RESEARCH ACTIVITIES

Our main research activities cover the following subject areas

Air Quality

EGAR research on Air Quality aims at understanding the chemical and physical processes responsible for the emission, transport, fate and removal of atmospheric pollutants with impact on human health and vegetation. The main objective is to investigate measures (technological and non-technological) to reduce emissions, concentrations or exposure.

Aerosols and Climate

Atmospheric aerosols affect the radiative balance of the Earth-atmosphere system and the Earth’s climate directly through scattering and absorption of solar radiation. Indirectly, by acting as cloud condensation nuclei, atmospheric aerosols can modify cloud properties and precipitation.

Exposure

Major knowledge gaps remain regarding exposure to fine and ultrafine particles in indoor and outdoor environments. Our aim is to research the pathways of human exposure to air pollutants in both types of environments, and to understand and quantify the contribution of different emission sources on health.

Industrial Emissions

Industrial emissions from large industrial facilities (coal-fired power plants, ceramic and cement industry, refineries) are important sources of air pollutants (SOx, NOx, and particulate matter (PM)) producing also significant emissions to water and soil.

Industrial waste

Since the earlier 1980s the research group is developing research on environmental valorisation of industrial wastes with special emphasis on coal combustion/gasification residues. Besides emissions industries generate high amounts of solid residues. These wastes may be toxic, ignitable, corrosive or reactive. If improperly managed, this waste can pose dangerous health and environmental consequences.

Ongoing Projects

GRASS

Air pollution provokes cardiovascular and respiratory diseases but also decelerates the neurodevelopment. Vertical vegetation barriers (green walls) may reduce exposure to atmospheric pollutants of vulnetrable receptors such as school children. The GRASS project will evaluate experimentaly the efficiency of green barriers at two schools of Barcelona in real-world conditions. Project funded by the Public Health Agency of Barcelona (ASPB).

Contact: Fulvio Amato

ROCD

Reducing risks from Occupational exposure to Coal Dust (ROCD) EU Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS) project #754205 Despite international efforts to limit worker exposure, coal mine dusts continue to impact the health of thousands of miners across Europe. Modern, practicable assessment tools and devices are urgently needed to improve risk models, control dusts and protect workers, particularly from the fine fraction (PM2.5) which is increasingly implicated in human disease. These issues will be addressed through 5 integrated work packages (WPs) by a world-leading interdisciplinary consortium of 10 institutions from UK, Poland, Slovenia, Germany and Spain. Global dissemination of developed protocols and training modules, and improved monitoring and suppression devices will reduce incidences of coal mining-related disease…

Project link: ROCD

Contact: Teresa Moreno

HOUSE PROJECT

The HOUSE project aims at investigating the atmospheric scenarios and processes yielding to the high formation rates of ozone (O3), ultrafine particles (UFP) and secondary aerosols (SA) typical of the Western Mediterranean Basin in summer. In this area the formation of high levels of these atmospheric constituents take place in a very complex system in which solar radiation, humidity, temperature, volatile organic compounds, inorganic gaseous pollutants, halogens, radicals, ozone and ultrafine particles play a major role. The analysis of these processes is important for policies focusing on abatement of both climate forcing and health-ecosystems effects of air pollution. The HOUSE project will provide important information for designing and assessing air quality and climate plans for abating photochemical pollutants in Spain. Within the HOUSE project the optical characterization of tropospheric aerosols will consist of both ground and columnar measurements performed at the Montseny and Montsec GAW/ACTRIS stations. The obtained extensive and intensive aerosol optical measurements will be related with the physical and chemical measurements of aerosols in order to derive site-specific aerosol optical parameters considered as fundamental inputs for climate models and policies.

Contact: Xavier Querol, Andrés Alastuey

COLOSSAL

COST Action CA16109 Chemical On-Line cOmpoSition and Source Apportionment of fine aerosoL, COLOSSAL focuses on fine atmospheric aerosols. It is well known that exposure to aerosols exerts a negative impact on human health and that aerosols affect climate and the environment. These effects are dependent on the composition and sources of these fine atmospheric aerosols (particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter below 2.5 µm, PM2.5). The main challenge of the Action is to consistently assess their spatial variability (across Europe), their temporal variability (at a one hour time resolution or better), their seasonality (using long term datasets), their phenomenology (chemical composition) and their sources. To this end many research groups and some air quality monitoring networks in Europe and across the world have acquired recently-developed chemical composition measurement instrumentation. These include the Aerosol Chemical Speciation Monitor (ACSM) (based on Aerosol Mass Spectrometer (AMS) technology), which measures non-refractory ammonium, nitrate, sulfate, chloride, and organic mass, and instruments that measure the refractory black carbon, such as the Aethalometer and Multi Angle Absorption Photometer (MAAP). These new high time resolution techniques, which chemically characterize the aerosols, are capable of operating for long time periods and have only been available in 5-10 years. The processing and interpretation of the data from these instruments has matured to a stage where harmonized across Europe is now possible; this will be achieved by a network built through the present Action to jointly develop the capacity for the interpretation of the measurements gathered using these techniques. 
The outcomes of the Action will be relevant for air quality modellers and policy makers.

