Hunting hidden particles

Scientists at the University of Hertfordshire are assessing ‘hidden’ particles in the air that we breathe and are developing methods to measure them.

According to Professor Ranjeet Sokhi, Head of the University’s Atmospheric Science Research Group (ASRG), current assessment methods for predicting air particles have not fully taken into account certain categories of air particles which do not come from vehicle exhausts. These include those from worn tyres, brakes and road surfaces. As a result current predictions of air pollution can be inaccurate.

Professor Sokhi commented: ‘A large proportion of air particles come from sources such as exhausts and construction processes, but there are other sources connected with traffic that are missing which means that there is a gap between what we can currently predict and what is being measured.’

As a result, Professor Sokhi has been awarded £55,000 by the BOC Foundation to assess other sources of air particles and to recommend how their measurement can be implemented into the assessment procedures.

The researchers will conduct their research in sites such as the Hatfield Tunnel to estimate the contribution made by these non-exhaust sources.

Professor Sokhi added: ‘We need to know what is coming into the atmosphere. At the moment, we need a better understanding of what fraction of air particles are coming from vehicle exhausts and other sources. The finer particles get into people’s lungs so finding out about them is vital.’