Commissioned by the Ministry of Environment: Researcher from Bayreuth heads ultra-fine particulate measurement at Munich Airport

Under the direction of Prof. Dr. Anke C. Nölscher, Professor for Atmospheric Chemistry at the University of Bayreuth, ultra-fine particulate pollution in the vicinity of Munich Airport is to be measured over the next three years. The Bavarian State Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection (StMUV) trusts the project will provide insights into the formation and distribution of ultrafine particles (UFP), and into their chemical composition. This information could contribute to our better assessing the effects of ultra-fine particulates on humans and the environment.

The aim of the project, which was presented today by Bavarian Environment Minister Thorsten Glauber in Massenhausen near Freising, is to carry out continuous stationary measurements of ultrafine particles and air quality at two locations in the vicinity of Munich Airport over the three-year project period. The project will characterize ultrafine particulate – very small, ultrafine particles less than 100 nm in diameter – in the air at ground level. The measured values will be related to measurements in the vicinity of other airports, and compared with typical data from other environments such as road traffic. The results of the standardized measurements will also be compared with those gained using mobile, low-cost particle counters.

Prof. Dr. Anke Nölscher, holder of the Professorship of Atmospheric Chemistry at the University of Bayreuth, is to head the Bavarian State Ministry of the Environment and Consumer Protection project to measure ultrafine particulate at Munich Airport. Photo: private

“The investigation of ultra-fine particulate in the vicinity of airports will first show what quantities and what sizes of ultra-fine particles are released into the air near the ground, and from there to inhabited areas, through various sources of emission”, says Prof. Dr. Anke Nölscher and explains: “In a second step, we will develop a method to analyse the chemical composition of the ultrafine particles. This analysis will help us assign the origin of the measured particles, and estimate their effects on humans and the environment.”

That airports and road traffic can be sources of ultra-fine particulate has already been established. It is assumed that ultra-fine particulate acts in a similar fashion to fine particulate. To date, no specific legal regulations for ultra-fine particulate have been passed, chiefly because of a lack of comparable data sets. It is also unclear to what extent the effects of ultra-fine particulate on humans differ from those of particulate matter previously regulated by law. The new project will expand on the existing data, and promises to contribute to solving these questions.

Prof. Dr. Anke C. Nölscher has been teaching and researching atmospheric chemistry at the University of Bayreuth and the Bayreuth Centre for Ecology and Environmental Research (BayCEER) since April 2019. She studied meteorology and gained her doctorate at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry with measurements on exchange processes between the biosphere and the atmosphere. As a post-doc she conducted research on the Brazilian rainforest and the Atlantic Ocean. In a second post-doc phase, she developed a new field instrument for the detection of oxidized organic trace gases at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California. In recent years, Anke Nölscher led metrological projects involving the synoptic ground measuring stations of the German Weather Service until she accepted the offer of a junior professorship at the University of Bayreuth. Now, under her lead, the Atmospheric Chemistry research group is undergoing a reorientation to a research focus on the interactions – both natural and human-made – between the earth’s surface and the atmosphere.