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Composition and Sources of Atmospheric Organic Aerosol and their Negative Health Effects

Objective

Atmospheric aerosol particles are key components of the earth’s climate system and are one of the major air pollution components. In both areas large uncertainties are associated with aerosol effects. The chemical composition is a major parameter determining the effects of aerosols on the climate and their health effects. A major but poorly defined fraction of the aerosol is organic material formed within the atmosphere (so-called Secondary Organic Aerosol, SOA). Only a comprehensive chemical analysis of SOA simulated in laboratory experiments can rigorously identify and quantify SOA sources. However, only a small minority of the SOA mass can be characterized on a molecular level due to fundamental limitations of conventional analytical-chemical techniques. Thus, there is a large uncertainty how accurate current laboratory experiments mimic atmospheric SOA. This uncertainly critically limits our ability to assess the role of aerosols in the climate system, to determine their toxicity and also constrains further improvements of legal limits for ambient particle concentrations.
The main SOA sources will be identified in this project in unprecedented detail by developing novel analytical techniques to characterize SOA comprehensively (mainly ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry). Generation of SOA in improved laboratory experiments and comparison with field samples will help to overcome the long-standing uncertainties described above.
Particle properties responsible for health effects are poorly understood, but oxidizing particle components are likely important in understanding particle-cell interactions. Compound classes in SOA will be quantified, which are potentially damaging biological tissue such as peroxides and radicals, using the strongly improved laboratory conditions to simulate accurately SOA. For these studies new, fast online spectroscopic techniques will be developed to accurately quantify these highly reactive and short-lived particle components.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/earth and related environmental sciences/environmental sciences/pollution
  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/theoretical physics/particles
  • /natural sciences/chemical sciences/analytical chemistry/mass spectrometry

Call for proposal

ERC-2011-StG_20101014
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-SG - ERC Starting Grant

Host institution

THE CHANCELLOR MASTERS AND SCHOLARSOF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
Address
Trinity Lane The Old Schools
CB2 1TN Cambridge
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 1 495 851
Principal investigator
Markus Kalberer (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Renata Schaeffer (Ms.)

Beneficiaries (1)

THE CHANCELLOR MASTERS AND SCHOLARSOF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 1 495 851
Address
Trinity Lane The Old Schools
CB2 1TN Cambridge
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Markus Kalberer (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Renata Schaeffer (Ms.)