Atmospheric Chemistry

Tree_tops_incloudThe Atmospheric Chemistry Group at the University of Leicester work on the science that underlies contemporary questions such as:

 

  • How clean is the air that we breathe?
  • How will climate change effect air quality and vice versa?
  • How accurately can we measure air pollutants and greenhouse gases from space?

The goal of the work is to understand and quantify the processes that control the composition of our atmosphere and the implications of change across all scales.

 

Some current areas of research are:

  • Trends of air pollutants and their precursors at the regional scale.
  • Impact of megacities on regional air pollution.
  • Development of measurements of city-scale pollution.
  • The effect of chlorine compounds on ozone chemistry in the marine environment.
  • Organic complexity and the formation of secondary organic aerosol.
  • Greenhouse gas measurement and quantification from space.
  • Atmospheric dispersion modelling to track emission sources and their evolution.
  • Development of breath analysis techniques to diagnose health issues. Diagnostic Development Unit (DDU)
  • Forensic research using trace gas measurement techniques.

Cape Verde ObservatoryThe research program uses an integrated approach of both measurement and analysis in order to investigate these complex atmospheric chemical systems. An end to end approach using innovative design, building and characterisation of instruments as well as their deployment and use for measurements in the atmosphere through to the analysis, statistical modelling and interpretation of the data is used. Atmospheric measurements are made from a range of ground-based, aircraft and satellite platforms as well as laboratory studies.

 

We also have a spin-out research program working on the measurement of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) on breath as a medical diagnostic.  The same technology developed for measuring the complex organic chemistry leading to aerosol formation is being used in a hospital environment measuring the composition of breath for medical purposes.

 

Coming from the research and innovation base Professor Paul Monks is involved in two business facing activities.  He is the Director of G-STEP which uses earth observation data to make business more competitive via innovation, partnering of brokering practical solutions for regional small/medium enterprises.   He is also director of the Real-Time Air Fingerprinting Technology (RAFT) demonstrator laboratory that undertakes small projects with regional SME industry in the air of trace (and also liquid) measurement with the aim of increasing competiveness through exploitation of the HE technology base.

 

The recommendations of the Rio+20 Regional Science and Technology Workshop for Europe, have now been published on the website of the Delegation of the Finnish Academies of Science and Letters. You will find the recommendations together with videos and other material from the workshop behind this link: http://www.tsv.fi/international/akatemiat/Rio+20/rio+20.html

 

Local Monitoring of Air Quality

[JQ Logos here]

 The Joaquin (Joint Air Quality Initiative) is an EU funded project that has been running since 2012 along with a network of partners across North West Europe. The objective of this project is to support health policy aimed specifically at the air quality in Europe. The measurement of air quality parameters relevant to health will allow the project to provide policymakers with the necessary information in respect to the current local and/or regional situation. As part of this watchdog network the Automatic Urban and Rural Network (AURN) site has been constructed in partnership with DEFRA (data download here) on the University main campus for the monitoring the background urban air quality in Leicester, with an emphasis on particulate matter and ultra-fine particles. See video of air pollution in Leicester.

Figure 2 a and b

Small air quality sensors

 The AURN station on campus is the ideal place to test and calibrate a variety of small, low-cost air quality sensors with the DEFRA instruments acting as a bench-mark for the measurements. Once calibrated, these mobile units (Elm, AQMesh, Cairclip, AirPi and home-made instruments (developed by the Air Quality research group in Physics)) have been deployed at various road-side locations in Leicester and beyond as part of traffic-management projects and a bus-retrofitting project (BREATHE) and we work closely with Leicester city council on air quality issues. These instruments have been used in our various outreach and public engagement activities, installed in schools and integrated into tutorial session carried out regularly with local schools. We have done various media work, such as this Inside Out East Midlands report.

