A University of Alberta chemistry professor is getting $158,000 in lab equipment to study urban air pollution. Just think of dust, vehicles slamming on the breaks and the sound of screeching tires.
Chemist Sarah Styler sees potential answers in not only the dust particles that float in our air, but also the metal that’s mixed in with that, and what happens to it when gases in the air like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and the ozone mix with it.
Styler wants to know if that’s a good thing when these come together, or a bad thing.
“That’s a very good question, we don’t actually know at this point, so the idea is to figure out what reactions can take place then we can access by providing that data to air quality modeling researchers, they can get a better idea of that.”
Some of the metals are fragments from brake pads, rubber from tires as well as soil and gravel bits laid down by the city to handle winter driving, and picked up when the season is over in the spring.
“Some of it is small enough to stay in the atmosphere, and the interesting thing is we don’t know what kind of atmospheric reactions can happen on the surface of that dust so that’s why we’re investigating it,” Styler said.
The federal Liberals announced $51 million from the John R. Evans leaders fund for 223 projects across Canada at 39 universities. The U of A is getting in on 14 projects, for $2.1 million. Minister Amarjeet Sohi made the announcement last week.
“We believe very strongly that the new economy requires investment in new science and technology to strengthen our middle class, grow our economy and create opportunities for Canadians,” Sohi said. “That’s why we are so committed to investing in the University of Alberta as well as universities across this nation.”
Styler laughed when asked if there was a commercial application for her work, but said there are people who make materials that are light reactive. Her focus is looking at materials a natural environment how do they react in the real world.
“When we understand that then we can predict air quality in cities.”