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An on-site computer system for comprehensive agricultural air quality research

Ni, Ji-Qin, Heber, Albert J.
Computers and electronics in agriculture 2010 v.71 no.1 pp. 38-49
air quality, measurement, accuracy, environmental monitoring, pollutants, computers, data analysis, data collection, computer software, sensors, air flow, weather, farm buildings, temporal variation, calibration, sampling, environmental control systems, diagnostic techniques, algorithms, United States
Scientific studies using direct agricultural air quality (AAQ) measurement have experienced revolutionary changes since such a study was first reported in the early 1950s. Comprehensive AAQ research with multi-institutional or international collaboration, long-term monitoring, and multi-pollutant measurement has been conducted with greater frequency. On-site computer system (OSCS), consisting of data acquisition hardware, a personal computer, and custom-developed AAQ research software has become an important tool in these studies. The role of the OSCS has been expanded from exclusively data acquisition to a combination of data acquisition, control, regular and advanced data processing, and communication. This paper studied the general and specific requirements of OSCS in AAQ research and introduced a system with new methodology and technology for high level quality assurance and quality control (QAQC). Data acquisition in AAQ studies is needed for five main categories of instruments and sensors: pollutant concentrations, air exchange, weather conditions, building status, and measurement system status. Regular data processing consists of converting electrical signals to engineering units, averaging data over a given period of time, and performing data correction. Advanced data processing includes calculating location-shared analyzers and sensors (LSAS) data and instrument calibration data and generating daily reports in real-time or upon user requests. The primary control needs in AAQ research centers around the LSAS using multi-point air sampling system. Controls for sampling tubing heating and equipment cooling are often required. Computer communications to monitor system status, deliver alarms and data, and provide remote diagnosis and controls help to reduce operation costs and increase research quality and data completeness. An OSCS that offered flexibility, high capacity, user-friendliness, and high level QAQC was developed for field and laboratory AAQ research. A total of 29 OSCSs have been built and used in various AAQ studies in 13 states in USA for handling a total of more than 3.0 billion data points. The system adapted a set of data processing algorithms as well as some novel features, including All-data Display and Dynamic Run-time Configuration (DDRC), Digital Output DDRC, real-time sampling system monitoring and protection, Global Channel, traceable configuration, and post-measurement data processing. The system also integrated two stand-alone instruments, an Innova multi-gas analyzer and a 7-port Environics gas diluter, which are popular in AAQ research. The strengths, weaknesses, and future development of the system are also discussed.