Earlier this year, the Safecast project teamed up with Chumby co-founder Andrew "Bunnie" Huang to launch an open-source map of radiation data across earthquake-ravaged Japan. Now, the group is taking a similar approach to measuring air quality across Los Angeles. On Wednesday, Safecast announced that it has received a $400,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to create real-time maps of air pollution in LA, in cooperation with Crash Space, an LA-based hackerspace.

In Japan, Fukushima locals used Huang's open-source geiger counter to create a grassroots map of radiation levels within the area. Safecast's Sean Bonner tells GigaOm that his organization will take a similar approach to LA, and that it's already working on an open-source device to measure air pollution. Measuring air quality, he says, should actually be easier than radiation levels, since the necessary sensors "are much cheaper and more readily available." This, in turn, should encourage more people to get involved.

Safecast was awarded the $400,000 grant as part of the Knight News Challenge: Data — a competition designed to encourage media innovation by funding unique projects. Safecaster will launch its air quality initiative in LA first, before moving on to other cities across the US.