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Improving the air we breathe

Problem Solved: university research answering today's challenges

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The quality of the air we breathe has a serious impact on our health and it is often the case that we have no guarantee that our air is always of an acceptable and safe quality.

Indoor environments, damp conditions, industrial processes and ventilation systems can all pose health risks. Exposure to some types of particles can lead to people suffering from a host of life¬threatening conditions.

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Atmospheric and Instrumentation Research (CAIR) have, after years of research and development, made a breakthrough in the development of a low-cost particle counter that allows for continuous monitoring of indoor air quality. Thanks to the advances made in particle characterisation by spatial light scattering and in¬instrument design, the team have been able to develop a new reliable sensor with a wide range of important applications.

This technology is being used in a number of different applications, however real-time airborne asbestos detection is one of the most significant advances that it will now bring. Millions of buildings in the UK and Europe, including schools, hospitals, public and commercial buildings, still contain asbestos. Whilst untouched, the asbestos is fairly harmless, but with age and degeneration, asbestos fibres can be released into the atmosphere.

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire have, after years of research and development, made a breakthrough in the development of a low-cost particle counter that allows for continuous monitoring of indoor air quality.

An asbestos detector based on the technology developed at the University of Hertfordshire is being manufactured by Select Group Ltd for use by trades-people across Europe.

Although development of the world’s first real¬time asbestos detector is of extreme importance within the construction industry sector, exposure to toxic asbestos is a global problem which reaches far outside the construction trade. Two million people are predicted to die from asbestos¬related diseases by 2030, 250,000 of which are in Europe. In the UK over 4,000 people a year now die from asbestos-related diseases with only half of those being tradesmen, the other half consist of their families, teachers, emergency services, military, ship repairers, demolition workers and many other industrial sector workers and building occupiers. The ‘Alert Detector’ will provide an invaluable tool to Fire and Emergency Rescue services who face possible exposure to airborne asbestos, on a daily basis, through destruction caused by fire, collapsed buildings and other natural disasters.

Alan Archer, the Managing Director of the Select Group has been working closely with the University to develop this product and bring it to market.

“Whilst our business has many commercial strengths and business experience, we lack the in-house research and development, facilities and skills needed to develop highly technical products. Our company is never short on good ideas but we needed the scientific expertise of the University of Hertfordshire to make our vision a reality. Hertfordshire have brought amazing technical skills to the project and an excellent understanding of how to interact with the private sector. Without their expertise and scientific knowledge, our vision of a real¬time asbestos detector would have been near impossible.

The technology behind the Alert Detector will provide millions of people who are currently at risk, with a means of personal protection.

The level of knowledge and the necessary equipment to develop such a sensitive piece of equipment would have made it financially unviable for Select to have pursued this work on its own.

The technology behind the Alert Detector will provide millions of people who are currently at risk, with a means of personal protection. Alert will warn them of the potential presence of airborne asbestos fibres offering them the vital opportunity to stop, secure the area and have the asbestos treated professionally, minimizing exposure to these lethal airborne fibres.

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