Sources and impacts of trace air pollutants

Energy Environment

“Sources and Impacts of Trace Air Pollutants” (S&I) Theme

It brings together the work of about 45 research staff, including 30 permanent and 15 non-permanent staff members.

The guiding scientific question is: “What are the sources and sinks, transformations and impacts of gaseous and particulate pollutants in ambient air, in a context of increasing anthropogenic pressure and climate change?

This research aims to better understand the composition of air in gaseous and particulate trace species (species in very low concentrations), their fate (sources, sinks and transformations) and their impacts on air quality and health, climate change and ecosystems.

The scientific strategy focuses on in situ surface observation, multifactorial description and interpretation. These observations are often coupled with the work which is part of the “Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Reactivity” theme.

Methods for measuring trace pollutants are therefore being developed and assessed in a controlled environment in the laboratory and in the field. The main recent achievements include the analytical and metrological development of reactive species in ambient air at the gas-particle interface, in particular VOCs, AOS and nitrogen (NH3) and sulphur (H2S) compounds, and the development of measuring devices for research on health (bioaccessibility and oxidative potential of aerosols). One phase dealt specifically with the development and assessment of microsensors for air pollutants, with the aim of deploying them in networks in order to better document the spatial variability of pollutant levels. All of these developments also serve the other “Homogeneous & Heterogeneous Reactivity” and “Indoor Air Quality” themes.

This work is based on participation in centres of expertise, both nationally with the Central Laboratory for Air Quality Monitoring (Laboratoire Central de Surveillance de la Qualité de l’Air, LCSQA, and at the European level with the Centre for Reactive Trace Gases in situ Measurements (CiGas) of the Aerosol, Clouds and Trace Gases Research Infrastructure (ACTRIS, The work is conducted through development projects such as the Innovative Air Monitoring Laboratory – LabCom IAM-Lab in partnership with TERA Group ( ).

In situ observation relies on long-term observation platforms (several decades) such as ACTRIS ATOLL (ATmospheric Observations in LiLLe), and sites which are part of the operational observatory for the assessment of long-range pollution (MERA). On the other hand, the range of online analysers and samplers installed at the OMEGA mobile laboratory is deployed for shorter periods (a few weeks to a few months) for more intensive observation campaigns on different types of receptor sites which are more or less distant from the source areas. Based on this strategy, the observations focus on anthropogenic and biogenic sources of VOCs and fine, organic and inorganic, primary and secondary particles, in urban and natural areas affected by different climates (oceanic, Mediterranean, tropical). The continuous characterisation of aerosol speciation in situ associated with the remote detection of the aerosol deployed by the Laboratory of Atmospheric Optics (LOA, CNRS / University of Lille) as part of Labex Cappa makes it possible, for example, to study the chemical footprint of particles from volcanic plumes.

Geographic location of MERA stations in 2020

ATOLL observation platform at the Cité Scientifique campus of the University of Lille

OMEGA mobile laboratory deployed during the ACROSS campaign in July 2022

The multifactoral description of data acquired in the field using receptor-oriented statistical models makes it possible to identify the main determinants of the complex atmospheric environments observed. The development and application of advanced data analysis methods is an important and complementary aspect of the foundational “observation” component of this thematic group.

Assessment of the impacts of atmospheric species on climate, air quality, including unpleasant odours, health and ecosystems is carried out in close cooperation with research teams working on the physical-chemical interface of the atmosphere, health-environment and environment-sociology. The impact of air pollution on the climate is studied through the links between physical, optical and chemical properties of fine particles according to their sources. This research requires long-term data which is acquired from the ACTRIS/ATOLL platform in cooperation with LOA (University of Lille). The work on health impacts focuses on the toxicological characterisation of fine and ultrafine particles of urban origin in partnership with IMPECS (University of Lille) and the use of air pollution data in France for epidemiological purposes. Finally, an innovative approach involving the objective assessment and interpretation of unpleasant odours enables the characterisation of industrial sources of odorous gaseous pollutants.


Labex CaPPA

Labex CaPPA

Labex CaPPA

Laboratory of Excellence on “Chemical and Physical Properties of Aerosols” (Labex CaPPA) The CaPPA laboratory of excellence won the second wave of the “Laboratories of Excellence” call for projects (2012) of the French Investments for the Future Program (PIA). It…




The UNREAL Project: Unveiling Nucleation mechanism in aiRcraft Engine exhAust and its Link with fuel composition (UNREAL) The UNREAL project aims to conduct molecular level studies on the various new particle formation mechanisms in engine exhaust from aircraft using different…




AIRCLEAN project (development of cabin air quality equipment for all aircraft segments) The French AIRCLEAN project was selected as part of the Single Inter-Ministerial Fund’s 22nd call for projects (FUI-22) with the goal of treating aircraft cabin air to ensure…

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