Time for Big Business to Clear the Air
Take a deep breath. You assume the air is clean; it's the very breath of life and you will do it 20,000 times a day.
In a lifetime, about 300m litres of air pass through the average person's lungs. Furthermore, if that person walks along a busy city street today, they will inhale around 20 million toxic 'nanodust' particles with each lungful. 99% of the world's population breathes air that is harmful to their health.
Air quality has become a legislative concern, bringing the issue into sharp focus for various industries. Tackling air pollution means taking leadership seriously. If we cannot lead the way in measuring air pollution, set ambitious goals to reduce it, and actively support innovation in new technology, who will?
Air pollution is connected to the six top-ten causes of death worldwide, including lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and dementia. Businesses have a moral imperative to monitor the air quality on their sites and protect the people who work there.
While our cities are not the deadly smog traps they once were, air pollution still remains a serious problem – but it is however one that we all have the power to solve. Laser absorption spectroscopy is one simple and logical solution that should be embraced worldwide. It represents an accessible and accurate means of detecting and tracking levels of pollutants in the air.
ESG INITIATIVES FOR A NET ZERO FUTURE
ESG. These three small letters add up to significant operational changes for any business. They represent a framework around which an entirely new operational structure must be built, changing every level of a company from the top down.
A growing urgency drives the rise in ESG focus for individuals and corporations alike to tackle one of the world's most pressing problems – climate change. Individually and corporately, we are all stewards of the natural environment, but we have not protected, nurtured, or renewed it as well as we should have.
There is an almost uniquely strong consensus around sustainability.
Broadly, consumers, businesses, and lawmakers agree that more must be done on the issue. And as every company is responsible for at least some emissions throughout their supply chains, everybody has at least some part to play.
As events like the annual COP conferences continue to focus minds on climate change policy on a global scale, the direction of travel is only moving one way – however slow it might be. If corporate image protection and consumer pressure were not enough to deliver that focus, then stricter environmental regulations such as mandatory government climate risk disclosures certainly should be.
By adopting measures based on data provided by intelligent sensors, organizations can improve their ESG compliance and enhance their contributions to people, the planet, and profit.
By embracing data, businesses can be empowered to make more informed decisions to improve processes and drive efficiencies.
A foundation of this structure relies on mitigating the hazards posed both in the workplace and the broader environment.
Data is one currency that can chart our route across this uncertain terrain and into a more sustainable future. It is impossible to acquire this data without the intelligent sensors required to collect it. Using sensors to inform hazard mitigation and other ESG policies, businesses can maximize safety, minimize disruption and downtime, and protect people and business assets.
Between the increased risk to workers, machinery, and other assets, and the rapidly shifting legislative landscape, the business case for improving air quality is now open-and-shut. Before this can happen, the air's state must be more closely monitored.
We cannot always see the consequences of air pollution around us. And there are communication issues around trying to get people to see the invisible costs of pollution. Air pollution is an entry point to planetary health. To catalyse action for clean air, we must reform how we think about accountability for air pollution and health. And to do that, tracking the most damaging but best-understood pollutants, tiny particles of black carbon, nitrates, sulphates, ammonia, or mineral dust, is non-negotiable.
Thankfully tremendous advances in sensor technology have activated a range of reliable options available for gas detection. Technology is now more affordable and accessible than ever. Connected gas detection is not the technology of the future anymore, it is available today.
Air pollution measurement instruments serve multiple purposes: publishing dust information online to update the public and issuing cautionary statements if required. Having this data in real-time can ensure that the right people act when increased levels are reported, and control measures can be put in place and continuously evaluated.
Environmental monitoring and protecting against potentially dangerous conditions can be challenging to manage without reliable data streams and monitoring of a site perimeter that gathers environmental data. For this reason, more and more companies are turning to boundary monitoring technology to measure the level of risk and ensure they adhere to environmental limits and guidelines while protecting against health hazards.
Companies operating in fast-changing environments can also use a hand-held particulate monitor to instantly detect dangerous concentrations of airborne particles during spot checks and walkthrough surveys.
LASER-FOCUSED ON GAS DETECTION
Industrial gas detection is a mature market that continues to expand as devices become cheaper at the compliance end of the market and smarter at the top end.
At Umicore Coatings Services, we work with OEMs stripping their devices back to basics, focusing on functionality and cost for low-cost markets. We also assist in driving advances to open new opportunities and allow end users to use their devices in ways they have not considered before.
Optical laser technologies are at the heart of many modern gas monitors. In such devices, a laser beam is passed through the gas sample of interest onto a detector or sensor that converts the incoming laser light into electrical signals.
Laser-based sensing technologies have become widely adopted for gas detection and analysis due to their quick response times, high sensitivity, and reliability. Laser sensors work by monitoring the changes between the incident laser beam and the light ultimately detected by the sensor. One approach to doing this is to compare the laser beam that passes through the sample to a reference beam that is not passed through any gas.
These changes are caused by the absorption of light by the gas sample. Each gas has a unique absorption profile, which means it will absorb different wavelengths of light in different amounts, which provides the chemical fingerprint that means that laser sensors can be used for chemical identification.
While laser sensors can be designed for any region of the electromagnetic spectrum, many gas analysis devices operate in the infrared. This is because many small gaseous species, like methane, carbon dioxide, and other hydrocarbons, absorb infrared light very strongly, so it is easy to design devices with a sensitivity that extends to parts per billion.
The additional advantage is that many different spectral lines characterize the absorption profile of these gases in the infrared.
This means many features in the spectra can be used to identify chemical species with greater accuracy, and the wealth of information that can be provided with laser sensors makes gas analysis a powerful tool in industrial processing.
We work closely with our customers through a consultative approach to develop custom IR designs that balance performance reliability with production efficiency. In doing so, we can offer a range of bandpass optical filters ideally suited to environmental/gas detection and analysis applications, with a centre wavelength anywhere on the NIR to FIR spectrum with steep-edge and deep blocking capability.
It is impossible to deal with a problem we cannot see clearly. By making the invisible threat of air pollution visible through accurate data, we can begin to mitigate and even eliminate harmful emissions from many industries. It is only possible to navigate these turbulent waters with the data acting as our map and compass.
By embracing data, businesses can be empowered to make more informed decisions to improve processes and drive efficiencies. The net result: more sustainable performance, heightened productivity, better quality products, reduced energy usage, lower emissions, and less landfill.
That is the sort of future we all need to invest in.
MARK NAPLES, General Manager for Umicore Coating Services
Robust environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies have become integral to day-to-day operations. Functioning as more than just a risk management exercise, ESG is not something that modern companies can afford to neglect. From investors using ESG strategies to evaluate potential investments to assuring the public that they are acting responsibly, companies that prioritise their ESG goals demonstrate that they care about their people and the planet and may also enjoy greater profits, as data shows that those with long-established ESG policies have outperformed their competitors.
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