity of water from wastage. Moreover, this spraying arrangement will help in easy removal of dust particles from road surface as well as the leaves of a plant and consequently improving AQI in the city environments.
Structural details of this technology 
A device suitable for managing pressure and flow rate of a fluid comprising of: (i) a first orifice plate having one first orifice, said one first orifice having a first diameter and the said first orifice positioned near an edge of the first orifice plate, (ii) a second orifice plate having one second orifice, said one second orifice having a second diameter, and the said second orifice positioned near an edge of the second orifice plate, (iii) a tubular structure having an effective diameter, comprising the first orifice plate and the second orifice plate placed at perpendicular direction to the fluid flow within the tubular structure, separated by a distance, and (iv) wherein the pressure and/or the flow rate downstream of the device are lower than the pressure and/or flow rate upstream of the device. 

The device is therefore robust since it does not have any moving part and therefore has a long useful life (that too without losing on its work efficiency with passage of time), besides negligible or almost no maintenance cost. Other unique value additions to this technology are that it can easily be installed in an indoor or outdoor applications and can be manufactured in any shape and size to provide a tailor made solution to a specific consumer. Any material that is impermeable to the flowing fluid and also is capable to withstand with the stress developed during its use can be chosen. The device can be fitted or retrofitted into any new or existing network, and hence there is no need to install a pressure reducing valve, a shut-off valve, or a filter at the upstream or downstream of the device.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Stopping at red lights could be slowly killing you

The average UK commuter spends about 1.5 hours a day at the wheel. While not great for stress levels in general, there are other ways that the daily churn through traffic can negatively affect health. Research by my team at the University of Surrey has shown how drivers and pedestrians are being exposed to very high levels of air pollutants at traffic lights.

The World Health Organisation links air pollution to seven million premature deaths every year. It’s well known that road vehicles in particular emit polluting nanoparticles which contribute to respiratory and heart diseases. Despite efforts to encourage a reduction, car usage has remained fairly constant in recent decades.

Our team monitored drivers’ exposure to air pollutants at various points of a journey and found traffic intersections were high pollution hot-spots due to the frequent changes in driving conditions.

Pollution hotspots are all near traffic lights.
Goel and Kumar (2015).

With drivers decelerating and stopping at lights, then revving up to move quickly when lights go green, peak particle concentration was found to be 29 times higher than that during free-flowing traffic conditions. Also of course, while travelling by road we are generally pretty close to the air pollution source, which is the tailpipe of preceding road vehicle.

Though drivers spend just 2% of their journey time passing through intersections managed by traffic lights, this short duration contributes to about 25% of total exposure to these harmful particles.

It’s not always possible to change your route to avoid these intersections, but drivers should be aware of the increased risks at busy lights and at least try to avoid regularly taking routes that force them to sit in traffic inhaling potentially harmful fumes.

Where this is unavoidable the best way to limit exposure is to keep vehicle windows shut, fans off and try to increase the distance between the cars in front where possible. Pedestrians regularly crossing such routes should consider whether there might be other paths less dependent on traffic light crossings.

But there is more to it than asking drivers to take circuitous routes. Local transport agencies could also help by synchronising traffic signals to reduce waiting time and consider alternative traffic management systems such as flyovers. They could also consider the appropriate placement of traffic lights. The use of these systems in built up residential areas, near schools or hospitals may serve to manage traffic flow but at the cost of trapping higher concentrations of harmful pollutants in exactly the areas where residents, and vulnerable members of society will most regularly commute or walk.

Polly wants cleaner air.
Ingrid Taylar, CC BY

I have written before about the use of low-cost sensing to capture air pollution hotspots in urban areas. The kind of data such projects could deliver feed directly into research such as this. The more we understand about where pollution hot spots are, the more direct action we can take in our own lives and the more we can push for greener, cleaner planning.

The UK’s Environmental Audit Committee recently described air pollution as a “public health crisis”. These considerations are not just a “nice to have”, they have a direct effect on our health and wellbeing.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

How smartphones can lead the fight against air pollution

It’s no surprise that dirty air kills. In fact, air pollution was recently placed in the top ten health risks faced by human beings globally. In the UK high concentrations of polluting particles cost health services around around £20 billion per year. The country’s Environmental Audit Committee recently described air pollution as a “public health crisis”.

Despite this very real, very widespread risk, the quality of air we breathe doesn’t seem to attract the same level of concern that health crises such as obesity or smoking do. But this is a universal risk that impacts us in every breath we take.

When such a fundamental human resource is at risk, we cannot afford to be ambivalent. We should invest in information technology.........Read the original article.

This article written by Dr Prashant Kumar was originally published on The Conversation.