CSIR Constructs Mobile Lidar at UNIZULU to Monitor Air Quality

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The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an African R&D organization, has designed and constructed a mobile lidar lab at the University of Zululand (UNIZULU) to monitor air quality in the uMhlathuze municipality.

UNIZULU is the second university to have and operate a lidar system within in its premises in South Africa. The atmospheric laser radar is a state-of-the-art instrument that uses the most powerful techniques for active remote sensing of Earth’s atmosphere. It uses laser pulses to measure atmospheric constituents such as aerosols particles, water vapor, clouds, ice crystals, and even trace gases. The CSIR-designed mobile lidar system will be used to provide profiles of aerosols from the surface to upper troposphere in the uMhlathuze region.

The research project, led by Nkanyiso Mbatha from UNIZULU in collaboration with Sivakumar Venkataraman from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), is important because lidar measurements contribute significantly to topics such as weather forecasting, climate modelling, and environmental monitoring.

Mbatha says the uMhlathuze local municipality is a region with high industrial activity, which could lead to changes in local air quality and other environmental issues. The locally based mobile lidar system will assist the municipality in monitoring the air quality of the region.

“Dr. Mbatha’s interest was to investigate the chemical composition of the troposphere over the city of uMhlathuze, using different ground-based lidar systems, space-borne systems, and model simulation techniques,” said Hardus Greyling, national programs manager at the CSIR National Laser Center. “Having a ground-based lidar system in Richards Bay will therefore contribute to an already existing network of lidar systems and will be used to specifically study the atmosphere above Richards Bay, which could be negatively affected by industrial activity in the region.”

The CSIR, through the CSIR National Laser Centre Rental Pool Program, provides laser equipment and technical support to South African universities and their R&D programs. Over the past 18 years, the program, which is funded through a directed parliamentary grant from the Department of Science and Technology, has supported a large number of projects at universities across the country. The program aims to provide specialized laser equipment to the research community, in an effort to support research projects that result in knowledge generation.

Published: October 2018
Lidar, short for light detection and ranging, is a remote sensing technology that uses laser light to measure distances and generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape and characteristics of objects and surfaces. Lidar systems typically consist of a laser scanner, a GPS receiver, and an inertial measurement unit (IMU), all integrated into a single system. Here is how lidar works: Laser emission: A laser emits laser pulses, often in the form of rapid and repetitive laser...
BusinessCouncil for Scientific and Industrial ResearchCSIRlidarUniversity of ZululandUNIZULULasersSensors & DetectorsTest & Measurementair qualityAsia-Pacificlight speed

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