Pollen scanner

For effective advisories, an accurate pollen count

POLLEN grains inspire botanists the same way snowflakes inspire poets. These intricately structured entities also cause hay fever and make thousands sneeze during the flowering season. Health authorities usually bring out advisories to caution allergic people when the culprit plants are in bloom. But finding out when the pollen count is high so that the advisories can be brought out requires proper identification of the pollen first.
Pollens are complex structures and consist of a variety of molecules from extremely stable biopolymers of unknown composition and structure to pigments such as flavonoids and carotenoids and structural components like lignin and pectin. The chemicals present on the surface of the pollen are the ones that cause allergies.
The conventional method of checking for the presence of pollen in the air is by using a microscope. This is a slow and cumbersome process and needs an expert who can see and identify the pollen. Identification through chemical analysis is not always possible as the pollen samples require lengthy processing.
A group of researchers in Germany has developed an automated technology to counter these problems. They have used a procedure called Raman spectroscopy to analyze the chemicals present on the pollen