Fig3 a and b

 Fracking at Leicester

 Hydraulic Fracturing ("Fracking")  is an extraction technique  developed to extract natural gas (methane and light hydrocarbons) from shale formations for industrial and domestic use.  The chemical and physical characteristics of shale formation can vary considerably depending on their location, depth and geological history. As a consequence, the amount and composition of natural gas that can be extracted via hydraulic fracturing can also vary significantly.  The characterization of shales and their gas content  is important in order to be able to assess the economic viability  and the environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing
Here at Leicester, research groups in Chemistry and in Geology  are cooperating with the British Geological Survey to study the  release and the composition of natural gas from shale under a variety of conditions. In the RAFT laboratory, using Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry, Gas Chromatography and Laser Spectroscopy, we are observing the nature and emission patterns of hydrocarbons in shale and studying the parameters which control their release upon crushing, such as temperature, pressure, humidity and the composition of the "fracking" fluids. Small sensors and Schools Outreach

 The Atmospheric Chemistry group is involved in outreach activities, raising public awareness through the JOAQUIN project and through activities in schools. We have installed instruments in local schools and run outreach days as well as classroom tutorials for the kids, raising awareness of air pollution. We have done various media work, such as this Inside Out East Midlands report. We are testing and calibrating a variety of small mobile instruments that are being installed in playgrounds, in local’s gardens and on the road-side. The AURN station on campus is the ideal place to test these instruments and act as a bench-mark for the measurements.

insert 3 photos here

Chlorine Nitrate species

 Chlorine atoms are highly reactive radical species which have significant impact on the lifetimes of methane and other hydrocarbons, thus affecting local and regional air quality and global climate. The main source of chlorine in the atmosphere is sea-salt, with some minor anthropogenic sources (industrial processes, water treatment plants, fossil fuel burning, etc...).
In Leicester, we are studying the activation of chlorine via formation of nitryl chloride (ClNO2) in the laboratory and measuring chlorine species (Cl2, ClNO2) in the atmosphere using a state-of-the-art Chemical Ionization Mass Spectrometer (CIMS). Our research aims at understanding the sources and geographical distribution of chlorine species and the role of chlorine in atmospheric chemical processes. We have carried out research campaigns at the new Penlee observatory in Plymouth and at the Weybourne observatory (Sources of Nitrous Acid in the Atmospheric Boundary Layer) in 2015.

CLNO2

 Chlorine atoms are highly reactive radical species which have significant impact on the lifetimes of methane and other hydrocarbons, thus affecting local and regional air quality and global climate. The main source of chlorine in the atmosphere is sea-salt, with some minor anthropogenic sources (industrial processes, water treatment plants, fossil fuel burning, etc...).
In Leicester, we are studying the activation of chlorine via formation of nitryl chloride (ClNO2) in the laboratory and measuring chlorine species (Cl2, ClNO2) in the atmosphere using a state-of-the-art Chemical Ionization Mass Spectrometer (CIMS). Our research aims at understanding the sources and geographical distribution of chlorine species and the role of chlorine in atmospheric chemical processes.

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Real time air finger-printing studies

Many methods used in Atmospheric Chemistry can be applied other areas of scientific research, such as in our health and forensic studies. Several PTR-ToF-MS and GC instruments are being deployed for health and forensic experiments and monitoring, promoting links with many industrial and commercial partners. The instrument suite in the Real-Time Air Fingerprinting Technology (RAFT) lab and at the Leicester Royal Infirmary in the Diagnostic Development Unit (DDU) have been used for a number of these studies.


Health studies
PTR-ToF-MS can act not only as a sensitive online atmospheric VOC quantification tool but can also  be used in real time breath profiling, both in medicine for disease diagnosis (including pancreatic cancer diagnosis), and to detect to use of alcohol, novel psychoactive substances or other drugs of abuse. Profiling the headspace gases of bacteria is also possible and can be used to help understand complicated metabolic responses in bacteria; applications include monitoring the response of the bacterium C.difficile to the attack from the immune cells, macrophages, and antibiotic resistance pathways in Mycobacterium bovis BCG.
A similar method for detecting levoglucosan from air pollution filters developed in the group is being applied for the detection of drugs from dried blood samples. Environmental effects on the ageing of dried blood are also under investigation in the study along with the bioanalytical recovery of drugs from dried blood.
Fig. 4
Forensic studies
A combination of GC-MS and PTR-ToF-MS are also currently being applied to study VOCs release from the decomposition of pig cadavers, with the final aim of application to the detection of human remains.  The applications of these techniques offer new insights in this wide range of fields, many being unique on both the national and international level, and the forensic work of interest to law enforcement agencies worldwide.

Fig 5 a and b

 

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Listen to Professor Monk's podcast on his research group and see Current Group Profiles and Field Work Pictures. Please use the links provided for individual staff members to find further details of their current research.

