Sensors built for this project were deployed outside of homes and businesses throughout West Oakland to record how black carbon concentrations varied in space and time. (Credit: Chelsea Preble/Berkeley Lab)

Making the invisible visible

Black carbon, commonly known as soot, is a significant contributor to global warming and is strongly linked to adverse health outcomes. Produced by the incomplete combustion of fuels – emitted from large trucks, trains, and marine vessels – it is an air pollutant of particular concern to residents in urban areas. Sensors available on the market today are expensive, making black carbon difficult to track.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), collaborating with UC Berkeley, have developed a new type of sensor network that is much more affordable yet capable of tracking this particulate matter. With more than 100 custom-built sensors installed across West Oakland for 100 days, the team created the largest black carbon monitoring network to be deployed in a single city.


Topics: Berkeley Engineering in the News, Civil engineering, Devices & inventions, Energy, Environment, Research