Sources, fate and impact of volatile organic compounds in Ireland

Sources, fate and impact of volatile organic compounds in Ireland

Project Title: Sources, fate and impact of volatile organic compounds in Ireland

Researcher Name: Niall O’Sullivan


Telephone number: 0862692287

Funding Body: Irish Research Council

Project type: PhD

Period: October 2017 - September 2021


Project description:

Organic compounds are chemical species that are mainly composed of carbon and hydrogen with some functionality provided by other elements such as oxygen, nitrogen or sulfur. The organic species which are of the most significance for this work are those that exist primarily in the gas phase due to their low volatility.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) play a major role in the chemistry of our atmosphere although they are only present in very low concentrations. VOCs are responsible for the oxidative photochemistry of our atmosphere leading to the formation of tropospheric ozone, which is toxic, and they also play a major role in the formation of secondary organic aerosols (SOA) in the atmosphere.

The sources of organic trace gases are varied and wide-ranging, and include driving, cooking, solid fuel burning and even breathing. There are many biogenic sources of VOCs as well as all plants and trees naturally produce organic compounds primarily highly reduced compounds such as isoprene and terpenes.

The aim of this project is to perform the most detailed analysis and measurements to date of volatile organic compounds in Ireland. These measurements will be performed using a state-of-the-art time-of-flight mass chemical ionisation mass spectrometer (ToF-CIMS). This instrument can detect species up to a limit of <10 parts per trillion for certain species making it one of the most sensitive techniques for VOC analysis. Source attribution of the detected VOCs will also be performed to classify the processes that are having the greatest impact on the concentrations of VOCs in the atmosphere.

Environmental Research Institute

University College Cork, Lee Road, Cork