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Professor Lin awarded seed funding for mobile air-pollution monitor

Pollution from factories

In the U.S., 166 million people live in areas with unhealthy air, and the World Health Organization identified air pollution as the world’s largest single environmental health risk. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow program provides air quality information and associated health risk indicator – Air Quality Index (AQI) – to the public, more than 42 million people reside in places that are farther than 40 km from the nearest PM2.5 monitor. PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3 percent the diameter of a human hair. Furthermore, AQI does not reflect an individual’s true exposure level to air pollution.

To address this issue, Associate Professor Jane Lin of the Department of Civil and Materials Engineering (CME) and her peers are developing the MY-AIR: Monitoring Your Air-Pollution Risk mobile app for PM2.5, which will reflect individuals’ health risk to pollution exposure, and take into account a person’s microenvironment, activity, and physiology. It will consist of a smartphone app and enable models and algorithms on the server end. MY-AIR will apply advanced deep learning techniques to interpolate current and predict near-future air pollutant levels at fine spatial and temporal scales, and provide personalized AQI (PAQI).

Current apps publish real-time or quasi real-time air pollutant observations at ground monitoring stations and/or associated AQI values. Some provide a certain degree of spatial interpolation to the ground monitoring measurements to improve their relevance to user’s location.

“MY-AIR differs from other smartphone apps in two major aspects,” Lin said. “First, MY-AIR applies advanced deep learning techniques to interpolate current and predict near-future air pollutant levels at fine spatial and temporal scales. And second, MY-AIR provides personalized health risk measure by combining an individual’s activity and location information.”

Funding for the project is being provided by the UIC Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) Cycle 1 Seed Funding Program. Lin is one of only 10 faculty members throughout the university to be awarded the seed funding out of 88 submissions. She is the principal investigator and collaborating with Professor Ouri Wolfson, computer science, and associate professor Robert Molokie, Division of Hematology and Oncology at the College of Medicine.

Four projects involving College of Engineering researchers received funding from the first round of UIC’s DPI Cycle 1 Seed Funding Program. Chancellor Michael D. Amiridis and Vice Chancellor Joanna Groden budgeted up to $100,000 per project to catalyze UIC-led activities that advance the mission of the University of Illinois System’s Discovery Partners Institute (DPI). Up to $10 million will be leveraged from UIC’s royalties’ revenue for projects aligned with DPI goals.

Established in 2018, the DPI statewide network will partner research universities and industry, governmental, non-governmental, community-based agencies, and cultural and philanthropic organizations, to advance technological innovation and grow the economy.

Learn more about Lin’s research at CME Lin.