New mobile air quality research laboratories to study UK pollution

UK-based mobile air quality research laboratories will help experts to analyse how air pollution is formed and what impact it has on the environment and human health.

A group of scientists from the universities of Birmingham, Manchester, Coventry, Imperial College London, and Aston have secured £1.3m of NERC funding for two mobile air quality research laboratories –fixed in an electric van and a trailer – that will dovetail with existing fixed air quality supersites in Birmingham, London, and Manchester.

Urban Air Quality Supersites (UAQS) already allow researchers to gather detailed data on the contents of harmful urban air pollution; working out where the gases and particles that pollute our air are coming from and how they form in the air –  adding observational capacity far beyond the routine DEFRA and local authority air quality monitoring.

As part of the drive to improve regional and national air quality, the mobile air quality research laboratories will help scientists better understand the balance between traffic and urban emissions, and pollutants present in the air and carried on the wind into urban areas.

They will also help to define how chemical processing agricultural emissions and changes to move towards carbon-zero transport affect air quality. Zongbo Shi, Professor of Atmospheric Biogeochemistry at the University of Birmingham, commented: “Air pollution is the biggest environmental risk in the UK, leading to significant health inequalities and costing the country’s economy some £20bn every year.

“Adding mobile ‘supersite observatories’ to the monitoring capacity provided by our fixed sites will take our capability for quantifying air pollution sources and processes to the next level and consolidating Britain’s world-leading position in this field. This exciting development will produce policy-relevant science with significant impact–  informing air quality policy and helping to account for imported emissions. This is a UK-based approach with potential for global impact.”

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