Robot vacuum cleaner sniffs out air pollution

A hack by students in Rhode Island has turned the humble robotic “Roomba" roving vacuum cleaner into a potential air pollution detector.

With sensors and light systems installed by students at the Rhode Island School of Design, the secondhand “Roombas" were let loose to test the air around them.

“Roomba--the room cleaning vacuum--is programmed to travel all around a room once it is left to roam. Therefore, it is an ideal tool to assess the quality of air through out a room," the students said in an article posted on the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science.

Once the “Roomba" senses a change in air quality, currently an increase in the amount of volatile organic chemicals (VOC) in the air, it emits a different color of light.

A long exposure image of the “Roomba" as it travels through a room gives one an idea of the air quality through the light it emits.

“In areas where there are more VOCs the light on ‘Roomba’ changes from green to blue. Looking at this image you can easily spot an area of indoor air-pollution," the students said.

Their future plan is to add a sensor for formaldehyde, a common indoor and harmful indoor air-pollutant.

Also, the students said they plan to use the wireless system or hack a “Roomba" to control its movement as the quality of air.

An article on tech site CNET said the components involved include a sub-$20 air quality sensor, an LED, and a battery. — TJD, GMA News