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C333: Health-Relevant Air Pollution Measurements (Lead Supervisor: Markus Kalberer, Chemistry)

Supervisors: Markus Kalberer (Chemistry) and Rod Jones (Chemistry)

Importance of the area of research:

It is well established that atmospheric aerosols are one of the main air pollutants contributing to a wide range of pulmonary and cardio-vascular diseases. However, the particle properties, which are responsible for these health-effects are only poorly understood. It is often assumed that oxidizing particle components (reactive oxygen species, ROS, such as radicals and peroxides) cause oxidative stress in the lung, which leads to inflammation and disease. The quantification of ROS in aerosols is highly challenging because many ROS components are very reactive and short-lived. Thus, new and sensitive analytical techniques have to be applied for a reliable ROS quantification.

Project summary:

We have recently built a novel instrument that measures ROS concentrations in atmospheric aerosols online and which also allows the quantification of very short-lived ROS components such as radicals and peroxides (Fuller et al., 2013, Wragg et al., 2016) to provide for the first time a real quantitative picture of ROS concentrations and their variations in atmospheric aerosols.

This instrument will be further developed and deployed in field measurements in the framework of on-going air quality measurement projects, which combine gas phase air pollutants such as ozone or nitrogen oxides and meteorological data. These field measurements aim to identify emission sources and/or meteorological conditions that are most damaging for human health.

What the student will do:

The student will take actively part in field studies in the UK and potentially abroad where he/she will operate the new ROS instrument and collect aerosol samples for further analysis in the lab. Aerosol composition and toxicity will be linked with gaseous pollutant levels and meteorological data. The project will also include laboratory experiment where aerosols are generated in the large-scale Cambridge Atmospheric Simulation Chamber to simulate air pollution processes in the laboratory in detail and evaluate the effects of anthropogenic pollutants to overall aerosol ROS concentrations and toxicity.

The project will be suitable for students from a range of natural science backgrounds with an interest in experimental and data analysis work. As part of this the student would be expected to develop practical and computational skills. The student would be expected to present their work at national and international conferences.

Please contact the lead supervisor directly for further information relating to what the successful applicant will be expected to do, training to be provided, and any specific educational background requirements.


Lelieveld, J. et al. 2015. The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale, Nature, vol. 525, 367-371.

Kourtchev, I. et al. 2013. Molecular composition of boreal forest aerosol from Hyytiälä, Finland, using ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry, Environ. Sci. Technol., vol. 47, 4069 - 4079.

Fuller, S.J. et al. 2014. Comparison of on-line and off-line methods to quantify reactive oxygen species (ROS) in atmospheric aerosols, Atmos. Environ., vol. 92, 97-103,.

Wragg. F.P.H. et al., 2016, An automated online instrument to quantify aerosol-bound reactive oxygen species (ROS) for ambient measurement and health-relevant aerosol studies, Atmos. Meas. doi:10.5194/amt-9-1-2016, 2016.

Follow this link to find out about how to apply for this project

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