A group of researchers from Chemistry has recently returned from Beijing where they studied the composition of the urban atmosphere and the chemistry contributing to the formation of the smog “hazes”, which have been in the news so much lately.
China’s economy has expanded rapidly over the last decade or so, but this has been accompanied by prevalent pollution episodes associated with fine particulate matter, which poses a real threat to public health. The research is part of the Atmospheric Pollution & Human Health in a Developing Megacity programme, funded by the National Environmental Research Council. A large field campaign involving several groups from UK universities took part, in close collaboration with groups from Chinese universities. Led by Professor Dwayne Heard and Dr Lisa Whalley from Chemistry, together with their PhD students Robert Woodward-Massey and Ellie Slater, and postdoc Dr Jack Ye, the Leeds researchers made measurements of key chemical intermediates at a site in central Beijing (see photo). The measurements included the hydroxyl (OH) radical – a central player in the chemical transformation of Beijing’s emissions into secondary products, for example ozone and secondary organic aerosol, which are harmful when inhaled. The work is supported by modelling efforts from Professor Dominick Spracklen and Dr Graham Mann of the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds. The group will return to Beijing for a measurement campaign this summer.