Long-term trends in fine particle number concentrations in the urban atmosphere of Brisbane : the relevance of traffic emissions and new particle formation

Mejia, Jaime F. (2008) Long-term trends in fine particle number concentrations in the urban atmosphere of Brisbane : the relevance of traffic emissions and new particle formation. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The measurement of submicrometre (< 1.0 m) and ultrafine particles (diameter < 0.1 m) number concentration have attracted attention since the last decade because the potential health impacts associated with exposure to these particles can be more significant than those due to exposure to larger particles. At present, ultrafine particles are not regularly monitored and they are yet to be incorporated into air quality monitoring programs. As a result, very few studies have analysed their long-term and spatial variations in ultrafine particle concentration, and none have been in Australia.

To address this gap in scientific knowledge, the aim of this research was to investigate the long-term trends and seasonal variations in particle number concentrations in Brisbane, Australia. Data collected over a five-year period were analysed using weighted regression models. Monthly mean concentrations in the morning (6:00-10:00) and the afternoon (16:00-19:00) were plotted against time in months, using the monthly variance as the weights. During the five-year period, submicrometre and ultrafine particle concentrations increased in the morning by 105.7% and 81.5% respectively whereas in the afternoon there was no significant trend. The morning concentrations were associated with fresh traffic emissions and the afternoon concentrations with the background. The statistical tests applied to the seasonal models, on the other hand, indicated that there was no seasonal component.

The spatial variation in size distribution in a large urban area was investigated using particle number size distribution data collected at nine different locations during different campaigns. The size distributions were represented by the modal structures and cumulative size distributions. Particle number peaked at around 30 nm, except at an isolated site dominated by diesel trucks, where the particle number peaked at around 60 nm. It was found that ultrafine particles contributed to 82%-90% of the total particle number. At the sites dominated by petrol vehicles, nanoparticles (< 50 nm) contributed 60%-70% of the total particle number, and at the site dominated by diesel trucks they contributed 50%. Although the sampling campaigns took place during different seasons and were of varying duration these variations did not have an effect on the particle size distributions. The results suggested that the distributions were rather affected by differences in traffic composition and distance to the road.

To investigate the occurrence of nucleation events, that is, secondary particle formation from gaseous precursors, particle size distribution data collected over a 13 month period during 5 different campaigns were analysed. The study area was a complex urban environment influenced by anthropogenic and natural sources. The study introduced a new application of time series differencing for the identification of nucleation events. To evaluate the conditions favourable to nucleation, the meteorological conditions and gaseous concentrations prior to and during nucleation events were recorded. Gaseous concentrations did not exhibit a clear pattern of change in concentration. It was also found that nucleation was associated with sea breeze and long-range transport. The implications of this finding are that whilst vehicles are the most important source of ultrafine particles, sea breeze and aged gaseous emissions play a more important role in secondary particle formation in the study area.

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ID Code: 26283
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Morawska, Lidia & Mengersen, Kerrie
Keywords: submicrometre particles, ultrafine particles, nanoparticles, number concentration, number size distribution, modal structure, number median diameter, nucleation, wind sector, brisbane, traffic, total concentration, trends, seasonality, secondary particle
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Past > Schools > School of Physical & Chemical Sciences
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 10 Jul 2009 05:11
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:53

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