Establishing advanced networks for air quality sensing and analysis

Our Project

Recent developments in sensor technologies represent a large jump in the ability to harvest atmospheric data. This cross disciplinary project aims to develop, validate and implement novel methods for high sensitivity atmospheric sensing and apply cutting-edge statistical and analytic techniques to the data sets, unprecedented in scope and resolution. The outcomes will include an open access database and its utilisation for quantification/visualisation of intra-urban air pollution and human exposure and for developing air quality maps and smoke pollution management tools. The benefits will be advancement in the evidence-based management of air as a resource, increasing economic prosperity and enhancing human health and quality of life.

The project relies on advanced sensor technologies, data transmission and analysis methods and is drawing on expertise from all the universities and the state and national government agencies involved in it.

The project is led by the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health (ILAQH) at QUT, and supported by the Australian Research Council.

The KOALA Monitor

Knowing Our Ambient Local Air-quality (KOALA)

The KOALA monitor includes two low-cost air quality sensors that monitor particles (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide (CO) concentrations in the air. Airborne particles and carbon monoxide are two key products of combustion sources such as motor vehicles and industry. Larger particles are also generated by mechanical process such as dust re-suspension.

What it measures and why?

The KOALA monitor includes two low-cost air quality sensors that monitor particle and carbon monoxide concentrations in the air. Airborne particles and carbon monoxide are two key products of combustion sources such as motor vehicles and industry. In urban environments, the large majority of particles come from motor vehicles. During inhalation, these particles can penetrate deep into our lungs and many studies have shown a causal link between airborne particle pollution and adverse health effects such as respiratory, cardiology and pulmonary conditions.

How it operates

The Plantower PMS1003 sensor monitors both particle mass (>0.3mm) and number concentrations simultaneously in real time. The air sample is drawn into the device and exposed to a fine laser beam. The scattered light is monitored by a photodetector and an algorithm is used to convert the signal to particle concentration. The carbon monoxide concentration is monitored in real time with an Alphasense CO-B4 sensor. This is a passive device that works on the principle of electrochemical sensing to determine the gas concentration that is expressed in units of parts per million. The KOALA units are stand-alone and powered by a solar panel and built-in battery unit. All data are transmitted from the sensor units to a central database using the 3G/4G network.

Download the KOALA Brochure

Data Management

Critical to any real-time air monitoring program, the data from the KOALA monitors needs to be available for examination and interpretation. To achieve this, we have created the “Data Management Centre” (DMC), a cloud-based system built on Amazon Web Services (AWS), to collect, store, share and visualise data.  

The DMC comprises a collection of servers, a database and a website which allows the examination of data that the KOALAs have sent back from the field. It is designed to scale to thousands of sensors if required, and to continue to operate with little administration by IT technicians.

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Photo Gallery

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Our Team  

Project Leader:

QUT Project Team:

  • Rohan Jayaratne
  • Bryce Christensen
  • Riki Lamont
  • Isak Zing
  • Xiaoting Liu
  • Tom Cole-Hunter
  • Tara Kuhn

Chief Investigators:

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To view the complete list of publications on low-cost sensors

  1. Air Quality during and after the Commonwealth Games 2018 in Australia: multiple benefits of monitoring”. Journal of Aerosol Science, 105707, 2021
  2. The Effect of Cold-Start Emissions on the Diurnal Variation of Carbon Monoxide Concentration in a City Centre. Atmospheric Environment, 245: 118035, 2021
  3. Using a Network of Low-Cost Particle Sensors to Assess the Impact of Ship Emissions on a Residential Community”. Aerosol and Air Quality Research, 20(12): 2754-2764, 2020
  4. How to choose healthier urban biking routes: CO as a proxy of traffic pollution”. Heliyon, 6(6):  e04195, 2020
  5. Low-cost sensors as an alternative for long-term air quality monitoring.”. Environmental Research, 185: 109438, 2020
  6. Low-cost PM2.5 sensors: an assessment of their suitability for various applications”. Aerosol and Air Quality Research (AAQR), 20: 520–532, 2020
  7. School children’s personal exposure to ultrafine particles in and near Accra, Ghana”. Environmental International, 133(Part B): 105223, 2019
  8. The Influence of Humidity on the Performance of Low-Cost Air Particle Mass Sensors and the Effect of Atmospheric Fog”. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, 11: 4883-4890, 2018
  9. Investigations into factors affecting personal exposure to particles in urban microenvironments using Low-cost sensors”. Environmental International, 120: 496-504, 2018
  10. Applications of low-cost sensing technologies for air quality monitoring and exposure assessment: how far have they gone?”. Environment International, 116: 286-299, 2018
  11. Mobile phones as monitors of personal exposure to air pollution: is this the future?”. PLoS One, (2): e0193150, 2018

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Funding / Grants

  • Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Projects Grant LP160100051 (2016 - 2019)