China's drive towards a modern industrial economy has created some of the worst pollution on the planet. Increased emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and soot particles from domestic and industrial sources threaten the health of people living in cities. The situation is worsened by China's heavy dependence on coal, which supplies 75% of its commercial energy, three times the global average.
"The EUREKA project helped us understand the different approaches needed when working with our Chinese partners."
Project co-ordinator, Portugal
The Portuguese-led EUREKA project E!1920 INTELAIR has provided the tools needed by China's environmental protection agencies to manage air quality. By accurately measuring pollution levels and subsequent changes, the effectiveness of emission reduction measures can be assessed.
Researchers at the University of Aveiro, Portugal, have two decades of experience in developing systems for modelling air quality in order to forecast future trends and assess the effects of pollution control measures. They worked with colleagues at the UK Government Meteorological Office and commercial and academic groups in China to develop a prototype system for use by Chinese municipal authorities.
Although the original goal was to produce a hybrid pollution measuring system, this was soon abandoned in favour of the traditional Gaussian approach leaving time to implement it and train the Chinese who would operate it. The Gaussian method is well known in industrial and urban applications and utilises real-time meteorological data, ambient pollution levels and emission data to predict primary and secondary pollution.
"There are other air pollution modelling systems available but to operate these you need to have more detailed input information and they demand a high level of technical expertise from the people responsible for operating them," explains Professor Miguel Coutinho.
The system has been installed by the environmental protection bureau of the city of Shenyang in Northeast China, after a local engineer spent four months in Portugal developing the necessary Chinese language-operating interface. "An important aspect of the EUREKA collaboration was that it allowed scientists from Europe and China to meet up and exchange ideas. We have now established an excellent relationship with our Chinese colleagues which we are sure will encourage future collaborations to tackle our shared problems."
The project has a ready-made market waiting in China but it did more than develop a potential product. It also developed the expertise and knowledge of working with Chinese partners.