Professor Hartmut Boesch and Dr Josh Vande Hey
Reducing carbon emissions to prevent damaging climate change is one of the grand challenges of our time. Although most countries have now committed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases (thanks to the Paris Agreement), we currently have no reliable means of observing carbon emissions on the appropriate space and time scales required to provide a better understanding of emission sources to underpin mitigation policies (‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’).
A main focus will have to be on urban areas which cover only a small fraction of the land but are responsible for about 70% of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions. Historically carbon cycle studies have focused on ‘natural’ ecosystems, but since our understanding of carbon budget of cities is poor, urban carbon is quickly becoming a new frontier in carbon cycle science with the emergence of megacity carbon projects e.g. in LA and Paris. Understanding carbon at city scale can also inform local policy decisions on carbon mitigation and ensure that cities setting ambitious local goals are directing their efforts effectively.
Recent development in sensor technology provides now an opportunity for developing novel sensor networks using flexible and ‘low-cost’ CO2 sensors that can be deployed in urban environments to provide frequent measurements across a city in real-time. Such detailed data will allow us to gain new scientific insights into human-generated emissions from cities and CO2 uptake by the biosphere, which is important for ‘green’ cities such as London. There will also be opportunities for exploring synergistic approaches with upcoming satellites that target cities (but on larger spatial scales) and with existing air quality networks (NO2 and CO2 are co-emitted during fossil fuel burning).
This studentship will combine novel technology for low-cost sensors that will facilitate unique urban sensor networks and high profile science with high public interest, relevance to policy makers and a clear potential for commercial applications.
The studentship is supported by the partner EarthSense Ltd., a Leicester-based company who specialises in air quality sensors and pollution modelling and by EMPA, the Swiss Federal Laboratory for Material Science and Technology, who have established a pioneering CO2 network in Switzerland and who will host the student for an internship.
In this project, we will develop novel low-cost CO2 sensors to create urban measurement networks to gain insights into carbon emission from cities. We will use flexible, ‘low-cost’ non-dispersive CO2 sensors (contributed by the National Centre for Earth Observation) that are now available. We will carefully characterise and calibrate the sensors (against reference sensors) and prepare them for autonomous operation benefitting from the experience of the commercial partner EarthSense Ltd. and the collaboration with EMPA. The sensors will be deployed in Leicester (mid-size) and London (megacity) taking advantage of a current, large UK project (NERC DARE-UK) which will facility access to sites and give exposure to the wider community. Using atmospheric modelling (UK Name model) information on CO2 surface fluxes will be obtained which will then be used to critically evaluate city CO2 emission. As a final step, the student will assess the potential for commercial applications together with EarthSense.
1. Duren, R.M and C.E.Miller (2012), Measuring the Carbon Emissions of Megacities, Nature Climate Change 2, 560–562, doi:10.1038/nclimate1629