Xingyu Qi graduated from the Environmental Engineering Department of Tsinghua University. His studies focus on environmental ecology and environmental management information systems, including information system design, big-data analysis, data processing and mining, algorithms and modelling for carbon emission, life-cycle assessment research of carbon emission, water and air pollution-related impacts on city ecology. In recent years he has led research on ecology and carbon emission for the Ministry of Ecology & Environment, Shenzhen City government, Xiangtan City government and Beijing Fanghan District government.

How did you become interested in air pollution related work?

In 2013, China issued an Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan. The plan is meant to improve overall air quality across the nation over the course of the next five years, reducing heavy pollution by a large margin and improving air quality in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Province, the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta.

Scientific and technological development is necessary to achieve these objectives. Key areas of research include source analysis, monitoring of and emergency response to haze and ozone levels, and analysis of formation mechanisms and transfer patterns. The policy created great opportunities for research institutes to utilize science and technology for pollution control. Since 2015, there has been a gradual increase in research related to the causes, monitoring, analysis and movement of atmospheric pollution.

Since 2016, I have participated in science-based pollution control projects at the city and park levels. These projects gather monitoring data through low-cost sensor monitoring deployment. This data is combined with multi-dimensional data sources including pollution sources, economic information, and electricity and meteorology related data. All of this information is then analyzed to see where pollution has come from and where it has gone. This provides scientific support for the formulation of regional pollution control and prevention policies, helping policymakers achieve good results and gain local government recognition.

Through the years, I have developed my data analysis and statistics skills to help create successful, directly applicable research projects. My interest in the field has gotten stronger as I have done more in-depth work.

What motivates your current air pollution monitoring work?

On a large scale, atmospheric environmental protection is fundamental to the health of people, the success of sustained economic development, and the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Through research that helps create a future with cleaner air, I can play my part in the realization of the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of China. Seeing the results of my scientific research applied in real life to solve real issues has been very fulfilling. This has motivated my current air pollution monitoring work.

Please describe your work as director of the Ecology Research Institute of SUSTC Engineering Technology Innovation Centre (Beijing).

The Engineering Technology Innovation Center of Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) is affiliated with the School of Environment of SUSTech and focuses on environmental consulting and research. My work at the Ecology Institute mainly involves regional ecological and environmental protection planning, regional low-carbon green development, multi-dimensional data mining and analysis, and other related research. The Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s goal is the “coordinated control of atmospheric pollution and carbon dioxide.” Therefore, for the Ecology Institute, our work can cover the synergy of these two aspects pretty well.

What are your hopes for the future of mobile monitoring of air pollution?

After five years of effort by governments, enterprises and researchers at all levels, the air quality in China’s 339 prefecture-level cities has been significantly improved. Each city has developed its unique management mechanisms and systems. Through economic development and air quality enhancement, people have become more concerned about the impact of air pollution on health.

It would be great to develop a mobile monitoring device that many people can carry easily. Such devices could collect data on the surrounding air quality to guide people’s travel plans, and, at the same time, upload the data onto cloud servers for modeling and analysis. This can be further used on mobile phone applications to guide the travel plans of even more people, creating a great mobile monitoring application. This would require mobile monitoring equipment to be smaller, more accurate and lower in cost. It may also involve incorporating edge computing into mobile monitoring equipment to reduce both the operating cost of cloud servers and the carbon emissions from cloud services and communications.

What do you see as the role of international collaboration in the fight against air pollution?

Much of my work is at the local level, helping promote clearer air in cities with little impact on the neighboring countries. However, to improve international collaboration on the issue of air pollution control, I think we need to strengthen the exchanges of science and technology, learn from each other’s practical and feasible experiences, and promote more global scale research and innovative technologies. This way, we could avoid detours and speed up progress.