Dr Christian Pfrang DPhil(Oxon) EurChem CSciTeach CSci CChem FHEA

Dr Christian Pfrang

Dr Pfrang’s research is in the area of gas-phase and heterogeneous atmospheric chemistry currently focusing on the fate of atmospheric aerosols and their impacts on air quality and climate change.  He is also studying reactions of initiators of atmospheric oxidation (in particular ozone and nitrate radicals) with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), e.g. stress-induced plant emissions.  Experimental studies mainly using levitation, monolayer, X-ray & neutron scattering techniques are complemented by computational work predicting the kinetic behaviour of species of atmospheric importance (e.g. co-developing the aerosol models K2-SUB, KM-SUB and KM-GAP).  Dr Pfrang is also aiming to link atmospheric chemistry to related research topics in meteorology, environmental & plant sciences to advance the understanding of the urban environment.


DPhil in Physical & Atmospheric Chemistry (University of Oxford); BSc in Chemistry (FU Berlin); Vordiplom in Chemistry (TU Munich); Post-Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice (University of Reading)


Dr Pfrang studied Chemistry at the TU Munich, University of Oxford and FU Berlin before completing his DPhil in Physical & Atmospheric Chemistry with Prof. Richard Wayne at the University of Oxford.  After a stint in the research department of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), he took up a Leverhulme Visiting Fellowship in the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway University of London.  In 2007, Dr Pfrang was appointed to an RCUK Academic Fellowship in the Departments of Chemistry & Meteorology at the University of Reading where he became a Lecturer in Physical Chemistry in 2012 and was promoted to Associate Professor of Atmospheric & Physical Chemistry in 2017.  In 2016, he was a Visiting Professor at CNRS Lille, France.  In 2018, Dr Pfrang became a Senior Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Meteorology at Reading and took up his current post at the University of Birmingham.


LM Air Pollution Control Technology, LM Carbon Management, Air Pollution Chemistry

Postgraduate supervision

PhD Project Opportunities are listed on the School pages. Funding is available annually through the NERC Central England Doctoral Training Partnership (CENTA) for UK/EU students; other sources of support are also available – please contact me if you are interested in studying for a PhD with us. 

Dr Pfrang is currently supervising 6 PhD students (3 as lead PI).

Current PhD students:

  • Adam Milsom (co-supervisor: Dr Squires, University of Bath): Impact on VIscosity, Reactivity and Atmospheric Lifetimes of Complex Aerosol SElf-assembly (VIRAL CASE).
  • Scot Midgley (lead supervisor: Dr Grau-Crespo, University of Reading): Trace-element incorporation into stalagmite calcite as a paleo-volcanic record: a chemical perspective.
  • Curtis Gubb (co-supervisors: Dr Blanusa and Prof. Griffiths, Royal Horticultural Society): Investigating the Impact of Plants on Indoor Air Quality: a Multi-scale Cross-disciplinary Approach.
  • Kaan Alkan (lead supervisor: Dr Girling, University of Reading): Assessing the effects of NOx and Ozone on volatile organic compound Signal Mediated InterActions of the silver Y moth (ANOSMIA).
  • Evita Hartmane (lead supervisor: Prof. Cramer, University of Reading): Development of a novel multiplex LDI source for aerosol microdroplet/microreactor production and mass spectrometry (MS) analysis.
  • Ben Thomas (University of Reading; co-supervisor: Dr Max Skoda, ISIS Neutron Source): ATmospheric Oxidation of MIxed organic films on aqueous droplets studied by Neutron reflectometry and infra-RED absorption spectroscopy (ATOMINRED).

Completed PhD projects:

  • Edna Cabrera (2017)
  • Matt Hagreen (2017; co-supervisor: Prof. Marston, Northumbria University)
  • Jana Gessner (2017; lead supervisor: Dr Nutt, University of Reading)
  • Kunal Rastogi (2015)
  • Federica Sebastiani (2014; co-supervisor Dr Campbell, ILL Grenoble)
  • Ioan Hoare (2013; co-supervisor: Prof. Marston, Northumbria University)
  • Sami Almabrok (2012)

Completed MSc projects:

  • Junya Zhang (2016; MSc(Res) in Meteorology; co-supervised with Prof. Harrison, University of Reading)
  • Nathan John (2014)
  • Chen Yuan (2013)
  • Brian Durham (2009; MSc(Res) in Meteorology; co-supervised with Prof. Methven, University of Reading)


Research Group:

Environmental Health Sciences

Research Interests:

Christian’s team currently comprises postdoctoral research fellow Dr Dalila Touhami alongside a number of PhD students (see above).  We contribute to the Air Pollution and Atmospheric Chemistry theme of the Environmental Health Sciences group at Birmingham.

