“Detective work” for better air


TUM-IAS Rudolf Mößbauer Tenure Track Professor Jia Chen (Environmental Sensing and Modeling) wants to find out how good Munich's power plants really are, where gas pipes may leak and where cars pollute the air too much.

Today, how much carbon dioxide and how much methane is emitted into the air is normally not measured, but calculated. The problem from Prof. Chen's point of view: in this manner, unknown sources cannot be determined. She sees herself as a kind of detective who traces greenhouse gases where nobody suspects them, and has therefore developed measuring systems that measure not only the carbon dioxide pollution at a certain point - for example in front of a power plant - but how it spreads throughout the city.

One of these automated measuring systems is located on the roof of the TUM Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. To detect the air pollution, they use the sunlight. This consists of a color spectrum - from ultraviolet to infrared. The more greenhouse gases and pollutants are in the air, the more they weaken this color spectrum.

The patented device is the only permanently installed measuring station for greenhouse gases in Munich. Soon, Prof. Chen will set up one more in Wessling, in the west of Munich. The goal is to install six such stations in the region around Munich to be able to tell exactly where and how many pollutants are emitted. It would then be the first urban network of its kind in the world.

A corresponding newspaper article in the series “München forscht” (Süddeutsche Zeitung) can be found here.