These KOALAs are not furry like their marsupial namesakes but they are sitting up high, in the Commonwealth Games Village and at nearby Gold Coast locations, and providing real-time data on the coast’s ambient air quality.
The KOALAs (Knowing Our Ambient Local Air-quality) are compact, state-of-the-art, solar-powered air-monitoring sensors developed by the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health (ILAQH) at QUT.
In the lead-up to and during the Commonwealth Games the information they gather on airborne particles can be viewed on a specially created, real-time interactive map.
- Project is a collaboration between QUT ILAQH, Queensland Department of Environment and Science, Southport State High School, Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and Griffith University
- The KOALA mini sensing network comprises 3 units in the Commonwealth Games Village (Athletes Village), 3 at Southport State High School, and 4 ‘adopted KOALAs’ at Southport School students’ homes
- The interactive map provides readings of concentrations of pollutant particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5)
- PM2.5 particles are mainly generated by motor vehicle engines, industrial boilers, solid fuel heaters and fires
Director of the ILAQH and lead project researcher Professor Lidia Morawska said the KOALAs had been developed as an accessible, low-cost technology that could meet a demand from individuals and communities keen to know more about the quality of the air around them.
“Air pollution and its potential impact on health is a major concern around the world,” Professor Morawksa said. “Airborne particles, such as those from vehicle emissions, are capable of penetrating deep into people’s airways and may adversely affect their health.
“Exposure to pollutants can have short-term impacts, such as triggering asthma attacks, and may be implicated in the longer term in cancer and heart disease.
“Stand-alone, low-cost air-sensing technology that provides quality data could be used by individuals and communities, and also potentially add to existing air-quality monitoring networks and address the challenges for authorities of providing coverage across vast areas.”
Professor Morawska said while the Gold Coast had some of the cleanest air in Australia, and in the world, the increase in visitors and activity in the region for the Commonwealth Games provided an opportunity to gather valuable data from the KOALA network.
The KOALAs were developed over 12 months in an Australian Research Council-supported multidisciplinary project, and they combine advanced sensor technologies, data transmissions and analysis methods.
They monitor both airborne particles of varied sizes and carbon monoxide concentrations, and send this data via the mobile phone network to a cloud-based Data Management Centre (DMC) for collection and analysis.
From the data, readings on the concentrations of pollutant particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5) are being displayed on a DMC interactive map for anyone to access, with data updated half-hourly.
The Queensland Department of Environment and Science recently installed a station at Southport State High School as part of the state’s air-quality monitoring network and this Southport station will provide comparison measurement data for the project.
Students at the school have gained applied science knowledge and experience through engagement with the project, and four students and their families have ‘adopted KOALAs’ installed at their homes.