HKUST Launches First Air Quality Research Supersite for Real-time Characterization

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) launches the first Air Quality Research Supersite to enhance air quality research and to tackle air pollution problems in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta. With a HK$9 million Special Equipment Grant from the University Grants Committee and a HK$6 million grant from the Environmental Conservation Fund, the Supersite enables real-time characterization of ambient particulate matter (PM) in the air to strengthen understanding of the nature and sources of fine particles.

HKUST's Air Quality Research Supersite is now used for the first Hong Kong Air Quality Supersite Study, a 42-month study which started last year. It aims to answer four key questions for effective management of PM exposure in Hong Kong, namely: sources of PM in Hong Kong; factors controlling the formation and abundance of PM spatially and temporally; levels of exposure of the public to traffic-related PM; and effect of PM on visibility over the South China Region. Its findings will contribute to the formulation of an effective control strategy. It aims to tackle particulate and photochemical smog problems, the two dominating air pollution issues in the Pearl River Delta region.

The Supersite project comprises three components, namely: testing and calibration of the state-of-the-art real-time instruments; deployment of the instruments and measurements in various strategic monitoring stations in Hong Kong; and data integration and analysis for investigations of a number of science and policy-related PM projects. It will pave the way for future similar efforts in Hong Kong and the region.

Owing to its strategic location, the Supersite facility boasts the advantage of being at the upwind position of Hong Kong most of the time during the year, making it an ideal place to study background air quality and transportation of pollutants into Hong Kong. It is located at the shorefront on HKUST's campus facing Port Shelter and Sai Kung, a clean rural area with little residential and commercial development.

With a total floor area more than 1,000 m2, the Supersite features a suite of equipment which includes an automatic weather station tower and outdoor plinths for samplers and equipment, and a 72 m2 weather-proof air-conditioned modular house with multiple sample inlets and a sky-window for instrumentation. It houses a variety of state-of-the-art real-time instruments for physical and chemical characterization of gases, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and particulate matter (PM), many of them being exclusive and the most advanced in the region.

HKUST President Prof Tony F Chan said, "It is the great honor of HKUST to collaborate with the HKSAR government to bring air quality research to the next level. Environmental research has been a major emphasis of HKUST. We build on our strengths in interdisciplinary research and leverage the collaborative efforts of our faculty members and researchers from various disciplines to tackle environmental problems. We are committed to enhancing public health and the environment in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta region."

"To formulate effective control strategy to tackle the regional smog issue, we need to conduct more in-depth studies to better understand the nature and characteristics of the photochemical air pollution and fine particulates in the region and their formation mechanisms. The Supersite established by the HKUST is another showcase for the partnership between the academia and government on combating air pollution. I look forward to the findings from this Supersite study and more such collaborative efforts for the betterment of our air quality," said The Honorable Mr Edward Yau, Secretary for the Environment.

Prof Chak K Chan, HKUST's Head of the Division of Environment said, "HKUST's Air Quality Research Supersite, with its focus on air quality research, also serves as an education platform for the public and a training facility for students and researchers to help develop local expertise and provide career opportunities in the area. It promotes collaborations among stakeholders in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta region including regulatory agencies, industries, other institutions and HKUST."

'Supersite' is a term used globally to represent highly specialized well-equipped air monitoring facilities that aim at making integrated and comprehensive air quality measurements with state-of-the-art instruments. It offers continuous measurements with better time resolutions, some in order of seconds, lower detection limits and more observables on the physical and chemical properties of pollutants, than those used for air quality compliance monitoring.

Powerpoint presentation by Prof Chak K Chan at the media briefing, please click here.

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