Atmospheric Chemistry and Air Pollution

Air pollution research

Our research focuses upon understanding natural and anthropogenic emissions to the atmosphere, the transport and chemical and physical transformations of atmospheric constituents, and evaluating and managing the effects of air pollution and atmospheric chemistry upon the environment, and particularly upon human health. Links to greenhouse gases and climate are also a major focus. 

Working in environments as diverse as Delhi, Beijing, East Africa and Antarctica, and in the laboratory, we study the emissions and atmospheric chemical and physical processes which determine outdoor and indoor air quality.  This is complemented by studies of personal exposure, and effects upon human health.  There are strong links to policy, and to air quality management at local, national and international levels.  A distinguishing feature of our work is that it extends from highly fundamental process studies to real-world applications, including advice to local and national government and the World Health Organisation.  In other strands of our work, we study bioaerosols, biogenic organic compounds and atmosphere-biosphere interactions, and greenhouse gas accounting and links to sustainability.

Research areas

Advanced Air Quality Management 

Methods are developed to enhance the information base for air quality management through studies of human health responses and the measurement and numerical modelling of local air quality in near-real time.  We work closely with local government to improve air quality in the West Midlands, and also with authorities in less developed nations.

Air Pollution and Human Health

We collaborate with clinicians, epidemiologists and toxicologists in studies of air pollution effects, including cognitive performance.  Modelling of air quality is used in exposure evaluation.

Climate and Air Pollution Interactions

We collaborate nationally and internationally with renowned institutes to advance our understanding of the interactions between climate change, air pollution and health to identify “win-win” sustainable policymaking, using a combination of numerical modelling, satellite and in-situ observations and data-science approaches.

New Particle Formation in the Atmosphere

Mechanisms by which atmospheric gases convert to form new particles are studied at a fundamental level in both pristine and polluted environments.  Other sources and processes affecting ultrafine particles are also studied.

Indoor Air Quality

The general population stays ca. 90% of time indoors with a trend in the UK towards increasing periods spent inside. Our research aims to increase the understanding of indoor air pollutants and enable people planning or assessing an indoor space to build an accurate picture of the likely sources, levels and risks of pollutants.  We also study the use of house plants to improve indoor air quality.

Fundamental Studies of Atmospheric Aerosol Processes

The main objective is to improve the understanding of the impact of chemical ageing of atmospheric aerosols on cloud formation, radiative forcing and, ultimately, climate change.  The technique of acoustic levitation is used to study model systems representative of atmospheric processes.  We also investigate the behaviour of organic monolayers floating on an aqueous subphase to understand the kinetic behaviour and stability of organic surfactant films at the interface of aerosol droplets. Our experimental work on atmospheric aerosols is complemented by modelling studies in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (MPIC).

Degradation of Odour Signals by Air Pollution: Chemical Mechanisms, Plume Dynamics and Insect-Orientation Behaviour 

We investigate the mechanisms by which air pollution can disrupt vital airborne chemical signals that insects use for critical processes, such as mating or finding a flower, and will evaluate the ecological consequences of this phenomenon. 

Accurate and High-resolution Accounting of GHG emissions

Our research aims to develop advanced emission accounting technologies based on accurate emission factors and activity data. Our open-access dataset ( provides up-to-date emission inventories for all developing countries, regions, and cities used by researchers, policy stakeholders, and the public worldwide.

Urban Sustainable Transitions

We investigate the patterns and drivers of emissions in terms of both production-based and consumption-based emissions. Our ongoing work tries to explore practical low-carbon roadmaps for cities at different stages of urbanization with the economic and social impacts (e.g., health risks) of different regions in mind.

Inequality in Net-Zero progress

We collaborate with globally renowned institutes such as the World Bank to advance our understanding of inequalities in net-zero progress. This research aims to reveal climate change inequalities of households with different living standards and examines the unequal impacts of the climate and net-zero policies on households.

Low cost Sensors, Bioaerosol and Citizen Science

We use low cost sensors, especially those for particulate matter, to better understand air pollution within indoor and outdoor environments, and combine these with source apportionment techniques to understand the importance of different sources.  Methods are under development to identify bioaerosols (pollens and spores).  Citizen Science approaches are used for spatial mapping and personal exposure estimation.

Atmospheric Chemistry of Biogenic Compounds

We are developing new approaches to measure emissions of natural volatile organic compounds (VOCs), through integrated reactivity approaches, validated against GC / mass spectrometry methods, and applying these in the University’s BIFoR Free-Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) facility to assess changes in tree emissions with future increased atmospheric CO2 levels

Biosphere-atmosphere interactions of forests.

This work is developed through the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR), and particularly the BIFoR FACE facility  Work is expanding to link across all forest FACE facilities, especially AmazonFACE.

Machine Learning, applied to atmospheric and biosphere data streams, is a recurring theme in the group’s research.

Research funding

  • Natural Environment Research Council
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • Science & Technology Facilities Council
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
  • Medical Research Council
  • European Union
  • European Research Council
  • Wellcome Trust
  • Royal Society
  • Department for Transport (DfT)
  • Leverhulme Trust
  • EPA of Ireland
  • Environment Agency

Postgraduate opportunities

MSc in Air Pollution Management and Control

PhD Funding Sources

We are part of the CENTA DTP which is the first port of call for funding.