Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Michael P. Hannigan

Second Advisor

Jana B. Milford

Third Advisor

Jill E. Johnston

Fourth Advisor

William G. Griswold

Fifth Advisor

Marina E. Vance

Abstract

Low-cost air quality sensor systems have the potential to provide entirely new information about our air quality given (1) the increase in temporal and spatial resolution that they facilitate, (2) their capacity to utilize many different sensor types in a single system, and (3) their accessibility that enables citizens to measure air quality for themselves. However, there are still many challenges associated with sensor use, including issues of sensor performance quantification and a need for best practices to guide the use of this technology, particularly for community-based research. This thesis addresses these challenges. This thesis includes the quantification of volatile organic compound using sensors to provide methane and non-methane hydrocarbon concentration estimates in complex environments. To support the development of best practices, multiple deployments allowed for the exploration of questions related to the influence the building-scale variability of pollutants on sensor system siting, choices in sensor data processing, and field calibration procedures. Additionally, education and outreach work utilizing sensors and involving partnerships with local communities are described with the focus on resources and lessons that could support future community-based air quality research.

This thesis also demonstrated the potential for sensor data. For example, sensor estimates of methane levels from a network deployed in rural Colorado revealed trends similar to those noted by other researchers using high-quality instrumentation and methods. In another example, sensor estimates of methane and total non-methane hydrocarbons levels, analyzed along with other sensor signals (i.e., from carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide sensors), helped to identify distinct pollutant sources on a fine temporal and spatial scale in a South Los Angeles neighborhood. The results and conclusions of this work support the continued development of this technology with the goal of collecting preliminary and supplementary information that may contribute to improved public and environmental health.

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