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Pollution from cooking emissions hangs in the air

Scientists are investigating how aerosols are transformed in the atmosphere in order to better understand and predict their impact on the environment and climate.

Experts at the Universities of Birmingham and Bath have used instruments at the Diamond Light Source and the Central Laser Facility to probe how thin films of oleic acid behave.

"Cooking can create nanoparticles that organize themselves into bi-layers and other regular shapes and stacks within aerosol droplets" said Dr. Adam Squires of the University of Bath. "This completely changes how fast they degrade, how long they persist in the atmosphere, and how they affect pollution and weather."

The study found that specific molecular properties control how quickly aerosol emissions can be broken down in the atmosphere.

Organic aerosols, such as those released in cooking, may stay in the atmosphere for several days because of nanostructures formed by fatty acids.

Using a theoretical model, the team was able to predict how long aerosols generated from cooking may hang around in the environment.

Aerosols have long been associated with poor air quality in urban areas, but the impact of these particles on human-made climate change is hard to gauge because of their diverse range of molecules and interactions with the environment.

The nanostructure of molecules emitted during cooking that slow down the break-up of organic aerosols can be used to model how they are transported and dispersed into the atmosphere.

Cooking aerosols account for up to 10% of particulate matter 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.

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the data was processed using the University of Birmingham's BlueBEAR high performance and high throughput computing service. This service employs some of the latest technology to deliver fast and efficient processing capacity for researchers while minimizing energy consumption by using direct, on-chip, water cooling.

Source: Science Daily