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A new approach can predict pollution from cooking emissions

Organic aerosols may stay in the atmosphere for several days. Because of nanostructures formed by fatty acids as they are released into the air.

Scientists will be able to better understand and predict their impact on the environment and the climate, by identifying the processes which control how these aerosols are transformed in the atmosphere.

Universities of Birmingham and Bath scientists have used instruments at the Diamond Light Source and the Central Laser Facility. These are based at the Harwell Campus in Oxford. Scientists wanted to probe the behavior of thin films of oleic acid which is an unsaturated fatty acid commonly released when cooking.

Scientists analysed the particular molecular properties that control how rapidly aerosol emissions can be broken down in the atmosphere. Then they used a theoretical model combined with experimental data. Scientists were able to predict the amount of time aerosols produced from cooking may hang around in the environment.

These types of aerosols have long been associated with poor air quality in urban areas. But their impact on human-made climate change is hard to gauge. This is because diverse range of molecules found within aerosols and their varying interactions with the environment.

Scientists identified the nanostructure of molecules emitted during cooking that slows down the break-up of organic aerosols. It becomes possible to model how they are transported and dispersed into the atmosphere.

Cooking aerosols account for up to 10 percent of particulate matter (PM) emissions in the UK. Finding accurate ways to predict their behavior will give us much more precise ways to also assess their contribution to climate change.


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