How toxic is your city’s air? Pioneering project to help measure pollution of urban atmosphere

Posted by pt91 at Nov 25, 2014 02:45 PM |
University of Leicester partnership with Bluesky to improve understanding of nitrogen dioxide in cities

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 25 November 2014

Contact pressoffice@le.ac.uk to request images

Arguments about which UK city has the most polluted air could be put to rest once and for all thanks to a landmark new project that uses state of the art techniques to measure air pollution in city environments and the dangers posed to people exposed to it.

Using an airborne mapping system developed by scientists at the University of Leicester, integrated with ground-based sensors, a PhD student within the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is aiming to improve reporting of air pollution levels to provide a quantitative understanding of the levels of nitrogen dioxide around a given city.

Jordan White, who is currently studying for his PhD in atmospheric physics at the University of Leicester, is sponsored by aerial mapping company Bluesky and will be using the novel system to record in fascinating detail the effects pollution is having in cities during people’s day-to-day lives.

He said: “By exploring the complex concepts of gas-phase tomography we can retrieve 3D structures of pollution. This combined with improvements in the performance and integration of the monitoring systems gives us a much better understanding of the levels and movement of air pollution in our cities.”

Dr Roland Leigh, academic supervisor at the University of Leicester added: “Air Quality continues to be a critical issue in our society, requiring innovative solutions to both measure and reduce pollutant concentrations. This project builds on key academic expertise in instrument design and data manipulation, and once again benefits from a strong industrial partnership with Bluesky.”

The PhD project will build on results from previous trials of the University of Leicester’s world leading Compact Air Quality Spectrometer. Mounted on a dedicated aerial survey aircraft the device monitors visible light and measures how much light is lost at specific wavelengths absorbed by NO2.

The technology has previously been used as part the CityScan project with devices mounted on tall buildings in Leicester, Bologna and London during the Olympics to build 3D maps of pollution across the cities.

The project will also use data from a network of low cost ground based air quality sensors, sponsored by Bluesky, and additional geospatial information including Bluesky’s 3D building models and National Tree Map data.

James Eddy, Bluesky’s Technical Director and Industrial Associate at the University of Leicester, said: “The latest stage in the research into air pollution modelling is designed to improve the way the monitoring systems work together in order to measure pollution levels as well as looking at vertical mixing ratios of air in cities and the potential impact of buildings and trees.”

The research project, part of a regional doctoral training partnership, is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) through the Industrial CASE Studentship programme. CASE (Collaborative awards in science and engineering) Studentships provide doctoral students with a first-rate, challenging research training experience, within the context of a mutually beneficial research collaboration between academic and partner organisations in the private, public and civil sectors.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Jordan White on email jw597@leicester.ac.uk

Further contacts:

Reader enquiries to Bluesky on tel +44 (0)1530 518 518
Editorial enquiries, contact Robert Peel on tel +44 (0)1666 823306
Colour separation requests to robert@market-it.co.uk

www.bluesky-world.com

In the World Health Organisation European Region exposure to air pollution is said to decrease the life expectancy of every person by an average of one year. While lower than other parts of the world a recent study saw this figure rise to 22 months in at least 25 European Cities. Defra (Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs) estimates that air pollution reduces average life expectancy in the UK by 7-8 months, costing the UK £20bn per annum.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is part of a group of highly reactive gases known as nitrogen oxides. NO2 forms quickly when fossil fuels are burned for example petrol or diesel in a car or natural gas in a domestic boiler or power station. There is clear evidence that high levels of NO2 are linked to adverse effects on health including increased risk of respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and even heart attacks and World Health Organisation statistics show 1.3 million deaths worldwide result from outdoor air pollution.

Bluesky is a UK-based specialist in aerial imaging and remote sensing data collection and processing.  An internationally recognised leader with projects extending around the globe, Bluesky is proud to work with prestigious organisations such as Google, the BBC and Government Agencies.

Bluesky has unrivalled expertise in the creation of seamless, digital aerial photography, 3D landscape/cityscape visualisations and prints and also runs a national mapping centre, providing digital mapping, satellite imagery and aerial photography including ultra-high resolution imagery of cities and towns.

Bluesky is now leading the way developing innovative solutions for environmental applications including the UK’s first nationwide map of solar potential, citywide ‘heat loss’ maps, 3D maps of trees and their proximity to buildings and historical imagery. www.bluesky-world.com

The University of Leicester is a leading UK University committed to international excellence through the creation of world changing research and high quality, inspirational teaching. Leicester is among the most socially inclusive of Britain's top-20 leading universities. The University of Leicester is The Times/Sunday Times 2014 University of the Year Runner-Up and the THE University of the Year 2008-9.  Leicester is a three-time winner of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education and is the only University to win seven consecutive awards from the Times Higher. Leicester is 14th out of 121 institutions by The Times/Sunday Times and the University is ranked among the top two-per cent in the world by the QS World University Rankings,  Taiwan World University Rankings and THE World University Rankings. http://www2.le.ac.uk/about/facts

The Earth Observation Science group, based in the Space Research Centre at the University of Leicester is an internationally recognised multi-disciplinary team dedicated to research into many aspects of remote sensing, atmospheric and Earth surface science. www.leos.le.ac.uk/aq

About NERC: NERC is the largest funder of environmental science in the UK. We invest £330m in cutting-edge research, training and knowledge transfer in the environmental sciences. Our scientists study and monitor the whole planet, from pole to pole, and from the deep Earth and oceans to the edge of space. We address and respond to critical issues such as environmental hazards, resource security and environmental change. Through collaboration with other science disciplines, with UK business and with policymakers, we make sure our knowledge and skills support sustainable economic growth and public wellbeing - reducing risks to health, infrastructure, supply chains and our changing environment. For more information go to www.nerc.ac.uk.

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