Our work has been supported by funding of ~ £5m (~ £2.5m as lead PI).  Key funders are RCUK (NERC – 10 funded projects, 5 as lead PI; EPSRC – 2 funded projects, 1 as lead PI), the Royal Society (2 grants as lead PI), ISIS Neutron Source, Institut Laue Langevin, the Royal Horticultural Society, Diamond Light Source, Royal Society of Chemistry and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

Research Background

Dr Pfrang has >15-yr experience with chemical kinetics of atmospheric reactions in gas-phase, in levitated droplets & self-assembled monolayers. He led research at large-scale facilities (>35 access grants; 2 facility-based PhD studentships) and has experience with kinetic model development as Visiting Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (MPIC) since 2008.  He developed in-situ NO3 generation methods and a mobile Raman acoustic levitator for atmospheric studies that was recently linked to structural investigations by X-ray scattering.

Current Research Interests

  • Studying Levitated Atmospheric Aerosols
    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. We apply the technique of acoustic levitation to atmospheric sciences by studying model systems representative of atmospheric processes; their physical & chemical modifications in varying conditions is being monitored to obtain insight into the behaviour of atmospheric particles. Our droplet levitator and related levitation systems are being interfaced with complementary analytical techniques such as Raman microscopy or Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS).

Highlight papers: Pfrang et al., Nature Commun, 2017; Seddon et al., JPC Lett, 2016; King et al., Faraday Discuss, 2008


  • Studying the Atmospheric Ageing of One-Molecule Thin Organic Layers at the Air-Water Interface
    We investigate of 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 using neutron reflectometry combined with complementary techniques such as infra-red reflection absorption spectroscopy (IRRAS), Brewster-angle microscopy and ellipsometry.

Highlight papers: Sebastiani et al., ACP, 2018; Skoda et al., RSC Adv, 2017; Pfrang et al., PCCP, 2014


  • Kinetic Modelling of the Behaviour of Atmospheric Aerosols
    Our experimental work on atmospheric aerosols is complemented by modelling studies in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (MPIC) to (i) choose most insightful experimental conditions; (ii) develop realistic, yet efficient parameterisation of experimental findings; and (iii) implement –in the medium term– these new parameterisations in powerful atmospheric modelling frameworks.

Highlight papers: Pfrang et al., ACP 2011; Shiraiwa, Pfrang et al., ACP 2012; Pfrang et al., ACP 2010; Shiraiwa, Pfrang & Pöschl, ACP, 2010


  • Kinetics and Products of Atmospherically Relevant Gas-phase Reactions
    We have expertise in studying gas-phase reactions of low volatility organic compounds with ozone and nitrate radicals by experimental and computational methods.

Highlight papers: Pfrang et al., Atmos Environ, 2008; Stewart et al., Atmos Environ, 2013; Pfrang et al., Atmos Environ, 2006; Pfrang et al., PCCP, 2006

  • Investigating the Impact of Plants on Indoor Air Quality: a Multi-scale Cross-disciplinary Approach
    Approximately 4.3 million people worldwide died prematurely due to indoor air pollution in 2012. In Britain, residents tend to spend as much as 90% of their time indoors, where poor indoor air quality can result in the prevalence of Sick Building Syndrome. Plants offer easy access, low-cost and versatile options to substantially improve indoor air quality. This cross-disciplinary project aims to scrutinise the potential of a range of plant species in different growth media to provide key air quality services by removing harmful gases and particles present indoors.

Highlight paper: Gubb et al., 2018


  • Degradation of Odour signals by air pollution: chemical Mechanisms, plume dynamics and INsect-Orientation behaviour (DOMINO)
    This current NERC-funded project investigates 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 (lead PI: Dr Girling, University of Reading).

Other activities

  • Journal Advisory Board: Sci
  • Journal Editor: Atmosphere (Section: Aerosols)
  • Member: NERC Peer Review College
  • Royal Society of Chemistry: CChem
  • Science Council: CSciTeach, CSci
  • European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences (EuCheMS): EurChem
  • Previous consultancy work for Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), Department for Transport (DfT), STS Instruments & Johnson Matthey
  • Member: alumni associations of St. Hugh’s College (University of Oxford), Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes, Carlo-Schmid Programme (csp-network) & Bavarian Elite Academy


Over 30 international peer-reviewed journal articles (mostly as first and/or corresponding author including Nature Commun (2017), JPC Lett (2016), Faraday Discuss (2008) & 5 Atmos Chem Phys (2010–18); 8 associated Press Releases/Science Highlights since 2014).

