Strong investment in commercial fine particulate measuring device

Astronomers Professor Christoph Keller and Dr Frans Snik will be developing a commercial module for measuring fine particulates. They have been awarded an STW Demonstrator subsidy of 138,000 euros.

Keller and Snik are developing a commercial module for polarisation measurements that can be attached to an optical fibre. They are applying a new measuring principle that they developed in recent years for SPEX and iSPEX, as a spin-off of their astronomical instrumentation. One of the applications of the mass production of polarimetric modules is a compact instrument for measuring air pollution for particulates and NO2.

Artist's impression of a FlySPEX instrument with dozens of polarimetric modules, each of which analyses the light from a different direction. All this light is directed to a spectograph via optical fibres. Measuring the polarisation and the spectrum of the light also makes it possible to measure the amount of particulates and NO2.

Polarisation measurements

Both local ground measurements and satellite measurements are needed to chart the effects of particulates. The scientific SPEX and iSPEX instruments were developed to do just this. They capture the sunlight diffused by dust particles, and measure the spectrum and the polarisation, that contain information about the characteristics of the dust particles. The polarisation measurements in particular have to be carried out very precisely before the results can be interpreted fully. The patented flySPEX units do not contain any moving parts and can easily be reproduced in large numbers without compromising polarimetric precision.

Partnership with industry

The STW subsidy means that the researchers can collaborate in the coming year with the Eindhoven company Tegema to develop the details of these polarimetric units and to set up the manufacturing line. Art Bos of LURIS will help the researchers draw up a commercialisation plan.

Follow-up projects

One of the follow-up projects that they have in mind is the development of an ultimate instrument to measure both particulates and NO2. This instrument contains a large number of optical fibres, each of which observes the air simultaneously from a different angle. Each angle is first provided with a polarimetric unit, and all the fibres are brought together in a spectrograph.

(14 July 2015)

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Prof. Christoph Keller
Dr Frans Snik
Leiden Observatory
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Astronomy and Instrumentation

Last Modified: 14-07-2015