Particulate matter measurement with the Raspberry Pi

Charly's Column – Raspberry Pi

Article from Issue 213/2018

Whether you can breathe easily or not depends on what is in the air. Is there too much particulate matter that could be harmful to your health? A particulate matter measurement provides clarity – and the Raspberry Pi can help.

How fresh is the air I breathe? To find out, I put my own particulate matter measuring station into operation. Particulate matter (PM) is a mixture of all kinds of organic and inorganic dusts, bacteria that travel through the air, and many other particles that do not exceed 10 micrometers in size.

The above measurement is why we use the term PM10. For comparison, a hair has a diameter of 50 to 75 micrometers. Today, even smaller particles with a size of only 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) or smaller are considered separately because they penetrate deep into the airways and reach the alveoli.

There are several sensors on the market that can measure both PM classes. I chose the Nova SDS011 PM Sensor by Chinese manufacturer Nova Fitness Co., Ltd. The sensor draws air into a chamber and shoots a laser at it. It uses the dispersion of the reflected light to determine the particle size and quantity. It delivers the data via a serial interface.


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