Atmospheric Chemistry and Air Pollution

Our research focuses upon understanding natural and anthropogenic emissions to the atmosphere, the transport, chemical and physical transformations of atmospheric constituents, and the effects of air pollution and atmospheric chemistry upon the environment, and particularly upon human health.

Game Changing Birmingham: Changing our atmosphere

Much of the research in this area is carried out in collaboration with external partners, particularly with the UK National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), other UK universities, government departments and agencies, private sector organisations and overseas collaborators.

Major activities include:

  • The West-Midlands Air Quality Programme (WM-Air) will provide improved understanding of pollution sources and levels in the region, and new capability to predict air quality, health and economic impacts of potential policy measures. It will support the application of these to specific case studies across the West Midlands, ranging from major infrastructure projects such as HS2, to making effective use of Green Infrastructure (urban vegetation) across the city.
  • The FASTER Project (Fundamental Studies of the Sources, Properties and Environmental Behaviour of Exhaust Nanoparticles from Road Vehicles) is a 2.4 million euro project funded by the European Research Council in which laboratory studies, field measurements and numerical models are used to gain new understanding of the behaviour of diesel exhaust particles in the atmosphere.
  • The Air Pollution and Human Health-Beijing Project. We are leading a major collaborative project between leading UK and Chinese scientists to characterise and propose solutions for the serious air pollution problems of Beijing, which affect the health of the huge population of this megacity.
  • The Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) is a major experiment investigating the effects of a high carbon dioxide environment on forest ecosystems.

Research areas include :

  • Airborne Particulate Matter (PM), including analysis of emissions, particle transport and transformations, and PM source apportionment and mass closure. Approaches to these topics include on- and off-line field measurements of particle mass, size distribution and composition, and laboratory analyses of inorganic, organic, radiocarbon and biological components. (Harrison, Delgado Saborit, Pope, Shi)
  • Atmospheric oxidation processes, including the degradation of volatile organic compounds, and associated production of ozone and secondary organic aerosol, studied through laboratory and simulation chamber experiments, and field observations. (Bloss, MacKenzie, Harrison)
  • The role of plants in atmospheric chemistry, ranging from the atmospheric impacts of oil palm plantations, to the contribution of trees to improving urban air quality – linking to related research in urban resilience and city planning (MacKenzie, Cai, Bloss)
  • Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate, including the chemistry of greenhouse gases such as ozone and methane, aerosol processes, and future climate impacts upon emissions, atmospheric chemistry and air pollution (MacKenzie, Pope, Bloss, Cai)
  • Geoengineering, focussing upon stratospheric particle injection for solar radiation management (Pope)
  • Personal exposure measurement and assessment of the health impacts of airborne pollutants in indoor and outdoor environments (Delgado Saborit, Harrison, Harrad)
  • Numerical modelling of atmospheric composition, ranging from application of near-explicit chemical mechanisms such as the MCM in box models, through Lagrangian (trajectory) models such as CittyCAT, to the coupling of chemical and dynamic processes in street canyons (Cai, Bloss, MacKenzie, Harrison)
  • Atmospheric halogen chemistry, ranging from laboratory studies of stratospheric ClOx chemistry to field observations of iodine species in the marine boundary layer (Bloss, Pope)
  • Natural and anthropogenic emission and deposition of biogeochemically important trace elements such as iron and phosphorus and their impact on the marine ecosystems and the climate (Shi, Harrison)