New consumer-friendly open-source device is capable of measuring air pollution anywhere

April 07, 2023 | Environmental Lab

A new low-cost mobile pollution detector called Flatburn has completed its development to provide consumers more access to tracking air quality widely. The device developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Senseable City Lab will be an open-source tool that can be created via 3D printing or by ordering inexpensive parts.

It is a battery-powered and rechargeable device, from either power sources or a solar panel, that can measure concentrations of fine particulate matter as well as nitrogen dioxide, over an area of about 10 meters. Data can be stored on a card in the device and may be accessed remotely too.  

Flatburn was found efficient in producing reliable results and is capable to adjust for weather conditions and other factors. The research team upon several prototyping in the past 5 years found that the detector can somewhat estimate lower concentrations of fine particulate matter than devices already in use.  

 Courtesy of MIT News (

“The goal is for community groups or individual citizens anywhere to be able to measure local air pollution, identify its sources, and, ideally, create feedback loops with officials and stakeholders to create cleaner conditions,” says Carlo Ratti, director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab.

The team however is still in the process of refining the device as they also identified a series of potential issues that people may experience when using flat burn generally, including what is called “drift” or the gradual decline in the detector’s reading over time due to aging, which is the fundamental deterioration of the unit’s physical condition.

MIT’s researchers are hopeful that when such issues will be addressed, they will be able to provide complete instructions in the release of Flatburn as an open-source tool. They are keen to include guidance for working with officials, communities, and stakeholders to process data from the device and how it may be translated into shaping actions for air quality monitoring and maintenance.

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