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  • First ULTRHAS test campaign in Rostock


First ULTRHAS test campaign in Rostock

In order to better assess the risks of air pollutants in the future, an international measurement campaign took place at the University of Rostock in November and December 2022.

In order to better assess the risks of air pollutants in the future, an international measurement campaign took place at the University of Rostock in November and December 2022.

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In the investigation of health hazards from particulate matter emissions and air pollution from the transport sector, the health hazards posed by ultrafine particles from traffic emissions in particular were addressed. The campaign is part of the project ULTRHAS (ULtrafine particles from TRansportation - Health Assessment of Sources), which is funded by the EU with over four million euros (Grant Agreement No. 955390). The overall aim of the project is to produce guidelines for the development of measures to improve air quality and health.

In ULTRHAS, the traffic emissions (both exhaust and non-exhaust emissions) emitted directly by a wide range of transport modes (petrol cars, diesel cars, ships, aircraft, abrasion from brakes and railway tracks, etc.) and the ultrafine particles formed from the emissions in the atmosphere by photochemical reactions in sunlight (so-called secondary particles, PhotoSMOG) are studied.

The first measurement campaign, of which the first part was carried out from 14.11.2022-14.12.2022 at the University of Rostock, aims to determine in detail the health hazards posed by emissions from aircraft turbines. In the second part of the campaign, scheduled to take place in Rostock in the spring 2023, it is planned to focus on emissions from ship engines. The joint tests of the international project consortium will be carried out on emission sources that are as real as possible. Researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the University of Eastern Finland, the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare, the University of Fribourg, Helmholtz Zentrum München, the University of the Bundeswehr Munich and the chairs of Analytical Chemistry and of Piston Engines and Internal Combustion Engines at the University of Rostock are working together in the joint project. In addition to the ULTRHAS partners, researchers from the Weizmann Institute in Israel, the University of Basel and the Research Centre Jülich are now joining the so far unique measurements in Rostock.

Effects of freshly emitted and aged exhaust gases on the lungs

For part one of the first Rostock measurement campaign, a kerosene-powered combustion chamber of a jet engine from the Institute of Aeronautical Engineering at the University of the Bundeswehr Munich was used. The tests were carried out in the test center of the Chair for Piston Engines at the University of Rostock.

In a special ageing reactor of the University of Eastern Finland, the aerosols were atmospherically aged with UV light and ozone to investigate how the toxicity in the environment develops over time. For this purpose, a mobile biological safety laboratory for toxicological investigations as well as measuring equipment for aerosol chemistry and physics were on site from the Helmholtz Zentrum München. In addition, sophisticated measuring equipment, such as a novel single particle mass spectrometer and high-resolution laser mass spectrometers, were also used to gain a deeper understanding of the composition of the emissions.

Rostock campaign_1.jpg

Prof Zimmermann and the rest of the test campaign group in Rostock.

The simultaneous investigation of the physico-chemical properties and the atmospheric ageing processes of the emissions, as well as deeper insights into their biological and toxicological effects on lung cell cultures, make it possible to relate the properties of the emissions to their effects on health. In unique exposure systems, lung cell cultures were observed directly at the air-liquid interface for this purpose, mimicking the situation in the human lung. Finally, the effects of freshly emitted and aged emissions on the lung models will be investigated using advanced bioanalytical techniques and bioinformatic methods. In this way, predictions can be made about how physical and chemical emission characteristics of the different transport types can influence the biological effects and cause health effects.

Initial experiments conducted by the consortium at the University of Eastern Finland showed that atmospheric ageing caused by sunlight significantly increases the toxicity even of emissions from automobiles equipped with the latest exhaust gas cleaning technology (EURO 6). The partners of the ULTRHAS research project now want to answer whether similar effects can also be observed for ship and aircraft emissions.

The overall objective of the project is to improve the risk assessment of air pollutants from transport, to determine the relative toxicity of emissions from different transport modes, and to advise policy makers and regulators on more targeted measures to control those emission components and sources that contribute most to adverse effects.