Mobile lidar system to monitor air quality

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has designed and constructed a mobile light detection and ranging (lidar) lab that will be operating at the University of Zululand, the second university to have and operate a lidar system on its premises in South Africa.

This atmospheric laser radar instrument uses techniques for active remote sensing of the earth’s atmosphere. It uses laser pulses to measure atmospheric constituents, such as aerosols particles, water vapour, clouds and ice crystals, and it even trace gases. The mobile lidar system will be used to provide profiles of aerosols from the surface to upper troposphere in the uMhlathuze region.

The mobile lidar system is housed in a container.

The mobile lidar system is housed in a container.

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

Dr 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 lidar system will assist the municipality in monitoring the air quality of the region, and measure up to heights of 15 km.

In 2016, the CSIR received a request from Mbatha for laser equipment for a lidar programme. The emerging researcher from the University of Zululand has been working closely with Venkataraman from the physics department of UKZN, studying high-altitude atmospheric phenomena.

Dr Mbatha’s is interested in investigating the chemical composition of the troposphere over the City of uMhlathuze, using different ground-based lidar system, space-borne systems and model simulation techniques. Having a ground-based system in Richards Bay will contribute to an already existing network of lidar systems and will be used to specifically study the atmosphere above Richards Bay.

The CSIR, through the CSIR National Laser Centre Rental Pool Programme provides laser equipment and technical support to South African universities and their research and development programmes. Over the past 18 years, the programme, which is funded through a directed parliamentary grant from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), has supported a large number of projects at universities across the country. The programme aims to provide specialised laser equipment to the research community, in an effort to support research projects which result in new knowledge generation, as well as the training of Master’s and PhD students.

Contact David Mandaha, CSIR, Tel 012 841-3654,

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Source: EE plublishers

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