Pollution cameras created by an ex-NASA scientist are being installed on two London roads in a £149,000 trial to measure emissions given off by passing vehicles.
The temporary cameras, which will each be in place for a week, pass a laser beam through exhaust fumes to detect changes in light, giving an estimation of emissions emitted.
The emission detection and reporting devices (EDAR), developed by ex-NASA scientist Stewart Hager, were proposed by air pollution scientists at the University of Birmingham, University of Leeds and Kings College London.
The project – the first of its kind in Europe – is being funded by £149,000 from the Department for Transport.
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said while lowering pollution levels is a “worthy goal”, many taxpayers may believe the cost for a three week trial is “pretty steep”.
He added: “The authorities must be able to demonstrate the value in these devices and should always be seeking cheaper alternative solutions wherever possible.”
One camera, in Marylebone, was installed today and will be in place until Saturday, while a second with be erected in Blackheath from Monday, February 22 to Friday, February 26. A further trial took place in Birmingham last week.
Scientists carrying out the trials will compare their findings with existing air pollution monitoring stations and will use the data as a benchmark to measure the effectiveness of the new technology.
But a spokesman for the London Cycling Campaign urged the government to tackle air pollution rather than monitoring it.
The spokesman said: “That means governmental and London-wide commitment and action on reducing private motor vehicle traffic and increasing cycling, walking and public transport use.
“And more cycling and walking is not just a good solution for pollution – it’s also the obvious solution to a looming public health inactivity crisis, and to keeping London moving as a predicted 1.5 million people arrive in our city by 2030.”
Sian Berry, Green Party London mayoral candidate, said she welcomed any initiative which gave better information about the state of London’s air.
She added: “Diesel-related pollution from traffic is an invisible killer, and I’ve been so concerned about lack of monitoring that I led a community-monitoring project of my own in Camden.
“Anything that makes it more visible is a step in the right direction, and if I’m elected Mayor I would ensure a truly comprehensive monitoring network across London.
“But we already know that pollution is at illegal levels across the city, and it’s only worth finding out how much there is if we then go on to do something about it.”
Andrew Jones, transport minister, said: “This newly-emerging technology is another example of British universities taking the lead in this area.
“We are pleased to support important work that improves our understanding of the impact that vehicle emissions have on air quality levels.
“It is early days for these cameras, but these first trials will help the development of air quality testing in the future.”