Skip to navigationSkip to contentSkip to footer

2008 News in Brief



New MIT environmental research program seeks to monitor air and water quality continually, pervasively around the globe

Written by:

By Denise Brehm
Civil & Environmental Engineering

Researchers from MIT and two Singaporean universities met on January 24-25 for an inaugural workshop to launch a bold new international research program called CENSAM. The program will develop pervasive environmental sensor networks to collect data on parameters such as air and water quality from many sources, and use this data to provide accurate, real-time monitoring, modeling and control of the environment.

One of the first goals of the research group is to provide proof of the feasibility of the concept in a carefully managed urban area like Singapore. The greater hope is that these concepts might one day be widely applied on different scales to provide up-to-the-minute data about the environment in areas as small as a building or as large as the Earth’s biosphere.

CENSAM, the Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling, is a research component of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology Centre (or SMART Centre), a joint project of MIT and the National Research Foundation of Singapore that was announced Jan. 23.

Professor Andrew Whittle of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is head of the CENSAM research group. Whittle and an initial group of about 15 MIT faculty members from civil and environmental engineering, mechanical engineering, architecture and earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences will work with researchers from the National University of Singapore, the Nanyang Technological Institute, the Singaporean Public Utilities Board, and other governmental agencies and companies.

“Our grand challenge is to build up expertise in the general areas of environmental sensing and modeling. Our longer term goal is to develop a model representation of the built and natural environment that will seamlessly transition from the micro-scale of a building to the macro-scale, say of the South China Sea East Asia region,” said Whittle, whose own expertise is in the underground construction of urban environments. He has already developed prototype sensor network technology to monitor underground water distribution and sewer pipes in Boston.

CENSAM research will fall into five broad areas: the built and natural environment; urban hydrology and water supply; coastal environment; marine environment; and development of ways to monitor and model Singapore’s urban environment. The initial set of research projects includes:

Built & Natural Environment

  • Urban Airshed Modeling
  • Interactions between the Built and Natural Environment

Urban Hydrology & Water Supply

  • Chemical Sensors for AUVs
  • Distributed Hydrologic Modeling and Data Assimilation
  • Continuous Monitoring of Water Distribution Systems
  • Cyberinfrastructure for CENSAM to Encourage Data Fusion
  • Systems for Measuring Subsurface Chemical Fluxes

Coastal Environment

  • Algorithms for Adaptive Sampling in Coastal Zone Environment
  • Algorithms for Creation of Solid Models from AUV Sensing Systems
  • Experimental and Theoretical Modeling of Sediment Clouds
  • Coastal Environment and Sediment Transport

Marine Environment

  • Feature Based Navigation for AUVs in Very Shallow Water
  • MEMS Pressure Arrays for Near-Field Flow Patterns
  • Guided Wave Optics for Flow-Sensing MEMS Arrays
  • Free-Space Optics for AUV Navigation and Map Generation
  • Algorithms for Adaptive Sampling in Coastal Zone Environment
  • Algorithms for Creation of Solid Models from AUV Sensing Systems

Integrated Modeling of Singapore’s Environment (iMOSE) Regional Atmospheric Modeling

  • Island-Scale Boundary Layer Modeling
  • Ocean Modeling and Data Assimilation
  • Ocean-Atmospheric Modeling and Climate Scenarios
  • Basin Hydrologic Modeling and Transport
  • Environmental Impacts of Large Scale Biofuel Development in SE Asia