Researchers at City University have developed a ground-breaking mobile detector that can measure the amount of harmful emissions coming from a moving vehicle.
By using it while tailing the suspect vehicle, the device can give a reading for volatile organic compounds and other pollutants.
'What we have is a breakthrough,' said City University assistant professor Dr Ning Zhi, who developed the technology.
'There are other types of technology in Hong Kong that inspect vehicle emissions but are nowhere as extensive. They either take several days to produce results, or are not mobile and can only inspect a stationary car, which is not precise at all.
'But our system is mobile and produces results in one to two minutes. We can drive around, select a vehicle and measure pollutants in its emissions.'
Volatile organic compounds are major pollutants, along with suspended particulates and nitrogen oxides, that are responsible for smog and which can aggravate heart and respiratory problems.
The technology - called On-road Plume Chasing and Analysis System (OPCAS) - was developed by the School of Energy and Environment at the university, which is still compiling the results of its trial run.
A thin plastic tube reaches out and is stuck to the front of the car carrying the detector, ensuring that the measurements are precisely from the target vehicle being inspected, with no interference from surrounding automobiles.
The system costs HK$2 million to buy. The university is now proposing that it is taken up by the Environmental Protection Department.
Ning said the detector could identify vehicles that have not upgraded their catalytic converters or have poorly maintained engines.
The measurements have a one to five per cent margin of error.