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Understanding our atmosphere through chemical analysis and informing government policies on climate

Research was carried out in our Atmospheric and Planetary Chemistry Group

Summary of the impact
Air pollution is a major health concern and government policy driver. Leeds researchers and colleagues have developed a detailed chemical mechanism which describes reactions in the lower atmosphere leading to the formation of ozone and secondary particulate matter, key air pollutants. The so-called ‘master chemical mechanism’ (MCM) is considered the ‘gold standard’ and has been used by the UK government and industry groups to inform their position on EU legislation and by the US EPA to validate and extend their regulatory models.

The Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department has used the MCM to identify key ozone precursors and provide evidence for abatement strategies.

Underpinning research
Ozone and particulate matter (PM) are important atmospheric pollutants. Ozone is formed from the photo-oxidation, in the presence of nitrogen oxides (NOx), of the large number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted both naturally and from man-made sources. Oxidation of VOCs also contributes substantially to PM formation. The master chemical mechanism (MCM) describes these complex mechanisms quantitatively. It is based on our current understanding of atmospheric oxidation chemistry; is traceable to experimental measurements and estimations of reaction rates and mechanisms; represents a synthesis of current knowledge; and provides a web-based resource for atmospheric chemistry modelling applications.