The measuring instruments are now on-site, launching the first key phase of the project. Ostrava’s technical university has installed new-generation measuring technology at a location with high concentrations of atmospheric pollutants – close to a metallurgical plant that is one the biggest polluters in the region. With the new technologies it is now possible to monitor measured concentrations of atmospheric pollutants, mainly benzo(a)pyrene, on-line, without the need for complicated laboratory analysis – and this represents a major step forward compared to standard measurement processes.
The sensor units are fixed to a steel pole at a height of 4 metres above ground level. Solar panels ensure that the sensors are self-sufficient in energy. The substances to be monitored have been chosen with a view to the specific pollutants typically found in Ostrava’s air. The instruments monitor changing concentrations of suspended particles (aerosol) in fractions PM1, PM2.5 and PM10, as well as NO2, O3 and two key types of organic substances – VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and PAUs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). At 5-minute intervals the measured concentrations are sent to a central monitoring station at the technical university campus, where a database is compiled. Because the database will grow to include huge volumes of data, the data processing will be done by a supercomputer at the IT4Innovations National Supercomputing Centre (also at the technical university campus). Another important process in the initial phase involves measurements to verify the accuracy of the data collected; these measurements will be conducted by a laboratory at the Institute of Environmental Technologies (IET).
The innovative sensors will enable scientists to harvest important information on changing concentrations of the monitored substances for a period of almost 8 years; the sensors will be present at the location before, during and after the planting of new greenery. This planting – which forms another part of the project – will not take place until March 2021, giving the scientists enough time to collect and analyse data throughout the year (covering a full range of weather conditions) before the planting. The information thus collected will be of key importance when deciding on the structure and composition of the planting.
Thanks to these precise measurements and with expert supervision from the Silesian University, it will be possible to select the most suitable plants for this urban location in view of their ability to absorb atmospheric pollutants. The precise location of the greenery in the urban environment also influences whether the plants serve as natural air filters or not (e.g. in the case of so-called “heat islands”). Scientists from Palacký University are convinced that watering these air-filtering plants with a special solution increases their hardiness and absorption capacity.