Links: Cost, Colossal

Contact: María Cruz Minguillón

AEROSOL HYGROSCOPICITY

Aerosol optical properties are strongly dependent on ambient relative humidity. Depending on their size, composition and the ambient humidity, atmospheric particles will take up varying amounts of water, thereby altering their optical properties and impacting their contribution to aerosol radiative forcing. Along with particle size, this humidity dependence also plays an important role in the life cycle of atmospheric particles including their growth into cloud droplets and wet deposition processes removing them from the atmosphere. Global models use a variety of schemes for implementing hygroscopic growth. The representation of hygroscopic growth in models may result in predicted aerosol optical properties being quite different from observations. To date the ability of global models to predict hygroscopic growth has not been rigorously evaluated against in-situ measurements due in part to the lack of harmonized and globally available hygroscopicity data.

Contact: Gloria Titos

PREDEXPIN

Prediction of emissions and exposure to micro- and nanoparticles in industrial environments Major knowledge gaps remain regarding exposure to fine and ultrafine particles in indoor air. Industrial environments are a special case study, given the broad range of sources and processes with potential to generate particle emissions and therefore exposure to these contaminants. However, to date, studies on air quality in this kind of environments are relatively scarce in the scientific literature. Unlike direct emissions, fugitive particulate emissions in industrial environments lack legal guidelines (e.g., limit values), and this is mainly because of the absence of a sound scientific basis on which the mechanisms and processes by which they are generated are described. Therefore, these indoor emissions have a large potential for improvement to reduce impacts on air quality, health, and possibly climate. The overall objective of the PREDEXPIN project is to assess the impact of industrial activities on air quality and exposure to micro- (PM) and nanoparticles (NP) in indoor air. To this end, the mechanisms controlling particle release to workplace air in industrial environments and their impact on personal exposure are being evaluated in a number of selected indoor industrial processes under real-world operating conditions at pilot plant-scale. IThe processes selected are both traditional and innovative, being mechanical in nature (e.g., handling of nanoparticles, milling/grinding activities) and thermal (e.g., plasma projection). The potential impact of these emissions of on outdoor air emissions is also assessed. In parallel to these activities, dustiness tests are being carried out to determine PM and NP emissions from selected raw materials, using a highly innovative approach based on the development of a novel modular tool. The ultimate goal of the project is to improve indoor air quality in industrial environments by achieving a better understanding of the release mechanisms of particles in indoor air, which will in turn allow for the design and implementation of adequate and tailored mitigation strategies. The project will have a major impact on four main areas: (a) the assessment of the levels of exposure to micro- and nano-scaled particulates in industrial environments; (b) increased understanding of the release mechanisms and processes of particles in indoor and outdoor air from industrial activities; (c) mitigation of the impacts of these emissions on indoor air quality and on worker exposure, by developing effective mitigation strategies; (d) the optimisation of industrial processes by increasing their efficiency through the reduction of fugitive emissions.

Contact: Mar Viana and Mª Cruz Minguillón

BREATHE

BRain dEvelopment and Air polluTion ultrafine particles in scHool childrEn Childhood is a critical period for brain maturation and mental development. It involves many factors. Several studies in animals have generated the hypothesis that ultrafine particles in city air may interfere negatively in the development. Discover the level of pollution in schools and understand their role in child health is one of the challenges of our time. This knowledge will create healthy environments and healthy for future generations to the present. Aim Studying the impact of air pollution in cities on the cognitive development of children Characteristics of the study The study will involve children in second, third and fourth of 40 primary schools in Barcelona with different pollution levels.

Project link: Breathe

CERASAFE

Safe production and Use of Nanomaterials in the Ceramic Industry CERASAFE aims to assess and improve environmental health and safety (EHS) in the ceramic industry. The project's objective is to study industrial processes and activities, which may generate nanoparticle emissions into workplace air, and to assess worker exposure by evaluating the particle release processes, characterizing the particles emitted, and understanding their toxicity. Finally, mitigation measures to minimize exposure will be proposed. CERASAFE will also develop a tool to discriminate engineered nanoceramic particles from background aerosols, thus innovating in the field of characterisation methods relevant for EHS. The project will establish a set of Good Manufacturing and Use Practices for nanoceramic materials. Results will be collected in a public database complemented with risk assessment and including recommendations for industry, users and stakeholders to ensure the safe production process for nanoceramic materials.

