Characterising Ultrafine Particles at Heathrow Airport

Stacey, Brian (2022). Characterising Ultrafine Particles at Heathrow Airport. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Exposure to ultrafine particles (UFP) is increasingly associated with adverse health outcomes. However, measurement of UFP in the ambient environment is generally not widespread, which limits both understanding and data for detailed assessment of the health impact. Of particular interest is the impact of airport and aircraft activities on UFP concentrations, as there are no abatement strategies for emissions from aircraft engines and jet fuel typically has a relatively high sulphur content, which can contribute to UFP formation during combustion.

Three UFP measurement studies were undertaken between 2016 and 2019 to progressively understand the environment around Heathrow Airport:

• The study in 2016 was carefully arranged to put airport measurements into context with representative traffic, residential and rural measurements in the south of England. As far as possible, the analysers, configurations and QA/QC used at the airport was the same as the analysers used in the UK regulatory monitoring network. The results clearly show that local airport activity has a very significant effect on local concentrations. The size distribution of airport-related UFP was seen to be different to other locations; particles smaller than 30 nm were observed in far higher numbers at the airport. Departing aircraft were associated with higher UFP concentrations than arriving aircraft.

• The 2017 study was designed to just investigate particles smaller than 100 nm, at a faster time resolution than conventional analyser configurations. This study confirmed UFP measurements were greater in number concentration from departing aircraft and also from larger aircraft within that subset.

• The 2019 study made use of a very fast UFP analyser, accurate aircraft location data and meteorology to uniquely associate UFP measurements with individual aircraft. The data were used to calculate emission rates for each aircraft type, which were found to be much higher than stated literature values. This is almost certainly due to measurement of condensable particles not accounted for in the published literature data. Larger and older aircraft were associated with higher measurements and emission rates, not necessarily mitigated by carrying more passengers.

In 2021, the World Health Organization published guidance for recommended maximum hourly and daily exposure to UFP. The recorded measurements from all three studies exceeded these guide values; UFP exposure at large airports will be a key area of interest for future research and health assessments.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences


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