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Name: Lawton
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: PA
Country: USA
Date: May 2, 2011

For a research experiment, I am comparing the quality of air along busy roads to the air in areas far from heavy traffic. Would it be possible for me to test for carbon monoxide or NOx compounds? Or would the concentrations be too low to detect. If this is a good idea, is the equipment used to test for CO and NOx compounds available to a high school junior like me?

Hi Lawton,

It is not likely possible, or at least practical, for you to do your own roadside testing for levels of CO and NOx. Remember, these pollutants are present in minute quantities, and this requires sophisticated and expensive analysis equipment to resolve levels of these pollutants in the Parts-per-Million range. This type of equipment is generally found only in test labs specializing in this sort of testing.

Something that you may find interesting in this field, is that I once worked at a large German company that designs and manufacturers catalytic converters for cars. They, of course, did have this type of equipment. Surprisingly, they found that on a smoggy day, the levels of the pollutants you are interested in, were lower when measuring the pollutants coming out of the exhaust of a new car equipped with a catalytic converter that cleans the exhaust, than there was in the surrounding (smoggy) air. This should illustrate just how clean the exhaust is on new vehicles!

Regards, Bob Wilson

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