NASA SATELLITE TECHNOLOGY TO MONITOR MOTOR VEHICLE POLLUTION

NASA SATELLITE TECHNOLOGY TO MONITOR MOTOR VEHICLE POLLUTION

Michael Braukus, H. Keith Henry, Jeri Collins or Craig Rendahl

Cities and states may soon have a new high-tech tool in the

battle against automotive air pollution, thanks to NASA satellite

technology originally developed to track global greenhouse gases

and the Earth’s protective ozone layer.

As envisioned, NASA’s atmospheric remote sensing technology

will be adapted to an autonomous roadside system to monitor motor

vehicle emissions. Cars and trucks will pass through a low-power

light beam, without stopping or slowing down. Space-age sensor

technology will instantly analyze vehicle exhaust pollutants

important to local and state governments working to meet

federally mandated air quality standards.

“Taking an accurate reading of several exhaust products as a

car passes by is a formidable challenge. We want to take a

measurement of all the gases of interest every one thousandth of

a second over a period of a half-second. Fortunately, our newest

remote sensing technology has that capability,” said Glen Sachse,

senior research scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center,

Hampton, VA. Sachse is one of six team members who invented the

highly-sensitive electro-optical system at the core of the

technology.

Today, NASA and SPX Service Solutions, Warren, MI, jointly

announced that the patented NASA technology has been exclusively

licensed to SPX for use in developing a new remote sensing device

to monitor motor vehicle exhaust.

“Remote testing of vehicle exhaust will provide governments

around the world with a fast, efficient and low-cost method to

identify and reduce motor vehicle air pollution and greenhouse

gases, which account for approximately one-half of all air

pollution,” said Craig Rendahl, remote sensing business leader

for SPX Service Solutions.

“With the number of vehicles on the road increasing every

year, we believe there is a significant global market for

technology of this nature,” said Rendahl. “SPX will offer a

basic unit which will be available at the end of 2000. With the

help of NASA, we expect to begin manufacturing a highly enhanced

remote sensing device before the end of 2001. This second-

generation product will contain many other features, including

the capability to test heavy-duty diesel vehicles.”

The U.S. Clean Air Act mandates that a certain percentage of

the U.S. fleet of vehicles be measured each year. The act allows

for remote sensing as an option.

In a process called “clean screening,” drivers who formerly

took their vehicles in for an annual emissions inspection would

receive a notice in the mail certifying that their vehicle has

passed twice in a 12-month period and that they do not have to

submit to an emissions test — at least that’s the expected

outcome for most drivers. As individual roadside exhaust

measurements are taken, the vehicle’s license plate would be

photographed and the data would be transmitted to a central

collecting point.

Those drivers whose vehicles passed would save both time and

money. Drivers whose vehicles failed or gave marginal readings

would be identified for additional testing and possible

emissions-related repairs.

In space, NASA uses remote sensing devices mounted on

satellites and back lighting from the sun to take global

atmospheric measurements as part of its Earth Science Enterprise

program. The program is aimed at expanding knowledge of the

Earth’s environment in order to provide the scientific basis for

sound policy decisions on environmental matters.

Service Solutions, a unit of SPX Corporation, provides

special service tools, equipment program management, electronic

diagnostics, emissions testing equipment and technical

information services for the global motor vehicle industry.