The 15-year study by researchers in South Australia and Germany. So they mapped the source, journey and effect of ultrafine particles. All in the lower troposphere.
It found filtration systems on modern coal-fired power stations are the biggest individual source of ultrafine particles (UFPs). That’s ahead of urban road traffic.
Results gathered using ultralight research trikes and other small plane around the world, including Mongolia, Germany, Mexico, China and Australia. The flying laboratories equipped with highly sensitive instruments. As well as sensors measuring dust particles, trace gases, temperature, humidity, wind and energy balances.
The research aircraft follows the ultrafine particles for more than 1000km. Therefore it also could still find from which power plant they originated.
We know that pollution isn’t visible to the naked eye. As well as they don’t generate haze. Also they are difficult to detect with optical equipment. So these particles have been before linked to respiratory issues.
The new research also links the ultrafine particles to weather disruptions such as a lack of rainfall near the power stations and increased rain intensity in pockets further away.
The study led by Professor Jorg Hacker from the Adelaide-based Airborne Research Australia, which affiliated with Flinders University in South Australia, and Professor Wolfgang Junkermann from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany.
Professor Hacker said when emitted, the miniscule particles could travel hundreds of kilometres and grow by coagulation and chemical processes. He said the ultrafine particles grew to sizes of about 40 nanometers after two to three hours of travel and became added cloud condensation nuclei, which then leads to a larger number of small cloud droplets to form than from natural processes.
“These cloud droplets are too small to fall out of the cloud immediately, where further away you can get very intense rainfalls,” he said.
“If you change the rainfall distribution, that is a dramatic effect. It changes the hydrology of the land.
“The effect is that you do not get less rain but the … This is a Creative Commons story fromThe Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia.