Study of air pollution in China earns NSF grant

PULLMAN – Several researchers in Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Laboratory for Atmospheric Research are assessing air chemistry with the aid of an NSF grant to better understand air pollution and its impacts.


The grant, totaling more than $200,000, will help Brian Lamb, Regents Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering, and his team in their study of emissions and chemistry. Their research will primarily be done in the Tianjin region of China. Because this part of China is tremendously urban, it will give the researchers ample data on the quantity of pollutants being released in urban areas, leading to a better understanding of megacities’ impacts on the environment.

Lamb and his team will use an existing 250 meter tower to measure the flux of urban outputs. This will include organic gases and other pollutants including carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide, as well as carbon dioxide, a primary greenhouse gas.


This is the first time such a study has been undertaken in China, Lamb says. Concentrations of gases and particles have been studied, but this is the first research on pollution flux.

Timothy VanReken, CEE assistant professor, will specifically be studying particulates, small particles in the air. These particulates are generally the most detrimental to human health.

George Mount, CEE professor, will be using remote sensing instruments as a different technique to detect fluxes of air pollution particles.


All this work will combine to give researchers a more complete understanding of how cities, in China and around the world, impact the local and global environments through air pollution.

Part of the importance of the project, Lamb said, is collaboration with Chinese officials and researchers at the Tianjin Meteorology Bureau and the Chinese Academy of the Sciences. He believes this will lead to a relationship and future work together. The group will also work with the US National Center for Atmospheric Research.

The project will last through September, with groups cycling in and out during the month, giving several PhD students an opportunity to participate.

Assistant Research Professor Serena Chung, is working on a related project under the same grant. Instead of urban landscapes, Chung is working to understand the impacts of forested landscapes on atmospheric chemistry.

Chung will create models and compare the data to actual measurements to see which models are reliable. These models will then be used for future predictions and areas without observation.

This research should eventually help policy-makers understand air pollution and climate change and how to mitigate it, Chung says.