WILDFIRE

New black carbon sensor is more portable but just as accurate, study finds

Feb 27, 2024, 6:00 AM

After starting the new year with poor air quality, Utah may finally be able to take a breath and fi...

Smog settles over Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023. After starting the new year with poor air quality, Utah may finally be able to take a breath and find relief from the nasty air. (Megan Nielsen/Deseret News)

(Megan Nielsen/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Air quality and wildfire detection could soon be better served because of a new black carbon sensor.

The University of Utah published a study earlier this month which compared a new black carbon sensor, released in 2023, with the older units currently used across the country. Black carbon is produced by diesel exhaust and wood smoke.

“Now we can really get a better picture of what is in these particles that we are measuring,” said Dr. Daniel Mendoza, a professor from the University of Utah who worked on the study.

“And really, the main purpose is to differentiate between wildfire smoke as well as diesel combustion.”

Mendoza said the new units they tested are more portable and affordable, but just as accurate as the older equipment.

“We can now use this smaller…piece of equipment which is now more readily available,” said Dr. Mendoza.

“Communities can purchase it [and] can place it in an area of concern, for example, let’s say a school, a rec center, a senior center or a park, and have the trust that the unit will perform close to as well as the regulatory unit which would be very difficult to purchase, locate, and maintain.”

Mendoza said these black carbon sensors could alert the most vulnerable populations more quickly when the air quality is poor or wildfire smoke is in the air.

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New black carbon sensor is more portable but just as accurate, study finds