Poor air quality is a global transboundary problem associated with 8.9 million deaths annually from the inhalation of particulate matter (PM): a complex mixture of solid and liquid particles suspended in air. Anthropogenic PM is largely composed of metal species absorbed to a carbon core, the chemical and isotopic composition of these metals is dependent on the source of the pollution and may ultimately determine its toxicity.
It is becoming widely recognised that in many urban centres air quality is a significant problem. However, in order to design effective mitigation strategies, we must first acquire a detailed understanding of the sources of the pollution.
1. Can isotopic techniques, like Pb, Sr, Nd (and other more exotic systems) be used as effective tracers of PM source?
2. Can laser ablation techniques be used to apportion source in a single sample of PM?
3. What is the source of PM in the port city of Southampton? Southampton has many potential sources of PM, what are the most important? And what is the role of the port?
How do we do it?
Different anthropogenic activities produce airborne pollution with different characteristics and different toxicities. At the Foster lab, in collaboration with Dr Matt Loxham in Medicine, we apply geochemical techniques to fingerprint the sources of PM recovered from samples of urban air and we are exploring new and novel isotopic systems and analytical techniques to facilitate improved source apportionment and its association with PM toxicity.
We are also working with our colleagues in the faculty of Engineering (Dr Steven Johnston and Prof Simon Cox) to design, construct and deploy low cost sensors across the city of Southampton (e.g. here). Combined with the geochemical and isotopic fingerprinting techniques this represents a comprehensive tool kit that allows for the effective monitoring, and therefore mitigation, of air pollution in cities around the world.
Bulot, F., Johnston, S., Basford, P. J., Easton, N. H. C., Apetroaie-Cristea, M., Foster, G., ... Loxham, M. (2019). Long-term field comparison of multiple low-cost particulate matter sensors in an outdoor urban environment. Scientific Reports, 9, 1-13. . DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-43716-3
Johnston, S., Basford, P. J., Bulot, F., Apetroaie-Cristea, M., Easton, N. H. C., Davenport, C., ... Cox, S. (2019). City scale particulate matter monitoring using LoRaWAN based air quality IoT devices. Sensors. DOI: 10.3390/s19010209