Micro-pollutants: Particulates

SUWIC carries out research on the effects of particles in the urban environment and indoor pollution


Development of an integrated decision-support framework for more sustainable management of Indoor Pollution and the associated environmental and Health impacts


Research Student: Caren Tan (PhD)
Postdoctoral Researchers: Dr Q Chen, Dr Karen Finney, Dr X Zhang
Grant Holders: Professor V Sharifi, Professor J Swithenbank
Fundedy by EPSRC INTRAWISE Research Programme (other Academic partners: Manchester University, UCL & London School of Health & tropical Medicine)

We spend some 90% of our time inside buildings where we control the quality of the environment for health, comfort and productivity. The Quality of indoor environment is affected by many factors including design of buildings, ventilation, thermal insulation and domestic energy generation and use. Maintaining the quality of the environment in buildings can have considerable consequences on both local and global environment and on human health. For example domestic micro-generation of heat by gas boilers and cookers involves fuel combustion potentially hazardous to the health of those in the dwelling or further afield, while efforts aimed at the improvement of thermal insulation, though largely beneficial in terms of temperature control and fuel saving, may adversly affect indoor quality, e.g through reduced ventilation. On the other-hand renewable micro-generation options, such as ground source heat pumps, photovoltaic panels etc have minimum impact on the indoor environment but on a life cycle basis can cause environmental and health impacts elsewhere. The quality of indoor environment is also affected by the penetration of outdoor air pollution and noise, especially in densely populated urban areas. This project investigates the above issues. The project consists of literature review, analytical work (e.g. measurement of particulates (sub-micron) in indoor environment) and the associated modelling work.


Characterisation of Particles in the Urban Environment


Research Student: Winson Chung (PhD)
Postdoctoral Researchers: Dr D Poole, Dr C Ryu
Grant Holders: Professor V Sharifi, Professor J Swithenbank
Fundedy by EPSRC & Private funding

Particulate matter contains a mixture of pollutants, but the effects have primarily been studied by size rather than by composition; therefore, research on particles could be significantly improved by applying an updated and integrated approach.
The main objectives of this 3 year PhD research project are as follows:
- Mapping the Sources of Particles in the Urban Environment
- Modelling the Movement of Particles in the Urban Environment
- Characterisation of particles in particular nano-sized particles (e.g. chemical, etc)

The main research tasks include:
1. Literature Review
-Literature review of sources of particles (natural and anthropogenic) and available datasets on size and cmposition, plus relevant policy/regulations
-Literature review of human exposures and health effects from particles, considering size and composition of particles, available datasets, exposure routes, lifestyles, intake factors, etc.

2. Source Modelling
-Source modelling of the formation of particles in industrial processes, and examination of factors affecting particle emissions from various source types

3.Sampling and Analysis
-Analytical measurement of particle composition and sizes from combustion sources, and in an urban case study location in order to diagnose the particle formation mechanism (e.g. homogeneous formation or condensation on the surface of a precursor particle). Thus, the micro-layers of these tiny particles will be analysed for their local composition changes .
-Field programme to measure pollutants (particles) in an urban case study location comprising multiple sources of particles (with sampling of air, soil, water, surfaces, etc.)
-Examination and quantification of potential transport pathways for particles (air only, air to water, air to soil, air to soil to water , plant to soil etc.
-Evaluation of the use of tracers or markers for tracking movements through the environment.

Particulates under the microscope.

Electron microscopic techniques are used by SUWIC to examine the morphology and chemistry of particles in the indoor environment.