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A citizen’s experiment to measure aerosol pollution in Barcelona

By 16 de September de 2015No Comments
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BCN Respira (BCN Breathes) is part of the iSPEX project, developed building upon the measurement principles of the Spectropolarimeter for Planetary EXploration (SPEX).

A citizen’s experiment to measure aerosol pollution in Barcelona

BCN Respira (BCN Breathes) is a new project –proposed and organized by ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences ICFO, in collaboration with the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) and BCNLab of the Barcelona City Council–  to promote the understanding of the properties and behaviour of aerosols in the atmosphere and their effects on the environment, involving Barcelona’s citizens in a scientific experiment using their smartphones and light. This initiative will be running from September 15 to October 15 and is part of the iSPEX project, which coordinates the implementation of the experiment in ten major European cities in parallel. The Barcelona Knowledge Campus –where the Barcelona Science Park (PCB) is located– is one of the strategic areas chosen as observation points in Barcelona.


The project will be running in 4 different observation points of Barcelona: Barceloneta, Collserola, Diagonal and Montjuïc. This places where chosen because of their frequent use by Barcelona residents for sports.

Anyone who wants to be part of this initiative can come to an observation point on Wednesdays (17-19h) and Sundays (11-13h) and ask the institute volunteers for the loan of an add-on.Participants download the free application to their iPhone 4 or 5, attach the add-on to their iPhone, point to the sky and measure. In order for the experiment to be a success, each observation point will need to gather data from at least 50 different iphones performing the measurement in a specific block of time. Accomplishing this, it will be possible to reconstruct the map of aerosols of Barcelona with sufficient reliable statistical data.

Running in parallel in 9 other European cities (Paris, London, Manchester, Milan, Rome, Berlin, Copenhagen, Belgrade, Athens and Barcelona), the combined efforts of citizens of these cities will generate a map of the concentrations of aerosols across Europe.

iSPEX is developed building upon the measurement principles of the Spectropolarimeter for Planetary EXploration (SPEX), a highly sophisticated instrument built for the observation of other planets and their atmospheres. The initiative is a part of LIGHT2015, an European project funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme of the European Commission. It aims to promote the importance of photonics to young people, entrepreneurs and the general public in all Member States of the EU.

The tiny particles in the atmosphere, or atmospheric aerosols, contribute to air pollution and its impacts on our health and environment in an as-yet poorly understood way. They add to heart and respiratory disease, in the shape of volcanic ash they are of danger to air traffic, and they form one of the largest uncertainties in our current estimates of climate change.

■  Link to the BCN Breathes website [+]