2018                      Gubb, C., Blanusa, T., Griffiths A. and Pfrang C., Can houseplants improve indoor air quality by removing CO2 and increasing relative humidity? Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, in press

2018                      Sebastiani, F., Campbell, R. A., Rastogi, K. and Pfrang, C., Night-time oxidation of surfactants at the air–water interface: effects of chain length, head group and saturation, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 18, 3249–3268

2017                      Pfrang, C., Rastogi, K., Cabrera E., Seddon, A. M., Dicko, C., Labrador, A., Plivelic, T., N. Cowieson and Squires, A. M., Complex Three-Dimensional Self-Assembly in Proxies for Atmospheric Aerosols. Nature Communications, 8, 1724 (Diamond Light Source & MAXIV-Lab Science Highlight; Joint Press Release by Universities of Reading, Bath & Lund); Altmetric Attention Score: 357 (in top 2% of all Nat Commun papers)

2017                      Skoda, M. W. A., Thomas, B., Hagreen, M., Sebastiani, F. and Pfrang, C., Simultaneous Neutron Reflectometry and Infrared Reflection Absorption Spectroscopy (IRRAS) Study of Mixed Monolayer Reactions at the Air–Water Interface, RSC Advances, 7, 34208–34214 (ISIS Science Highlight)

2016                      Becerra, R. and Pfrang, C., Kinetic Studies of Nitrate Radicals: Flash Photolysis at 193 nm, International Journal of Chemical Kinetics, 48, 806–811

2016                      Seddon, A. M., Richardson, S., Rastogi, K., Plivelic, T., Squires, A. M. and Pfrang, C., Control of Nanomaterial Self-Assembly in Ultrasonically Levitated Droplets, Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 7, 1341–1345 (ACS Editors’ Choice article; among top ten most accessed papers in this journal: G. Scholes, J P C Lett, June 2016)

2015                      Sebastiani, F., Campbell, R. A. and Pfrang, C., Complementarity of neutron reflectometry and ellipsometry for the study of chemical reactions of atmospheric relevance at the air–water interface, RSC Advances, 5, 107105–107111

2015                      Becerra, R., Cannady, J. P., Pfrang, C., and R. Walsh, Time-resolved gas-phase kinetic, quantum chemical and RRKM studies of the reaction of silylene with 2,5-dihydrofuran, Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 46, 11241–11253

2014                      Pfrang, C., Sebastiani, F., Lucas, C. O. M., King, M. D., Hoare, I. D., Chang, D. and Campbell, R. A., Ozonolysis of methyl oleate monolayers at the air-water interface: oxidation kinetics, reaction products and atmospheric implications, Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 16(26), 13220–13228

 (ILL Press Release; Chemistry World article: ‘Out of the Frying Pan and into the Sky’; Altmetric Attention Score: 26)

2013                      Stewart, D. J., Almabrok, S. H., Lockhart, J. P., Mohamed, O. M., Nutt, D. R., Pfrang, C. and Marston, G., The Kinetics of the Gas-phase Reactions of Selected Monoterpenes and Cyclo-alkenes with Ozone and the Nitrate Radical. Atmospheric Environment, 70, 227–235

2012                      Shiraiwa, M., Pfrang, C., Koop, T. and Pöschl, U., Kinetic multi-layer model of gas-particle interactions in aerosols and clouds (KM–GAP): linking condensation, evaporation and chemical reactions of organics, oxidants and water. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 12, 2777–2794

2011                      Pfrang, C., Shiraiwa, M., and Pöschl, U., Chemical ageing and transformation of diffusivity in semi-solid multi-component organic aerosol particles. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 11, 7343–7354

2010                      Thompson, K. C., Rennie, A. R., King, M. D., Hardman, S. J. O., Lucas, C. O. M., Pfrang, C., Hughes, B. R. and Hughes, A. V., Reaction of a Phospholipid Monolayer with Gas-Phase Ozone at the Air-Water Interface: Measurement of Surface Excess and Surface Pressure in Real Time, Langmuir, 26 (22), 17295–17303

2010                      Pfrang, C., Shiraiwa, M., and Pöschl, U., Coupling aerosol surface and bulk chemistry with a kinetic double layer model (K2–SUB): oxidation of oleic acid by ozone. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 10, 4537–4557

2010                      Shiraiwa, M., Pfrang, C. and Pöschl, U., Kinetic multi-layer model of aerosol surface and bulk chemistry (KM–SUB): the influence of interfacial transport and bulk diffusion on the oxidation of oleic acid by ozone. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 10, 3673–3691

2010                      King, M. D., Rennie, A. R., Pfrang, C., Hughes, A. V. and Thompson, K. C.  Interaction of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) with a monolayer of oleic acid at the air-water interface – a simple proxy for atmospheric aerosol. Atmospheric Environment, 44, 1822–1825

2009                      King, M. D., Rennie, A. R., Thompson, K. C., Fisher, F. N., Dong, C. C., Thomas, R. K., Pfrang, C. and Hughes, A. V.  Oxidation of oleic acid at the air-water interface and its potential effects on cloud critical supersaturations. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 11(35), 7699–7707

