Air pollution

The Earth's atmosphere, which is studied by atmospheric chemists at the University of Leeds

Understanding our atmosphere through chemical analysis and informing government policies on climate.

Impact summary

Air pollution is a major health concern and government policy driver. Leeds researchers have developed a detailed chemical mechanism, which describes reactions in the lower atmosphere leading to the formation of ozone and secondary particulate matter, key air pollutants. 

The so-called ‘master chemical mechanism’ (MCM) is now considered the ‘gold standard’. It’s been used by the UK government and industry groups to inform their position on EU legislation, and by the US Environmental Protection Agency to validate and extend their regulatory models. The Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department has used the MCM to identify key ozone precursors and provide evidence for reduction strategies.

Underpinning research

Ozone and particulate matter (PM) are important atmospheric pollutants. Ozone is formed from the photo-oxidation, in the presence of nitrogen oxides (NOx), of the large number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted both naturally and from man-made sources. Oxidation of VOCs also contributes substantially to PM formation. 

The MCM developed by our researchers describes these complex mechanisms quantitatively. It’s based on our current understanding of atmospheric oxidation chemistry, and is traceable to experimental measurements and estimations of reaction rates and mechanisms.

It also represents a synthesis of current knowledge, and provides a web-based resource for atmospheric chemistry modelling applications.

The research was undertaken by our Atmospheric and Planetary Chemistry research group.