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

Final Report Summary - CORANE (Composition and Sources of Atmospheric Organic Aerosol and their Negative Health Effects)

Aerosol particles in the atmosphere play a crucial role in the climate system and are a main component of air pollution. Their effects in both areas are poorly understood, partly because their chemical composition and formation processes are highly complex and not well understood. The ERC project COrANE developed novel analytical-chemical techniques and instruments to increase our understanding of aerosol composition and toxicity and applied these new techniques in laboratory and field experiments.
We developed and applied ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry techniques to characterise organic aerosols generated in laboratory experiments and to elucidate their formation mechanisms. Results of these laboratory experiments were compared with aerosol samples collected in the ambient atmosphere at location from around the world. Using this detailed chemical analysis we discovered a new climate feedback mechanism where a specific organic aerosol fraction (oligomers) affects the aerosol potential to form cloud droplets, with effects on climate and the biosphere.
Another major aspect of this project was the development of a novel online instrument to quantify aerosol toxicity. Although it is well established that increased concentrations of particulate matter severely affects human health, it is unknown which particle properties are most harmful. Our new instrument allows quantifying the overall oxidising properties of aerosols, postulated to be especially harmful. Field measurements were performed in London and Beijing to better understand the magnitude and temporal variability of this novel aerosol toxicity parameter.