Design and Implementation of a Low-Cost Air Quality Network for the Aburra Valley Surrounding Mountains: Pollutants

Andrés Yarce Botero, Santiago Lopez Restrepo, Juan Sebastian Rodriguez, Diego Valle, Julian Galvez-Serna, Elena Montilla, Francisco Botero, Bas Henzing, Arnold Heemink, More Authors

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The densest network for measuring air pollutant concentrations in Colombia is in Medellin, where most sensors are located in the heavily polluted lower parts of the valley. Measuring stations in the higher elevations on the mountains surrounding the valley are not available, which limits our understanding of the valley’s pollutant dynamics and hinders the effectiveness of data assimilation studies using chemical transport models such as LOTOS-EUROS. To address this gap in measurements, we have designed a new network of low-cost sensors to be installed at altitudes above 2000 m.a.s.l. The network consists of custom-built, solar-powered, and remotely connected sensors. Locations were strategically selected using the LOTOS-EUROS model driven by diverse meteorology-simulated fields to explore the effects of the valley wind representation on the transport of pollutants. The sensors transmit collected data to internet gateways for posterior analysis. Various tests to verify the critical characteristics of the equipment, such as long-range transmission modeling and experiments with an R score of 0.96 for the best propagation model, energy power system autonomy, and sensor calibration procedures, besides case exposure to dust and water experiments, to ensure IP certifications. An inter-calibration procedure was performed to characterize the sensors against reference sensors and describe the observation error to provide acceptable ranges for the data assimilation algorithm (<10% nominal). The design, installation, testing, and implementation of this air quality network, oriented towards data assimilation over the Aburrá Valley, constitute an initial experience for the simulation capabilities toward the system’s operative capabilities. Our solution approach adds value by removing the disadvantages of low-cost devices and offers a viable solution from a developing country’s perspective, employing hardware explicitly designed for the situation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • low-cost sensors
  • data assimilation
  • air quality
  • In-situ sensing
  • LOTOS-EUROS chemical transport model
  • low-cost air quality monitoring Systems (LCAQSs)
  • SimpleSpace


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