 

Atmospheric Chemistry Group Members - Academic Staff

NameTelephone No.Email
Prof Paul S Monks 0116 252 2141 p.s.monks@le.ac.uk
Dr Steve Ball 0116 252 2139 not supplied
Dr Roland Leigh EOS 0116 229 7711 rl40@le.ac.uk

Atmospheric Chemistry Group Members

NamePositionTelephone No.Email
Mrs Chris Goddard Group Administrator & Web Manager 0116 252 3403 cg38@le.ac.uk
Tom Adams PhD student 0116 229 5681 tja10@le.ac.uk
Jasdeep Anand PDRA PANDA Project 0116 229 7725 jsa13@le.ac.uk
Dr Robert Blake Visiting Fellow 0116 252 5681 rsb13@le.ac.uk
Dr Rebecca Cordell PDRA 0116 252 5681 rc145@le.ac.uk
Ms Lisa Finch CEOI Support Assistant 0116 229 7681 lf10@le.ac.uk 
Dr Zoe Fleming NCAS Research Scientist 0116 294 4562 zf5@le.ac.uk
Dr Iain Goodall Temporary PDRA 0116 252 1289 icag1@le.ac.uk
Rosie Graves PDRA  EOS 0116 252  7723 rg82@le.ac.uk
Sarkawt Hama PhD student 0116 252 1289 smlh2@le.ac.uk
Lloyd Hollis PhD student 0116 252 1289 ldjh2@le.ac.uk
Sharmilah Kuppusami PhD Student 0116 252 1289 sk449@le.ac.uk
Li Liu PDRA 0116 252 5681 ll204@le.ac.uk
Sofia Mirmigkou PhD student INTREPID 0116 252 1289 sm819@le.ac.uk
Omolara Okunga PhD student 0116 252 1289 oo45@le.ac.uk
Saleh Ouheda PhD student 0116 252 1289 so165@le.ac.uk
Dr Robert Parker PDRA EOS 0116 252 2590 rjp23@le.ac.uk
Rikesh Panchal PhD student 0116 252 1289 rp173@le.ac.uk
Peter Qualey PhD student 0116 252 5681 pq7@le.ac.uk
Dr Roberto Sommariva PDRA 0116 252 5681 rs445@le.ac.uk
Dr Hannah Sonderfeld PDRA 0116 252 4562 hs287@le.ac.uk
Thalassa Valkenburg PhD student INTREPID 0116 252 1289 tsev1@le.ac.uk
Dr Iain White Visiting Fellow irw7@le.ac.uk
Dr Joshua Vande Hey PDRA 0116 229 7721 jvh7@le.ac.uk

EOS = Earth Observation Science

 

G-step logo2

 

NamePositionTelephone No.Email
Prof Paul S Monks Director 0116 252 2141 p.s.monks@le.ac.uk
Prof Heiko Balzter Co-director and Chairman 0116 2523820 hb91@le.ac.uk
Dr John Remedios Co-director and Head of EOS 0116 252 1319 jjr8@le.ac.uk
Prof Alan Wells Assistant Director 0116 229 7844 aaw@le.ac.uk
Mr Rhys Cowsill Business Manager 0116 229 7845 rc251@le.ac.uk
Ms Taylor Stokes Admin Assistant 0116 229 7842  
Mrs Svetlana Zolotikova Project Associate 0116 229 7839 sz63@le.ac.uk
Ed Lamb Enterprise & Applications specialist 0116 2297838 el125@le.ac.uk
Teresa Raventos Air Quality Specialist - SATURN 0116 229 7832 tr91@le.ac.uk

G-STEP is a University of Leicester based knowledge-exchange hub that provides a satellite data solutions service enabling business and organizations to access and apply complex Earth Observation data in a simple and tailored way.

 

IRSA

 

 

NamePositionTelephone No.Email
Prof Paul S Monks Director 0116 252 2141 p.s.monks@le.ac.uk
Teresa Smith Project Manager 0116 229 7841 ts142@le.ac.uk
Alex Archibald Project Assistant 0116 229 7844 aa783@le.ac.uk

IRSA LogoIRSA is a University of Leicester scheme designed to help accelerate the development and exploitation of new products, services, technologies, processes and markets for SMEs in the East Midlands through supported collaboration on research and development.

 

Atmospheric Chemistry publications

 

 

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