A Crowdsourcing-based Air Pollution Measurement System Using DIY Atomic Force Microscopes


  • Daniel Lopez Martinez Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Harvard University
  • Daniel Lombraña SciFabric, Citizen Cyberscience Centre, Shuttleworth Foundation
  • Francois Grey Shuttleworth Foundation, Citizen Cyberscience Centre, CERN, UN Institute of Training of Research and the University of Geneva
  • En-te Hwu Academia Sinica




pollution, pm2.5, atomic force microscopy, crowdsourcing, cyberlab


Air pollutants have become the major problem of many cities, causing millions of human deaths worldwide every year. Among all the noxious pollutants in air, particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less (PM2.5) are the most hazardous because they are small enough to penetrate to the lungs and invade the smallest airways. Since the presence of dangerous levels of PM2.5, commonly reported in newspapers and on TV, is intertwined with the global pattern of production and consumption, there is a need for citizen science projects that engage the young generations in efforts toward reducing air pollution as they will become the future leaders of society. With this goal, and to enable the geo-temporal characterization of PM2.5, we present a crowdsourcing-based air pollution measurement system that uses affordable DIY atomic force microscopes to measure and characterize PM2.5, exploiting the power of human computation through an online crowdsourcing platform to study how PM2.5 varies over time and across geographical locations. Our system is intended as both a scientific platform and a teaching tool for children to engage in environmental policy. 

Author Biographies

Daniel Lopez Martinez, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Harvard University

PhD student in Medical Engineering and Medical Physics at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. Supervised by Professor Rosalind Picard at the Affective Computing group, MIT Media Lab.

Daniel Lombraña, SciFabric, Citizen Cyberscience Centre, Shuttleworth Foundation

Daniel Lombraña is computer engineer with a PhD in parallel genetic programming on volunteer desktop grids. He is also a senior researcher at the Citizen Cyberscience Centre and a fellow of the Shuttleworth Foundation.

Francois Grey, Shuttleworth Foundation, Citizen Cyberscience Centre, CERN, UN Institute of Training of Research and the University of Geneva

In 2009, Francois helped establish the Citizen Cyberscience Centre in Geneva, as a partnership between CERN, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the University of Geneva. Francois is a physicist by training, with a strong interest in science communication and is passionate about advancing Open Science, specifically Citizen Cyberscience – a collective term for a diverse, grass-roots movement that is enabling ordinary citizens to participate in real scientific research thanks to the Web. Francois has previously been based at Tsinghua University in Beijing and Tisch ITP at NYU.

En-te Hwu, Academia Sinica

Associate Research Engineer at Academia Sinica. PhD by the National Taiwan University.


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How to Cite

Lopez Martinez, D., Lombraña, D., Grey, F., & Hwu, E.- te. (2016). A Crowdsourcing-based Air Pollution Measurement System Using DIY Atomic Force Microscopes. Human Computation, 3(1), 235-241. https://doi.org/10.15346/hc.v3i1.14