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Pollen Monitor BAA500

Pollen allergies have become a wide-spread disease. Every year, during the bloom of many plants, about 12 million citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany (every seventh person!) suffer from acute symptoms that reach from allergic rhinitis to life-threatening anaphylactic shocks. For their daily rou- tine, allergic persons strongly depend on up-to-date information about pollen counts in their area, e. g. to adjust their daily medications.

These allergies are caused by airborne pollen, and the state-of-the-art technique for counting the vari- ous pollen taxa is the so-called Burkhard trap. These traps suck air containing pollen and other aero- sole particles onto a piece of adhesive tape which will eventually be analyzed by human operators under a light microscope. This kind of analysis requires a high degree of experience and concentra- tion, which – due to the ubiquitous human factor – cannot always be guaranteed. Some pollen taxa differ from their sizes alone, which cover a range between about 10 µm to 150 µm, others can be dis- criminated only by judging minute details. As this is a time-consuming analysis, the daily pollen count will thus rely on data from the previous day!

After the successful completion of the publicly funded project ‘OMNIBUSS”, the Helmut Hund GmbH, Wetzlar, has reached production readiness of the pollen monitor BAA 500 in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology (FIT), Sankt Augustin (Fig. 1). The device automatically extracts pollen grains from the enviroment with a virtual impactor, prepares microscopic specimens and analyzes and counts the extracted pollen grains under an automated light microscope with a dedicated image processing system. The BAA500 is capable of determining and counting the allergolocically relevant pollen of:

Hazel (Corylus), Alder (Alnus), Birch (Betula), Grass without Rye (Poaceae), Mugwort (Artemisia), Ragweed (Ambrosia)

with a recognition rate of more than 90 %. With the same accuracy, the Pollen Monitor also deter- mines the pollen of:

Maple (Acer), Yew (Taxus), Oak (Quercus), Hornbeam (Carpinus), Rye (Secale), Willow (Salix)

The sampling intervals of the Pollen Monitor can be adjusted by the operator and can range from one to three hours. The device thus consumes between 8 and 24 sample carriers per day which are stored in a reusable magazine cassette. The total number of sample carriers guarantees autonomous opera- tion over a time interval of two to four weeks. The magazine cassettes can easily be changed by the operating personnel.

By using the BAA500 for the daily pollen count, it will be possible for the first time to measure the local concentrations of allergologically relevant pollen with a time delay of only one hour. This will finally make it possible to rapidly inform allergic persons about their respective allergenes.

Besides the pollen count, the system can also be employed to detect other airborne particles. Possible applications are monitoring the air quality, or detecting germs or fungus in agriculture or in the produc- tion of foodstuffs. To this end, the detection algorithm must only be trained onto the objects of interest.

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