Evaluation of low-cost electro-chemical sensors for environmental monitoring of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide

Nima Afshar-Mohajer, Christopher Zuidema, Sinan Sousan, Laura Hallett, Marcus Tatum, Ana M. Rule, Geb Thomas, Thomas M. Peters, Kirsten Koehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Development of an air quality monitoring network with high spatio-temporal resolution requires installation of a large number of air pollutant monitors. However, state-of-the-art monitors are costly and may not be compatible with wireless data logging systems. In this study, low-cost electro-chemical sensors manufactured by Alphasense Ltd. for detection of CO and oxidative gases (predominantly O3 and NO2) were evaluated. The voltages from three oxidative gas sensors and three CO sensors were recorded every 2.5 sec when exposed to controlled gas concentrations in a 0.125-m3 acrylic glass chamber. Electro-chemical sensors for detection of oxidative gases demonstrated sensitivity to both NO2 and O3 with similar voltages recorded when exposed to equivalent environmental concentrations of NO2 or O3 gases, when evaluated separately. There was a strong linear relationship between the recorded voltages and target concentrations of oxidative gases (R2 > 0.98) over a wide range of concentrations. Although a strong linear relationship was also observed for CO concentrations below 12 ppm, a saturation effect was observed wherein the voltage only changes minimally for higher CO concentrations (12–50 ppm). The nonlinear behavior of the CO sensors implied their unsuitability for environments where high CO concentrations are expected. Using a manufacturer-supplied shroud, sensors were tested at 2 different flow rates (0.25 and 0.5 Lpm) to mimic field calibration of the sensors with zero air and a span gas concentration (2 ppm NO2 or 15 ppm CO). As with all electrochemical sensors, the tested devices were subject to drift with a bias up to 20% after 9 months of continuous operation. Alphasense CO sensors were found to be a proper choice for occupational and environmental CO monitoring with maximum concentration of 12 ppm, especially due to the field-ready calibration capability. Alphasense oxidative gas sensors are usable only if it is valuable to know the sum of the NO2 and O3 concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-98
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of occupational and environmental hygiene
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Air quality
  • field calibration
  • gas sensors
  • monitoring network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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