Beautiful Beijing benefits all mankind
Particle emissions are currently measured in Beijing using sensor technology developed by Pegasor Ltd. as well as Postdoctoral Researcher Jaakko Yli-Ojanperä (left) and Adjunct Professor Topi Rönkkö at TUT. Miikka Dal Maso (right) brings his expertise in atmospheric research to the project.
I can feel your hand but cannot see your face. This Chinese proverb is a startlingly apt description of daily life in Beijing.
Comments about the air quality are a staple of conversation in Beijing: the heavy smog shrouding the city smells and tastes foul and stings the eyes.
”Last time I visited Beijing, the Air Quality Index hovered between 300 and 400, exceeding the Finnish air quality standards by more than tenfold,” says Associate Professor Miikka Dal Maso from TUT.
Dal Maso’s visit to Beijing was prompted by his research collaboration with the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences (CRAES) under the MMEA research programme of Cleen Ltd. TUT and CRAES are laying the foundations for further Sino-Finnish collaboration under the Beautiful Beijing agreement.
Signed in summer 2013, the agreement seeks to improve the living conditions in Beijing. Finland and China are set to collaborate in the areas of energy production and distribution, building and construction, traffic and transportation, industry, and air quality monitoring and analysis over the next few years. For Finnish cleantech companies, the Beautiful Beijing project opens up a tremendous opportunity to capture a share of China’s fast-growing market.
Full spectrum of expertise
In the next five years, China will spend more than 200 billion euros to reduce air pollution.
TUT’s partner in Beijing is the Tampere-based company Pegasor Ltd., which has developed sensor technology for monitoring fine particle concentrations. In addition to Dal Maso’s research group, the project involves Adjunct Professor Topi Rönkkö’s group in the Aerosol Physics Laboratory at TUT. The researchers in the latter group have conducted multiple on-site air quality and exhaust measurements in Finland and Germany using Pegasor’s device.
Rönkkö’s group specializes in characterizing theparticles generated by engines, vehicles and traffic and studying how the selected technologies affect particle emissions. The research interests of Miikka Dal Maso’s group lie in the atmospheric behaviour and climatic implications of fine particles.
At left, a view of Beijing on a clear day. At right, the city is shrouded in smog.
Coniferous forests help alleviate climate change
Associate Professor Miikka Dal Maso was part of an international team of researchers, who explored the process whereby aromatic hydrocarbons emitted by coniferous trees contribute to the formation of fine aerosol particles above boreal forests.
The researchers discovered a chemical oxidation mechanism by which these pine-scented vapours form airborne particles that promote cooling by stimulating cloud formation and reflecting sunlight back into space.
“The process warrants further investigation, but the findings already shed light on the important role hydrocarbons play in the origin of particles that cool our climate,” says Dal Maso.
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Reliable results through cross-disciplinary research
According to the researchers, their approach that combines atmospheric and emissions research is relatively new. However, it is the only reliable way to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of how aerosol particles are generated, transformed and dispersed through the air in Beijing.
“Pegasor’s sensors were installed in two measurement stations in Beijing in February. The sensors will remain in place for six months, gathering data that will be analysed by researchers at TUT and CRAES, where large volumes of previously collected air quality data are already stored. There’s a pressing need for more data analysis expertise in China,” say Dal Maso and Rönkkö.
Emissions in Beijing, rain in Africa
The researchers are taking the herculean task of fighting pollution in Beijing in their stride. In the first stage of the collaboration, they will be looking for existing technologies and quick-fix solutions to reduce smog.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Finland to showcase our expertise and at the same time hopefully improve the quality of life of millions of people.”
“The important role of the city’s local administration should not be overlooked. Beijing has pledged major investments into pollution control, which signifies that the local policies and attitudes towards environmental protection are changing,” the researchers say.
Emissions do not obey national borders, so the efforts to curb air pollution in Beijing will benefit the entire planet.
“A reduction in fine particle emissions may also have far-reaching effects. For example, high levels of particles in China can affect rainfall patterns all the way in Africa,” explains Miikka Dal Maso.