2008                      Pfrang, C., King, M. D., Braeckevelt, M., Canosa-Mas, C. E. and Wayne, R. P.  Gas-phase rate coefficients for reactions of NO3, OH, O3 and O(3P) with unsaturated alcohols and ethers:  correlations and structure–activity relations (SARs).  Atmospheric Environment, 42, 3018–3034

2008                       King, M. D., Thompson, K. C., Ward, A. D., Pfrang, C. and Hughes, B.  Oxidation of biogenic and water-soluble compounds in aqueous and organic aerosol droplets by ozone:  a kinetic and product analysis approach using laser Raman tweezers.  Faraday Discussions, 137, 173–192

2007                       Pfrang, C., King, M. D., Canosa-Mas, C. E., Flugge, M. and Wayne, R. P.  Gas-phase rate coefficients for the reactions of NO3, OH and O3 with a,b-unsaturated esters and ketones:  structure-activity relations (SARs).  Atmospheric Environment, 41, 1792–1802

2007                       Pfrang, C., Baeza Romero, M. T., Cabanas, B., Canosa-Mas, C. E., Villanueva, F. and Wayne, R. P.  Night-time tropospheric chemistry of the unsaturated alcohols (Z)-pent-2-en-1-ol and pent-1-en-3-ol:  kinetic studies of reactions of NO3 and N2O5 with stress-induced plant emissions.  Atmospheric Environment, 41, 1652–1662

2006                       Pfrang, C., Tooze, C., Nalty, A., Canosa-Mas, C. E. and Wayne, R.P.  Reactions of NO3 with the man-made emissions 2-methylpent-2-ene, (Z)-3-methylpent-2-ene, ethyl vinyl ether, and the stress-induced plant emission ethyl vinyl ketone.  Atmospheric Environment, 40, 786–792

2006                       Pfrang, C., Martin, R. S., Canosa-Mas, C. E. and Wayne, R. P.  Gas-phase reactions of NO3 and N2O5 with (Z)-hex-4-en-1-ol, (Z)-hex-3-en-1-ol (leaf alcohol), (E)-hex-3-en-1-ol, (Z)-hex-2-en-1-ol and (E)-hex-2-en-1-ol.  Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 8, 354–363

2006                       Pfrang, C., King, M. D., Canosa-Mas, C. E. and Wayne, R. P.  Structure–activity relations (SARs) for gas-phase reactions of NO3, OH and O3 with alkenes:  an update.  Atmospheric Environment, 40, 1180–1186

2006                       Pfrang, C., King, M. D., Canosa-Mas, C. E. and Wayne, R. P.  Correlations for gas-phase reactions of NO3, OH and O3 with alkenes:  an update.  Atmospheric Environment, 40, 1170–1179

2006                      Vaughan, S., Canosa-Mas, C. E., Pfrang, C., Shallcross, D. E., Watson, L. and Wayne, R. P.  Kinetic studies of reactions of the nitrate radical (NO3) with peroxy radicals (RO2):  an indirect source of OH at night?  Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 8, 3749–3760

2006                       Pfrang, C., King, M. D., Canosa-Mas, C. E. and Wayne, R. P. Gas-phase rate coefficients for the reactions of O(3P), S(3P), Se(3P) and Te(3P) with alkenes:  application of perturbation frontier molecular orbital theory, correlations and structure–activity relations (SARs). International Journal of Chemical Kinetics, 38, 351–356

2005                       Pfrang, C., Martin, R. S., Nalty, A, Waring, R., Canosa-Mas, C. E. and Wayne, R. P.  Gas-phase rate coefficients for the reactions of nitrate radicals with (Z)-pent-2-ene, (E)-pent-2-ene, (Z)-hex-2-ene, (E)-hex-2-ene, (Z)-hex-3-ene, (E)-hex-3-ene and (E)-3-methylpent-2-ene at room temperature.  Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 7, 2506–2512

2005                       Hollingsworth, A., Uppala, S., Klinker, E., Burridge, D., Vitart, F., Onvlee, J., De Vries, J. W., De Roo, A. and Pfrang, C. The transformation of earth-system observations into information of socio-economic value in GEOSS. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 131, 3493–3512

2003                       Kasyutich, V. L., Bale, C. S. E., Canosa-Mas, C. E., Pfrang, C., Vaughan, S. and Wayne, R. P. Cavity-enhanced absorption: detection of nitrogen dioxide and iodine monoxide using a violet laser diode. Applied Physics B, 76, 691–697

2002                       Kasyutich, V. L., Canosa-Mas, C. E., Pfrang, C., Vaughan, S. and Wayne, R. P.  Off-axis continuous wave cavity-enhanced absorption spectroscopy of narrow-band and broadband absorbers using red diode lasers.  Applied Physics B, 75, 755–761

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