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Air Sampler Design

The goal of this Silent Spring Institute project is to build a household air sampler that maximizes functionality, advances data quality, and minimizes human attention.

First Generation Air Sampler

Conducting large scale air sampling studies is currently quite expensive, partially due to the human labor involved in setting up the sampling equipment in participants' homes. Additionally, sometimes people are reluctant to participate in studies since air samplers can be noisy, large, and unattractive. This long term project continually redesigns, reassesses, and rebuilds air samplers used in field studies in response to feedback from both participants and scientists.

Past air samplers (see left) were designed for quick on-the-ground installation and reliability. Current work focuses on building a sampler suitable for large scale studies covering a broad geographic region. This requires a small, sturdy sampler that self-launches and automatically collects basic data about its surroundings. Such a sampler could be mailed to participants, installed, and returned by mail at the end of the sampling period, removing the need for on-the-ground personnel while still collecting all the necessary data on sampling parameters (flow rate, temperature, time, etc).

Second Generation Air Sampler

Collaborating with scientists at Silent Spring Institute, engineers at the Harvard School of Public Health built prototype air samplers (see right) in response to the above goals. Prototypes were tested extensively at Silent Spring Institute, with the most successful samplers deployed in the field for small scale pilot testing. A second generation of this model will be constructed based on analysis of the performance data and feedback from pilot testing study participants.

Specific areas of focus for the new generation include:

Role: Collect, manage, and analyze sampler testing data, including calibration curves, voltage data, flow plots, and failure data. Diagnose and fix basic sampler malfunctions and provide detailed feedback on unstable samplers to Harvard engineers. Work with engineers to design and test the second generation of new sampler in preparation for larger scale field sampling.