Project link: Cerasafe

Contact: Mar Viana

CAPTOR

CAPTOR (Collective Awareness Platform for TroposphEric Ozone Pollution) is an H2020 project which aims to: - install and maintain a network of low-cost sensors for ozone monitoring with and for European citizens
 - deliver high quality, low cost and scientifically relevant ozone data from the sensor network
 - support processes of discussion and learning on local level to find solutions to ozone problems (involving local decision makers, citizens, organisations and researchers)
 - actively involve and empower European citizens to stimulate ownership and responsibility CAPTOR started in January 2016 with 8 partners and is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme under the Grant Agreement No. 68810. Project link: Captor

Contact: Mar Viana

AIRUSE LIFE+ and AXAir

The main objective of AIRUSE project -Testing and development of air quality mitigation measures in Southern Europe (LIFE11/ENV/ES/584)- is to provide the National Authorities of Southern European countries with the appropriate measures to reduce PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations in urban air. Have a look at our video presentation. AIRUSE conclusions on PM source apportionment, PM mitigation trials will be presented as well as the suggested measures to decrease PM in 5 Southern European cities, targeted to meet air quality standards and to approach, as much as possible, the WHO guidelines. A guidebook on mitigation measures to be applied in cities will be available soon in 5 languages (English, Italian, Greek , Spanish and Portuguese). Apply for a free hardcopy or digital copy here

Project link: Ariuse

Contact: Xavier Querol

ECO-BRAKE

The main goal of Eco-BRAKE is the research on new materials for passenger cars brake pads with reduced emissions of particulate matter and heavy metals and metalloids, given their high health impact. By means of the advanced experimental techniques, and the synergy between research and vehicle industry our aim is to produce insights for a future regulation on brake pad materials in Europe.

Proyecto realizado con la Ayuda Fundación BBVA a Investigadores y Creadores Culturales 2016

Contact: Fulvio Amato

BUSAIR

New technical improvements in monitoring equipment are producing increasingly sophisticated instruments that are becoming more portable, making it practical for an individual to monitor a range of different air quality parameters (PM sizes and number, various gases) simultaneously while moving through the city. This opens up the possibility of recording much more accurately the actual real-time dose of air pollutants inhaled daily by regular commuters. Our starting hypothesis is that the quality of the air we breathe while commuting by public bus will vary greatly according on the type of fuel and post treatment (e.g. SCRT filters) technology, route chosen, location inside the bus and infiltration of outdoor air, the latter mostly related to the age of the bus and seasonal variations influencing ventilation and air conditioning operating conditions. The primary objective of this project is to significantly improve our understanding of what controls air quality inside public buses, identifying the effect of each variable to allow us to elaborate a protocol of best practice regarding air quality while commuting in this transport mode.

Contact: Teresa Moreno

IMPROVE LIFE+

The overall aim of IMPROVE (Implementing Methodologies and Practices to Reduce air pollution Of the subway enVironmEnt) is to provide a benchmark study that will lead to real improvement in subway air quality. Published research has shown that in some cases air quality in subway stations and access tunnels can be poor, although the amount of information available remains rather limited and piecemeal in character. Physical measurements frequently consider only one aerosol size fraction, sampling campaigns may be limited in time and place, and chemical analyses are usually partial and/or small in number. IMPROVE LIFE is bringing together all information published in different cities across the world over the last 20 years, identify the main pollution sources, and ascertain just where we are in our understanding of the subject. The understanding and conclusions reached from this initial state-of-the-art overview of the problem will then be applied to the underground rail system in Barcelona.

Project link: Improve Life+

Contact: Teresa Moreno

PRISMA

Optical properties and radiative forcing of atmospheric aerosols in the Western Mediterranean depending on aerosol sources and chemical composition. The PRISMA project (MEC , CGL2012-39623-C02-01) has as major objective to assess the direct radiative forcing caused by the tropospheric aerosols in the Western Mediterranean Basin (WMB). With the PRISMA project the first database on physical, chemical and optical properties of tropospheric aerosols in the WMB was obtained through in-situ surface measurements performed at remote mountain top stations (> 1500 m) with no local anthropogenic emissions influence. Moreover, ceilometers data and information from instrumented flights allowed the detailed physic-chemical characterization of different aerosol layers which typically form in the area through regional recirculation processes. Thanks to the PRISMA project the sources of aerosols with major impact on the climate of the WMB were determined and characterized thus allowing the study of the relationship between Air Quality and Climate.

Contact: Andrés Alastuey, Marco Pandolfi

ACTRIS-2

ACTRIS is the European Research Infrastructure for the observation of Aerosol, Clouds, and Trace gases. ACTRIS is composed of observing stations, exploratory platforms, instruments calibration centres, and a data centre. ACTRIS serves a vast community working on models and forecast systems by offering high quality data for atmospheric gases, clouds, and trace gases. The primary objective of ACTRIS is to provide the 4D-variability of clouds and of the physical, optical and chemical properties of short-lived atmospheric species, from the surface throughout the troposphere to the stratosphere, with the required level of precision, coherence and integration. The EGAR research group provides high quality, quality assured and quality checked data on aerosol chemical and physical properties measured at Montseny and Montsec sites since 2002.

Project link: Actris-2

Contact: Andrés Alastuey

Collaborations

Research is carried out in strong collaboration with other Spanish research organizations


University of Huelva,
Centro de Estudios Ambientales del Mediterráneao (CEAM),
Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas,
Medioambientales y Tecnológicas (CIEMAT),
Instituto de Tecnología Cerámica-Universitat Jaume I (ITC-UJI)
and Centro de Investigación Atmosférica de Izaña-Agencia Estatal de Meteorología (CIAI-AEMET).

These organizations are official “Associated Units” to CSIC for research on atmospheric pollution.