“Recent campaigns around environment pollution helped increase the awareness around it with more people beginning to monitor their pollution footprint while also paying attention to the quality of air they breathe in. Different countries and communities have now several Air quality monitoring solutions deployed in strategic locations but there are times where you as an individual will have the desire for your own personal air quality monitoring solution to monitor the quality of air in your immediate vicinity. For today’s tutorial, we will look at how you can build a DIY personal air quality monitoring solution to monitor the quality of air around you.
While there are several attempts at Air quality monitoring on the internet, today’s project will chronicle Zachary Lee‘s project because it provides a portable, battery powered, intuitive solution. The project makes use of an air quality sensor from TinyCircuits called the VOC whisker along with a TinyScreen+ which is used to display the air quality index as a bar, and a LiPo battery to power the entire system.
The VOC Whisker is essentially a breakout board of the BME680 that allows you monitor temperature, pressure, humidity and Volatile Organic Compounds all at once. By its ability to measure VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) levels, the VOC Whisker provide us with the required sensor to measure several carbon based pollutants which when we are overexposed to, could lead to increased rates of allergies, respiratory disease, and various types of cancer.
Some of the most dangerous of the VOC’s that can be monitored with VOC whisker include:
- Benzene (commonly found in cigarettes, paint, and gasoline and is classified as a human carcinogen by the CDC)
- Formaldehyde (found in many glues, resins, foams, plywood, and cigarettes. It has been linked to brain cancer, leukemia and is one of the top 10 allergens)
- Styrene (Sweet smelling neurotoxin and carcinogen found in many plastics, with high concentration levels in styrofoam)
While the VOC whisker may not be able to measure the concentration level of each of the VOC’s in existence, it is able to measure the total quantity of VOC’s in the environment and give the index of the quality of air in that environment.
Asides it super small form factor and the incredible amount of parameters it can measure, some of the other features of whisker include;
- Digital interface I²C (up to 3.4 MHz) and SPI (3 and 4 wire, up to 10 MHz)
- Operating range -40 – +85°C, 0-100 % r.H., 300-1100 hPa
- Humidity, Pressure, Gas sensor can be independently enabled / disabled
- RoHS compliant, halogen-free, MS
- 3.0V – 5.5V Operating Voltage
- Low power (0.15 µA in sleep mode)
The VOC Whisker is also compatible with TinyCircuit’s TinyShield which makes it easy to connect it to other TinyCircuit products as it incorporates level shifting along with a local power supply to ensure proper and safe operation.”