Civil and Environmental Engineering

The blog of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Surrey

Double dilemma – when you travel in your car!

Our recent work titled as “The behaviour of traffic produced nanoparticles in a car cabin and resulting exposure rates” was recently published in Elsevier journal Atmospheric Environment. This research work highlighted the fact that when you are driving your car from your office to home at a typical urban route, the exposure to tiny sized (less than 100 nm in diameter) nanoparticles inside your car cabin can be several times higher than the exposure during cycling or walking along the road sides on the same route.

Double dilemma – Having better filtration system, which is normally available in new cars, can reduce ingress of nanoparticles into the car cabin. At traffic lights or very close to the tailpipe of the vehicle ahead, air taken from outside is much more polluted than inside and can still increase the concentrations to notable levels despite going through filters. Conversely, limiting ventilation to restrict the uptake of outside air into the cabin can lead to excessive CO2 and heat accumulation – again, not good for health!

This full article can be accessed by clicking here to learn more about the outcome of this research study.

Nanoparticles from sources around us!

Road vehicles are known to be the largest contributor to the airborne nanoparticles in polluted urban environments. The heavy duty vehicles (HDV; i.e. truck, diesel buses) are known to be the largest contributor of airborne nanoparticles among road vehicles. Other on-vehicle sources of nanoparticles have not got much attention, but our recent work titled as “Nanoparticle emissions from 11 non-vehicle exhaust sources” published in Elsevier journal Atmospheric Environment and highlighted some interesting stats with respect to sources around us. For instance, each km of distance driven by a HDV produce of the order of 1000 billion (~1015) nanoparticles. One kg of fast wood burning produces nearly the same number of particles as for each km driven by a heavy duty vehicle. About 1 min of cooking on gas can produce the similar particle numbers generated by ~10 min of cigarette smoking or 1 m travel by a HDV.”

This full article can be accessed by clicking here to know more about other potential sources of nanoparticles and their dispersion, related exposure and health impacts, as well as state of current policies, guidelines and technical challenges to regulate them.

How Air Pollution Affects Built Infrastructure?

We all have seen various structures around us deteriorating because of several reasons. Air pollution, which is known to affect the human health, also play a crucial role in affecting the health of various materials used in buildings and transport infrastructure. Our recent article titled as “Footprints of air pollution and changing environment on the sustainability of built infrastructure” appeared recently in the Elsevier Journal Science of the Total Environment. This highlights the novel links between these cross-disciplinary topics and propose the way forward for mapping the corrosion in an area. The full article can be accessed by clicking here.

Postdoc research opportunity on Structural Engineering

We are currently seeking to recruit a Research Fellow on the EPSRC funded project “Structural performance of slab-column connections under impact and blast loading”. The project will look at the dynamic behaviour of this type of joint regions (Fig. 1) in order to develop a mechanical model that can be applied in design and analysis.

Fig. 1- Dynamic response of RC flat slab-column connection subjected to impact and blast loading

Applications are open until the 29th of October 2012. Full details about the application process and job description can be found in our website (job opportunities).

Nuclear is a Trigger Word to the Press and to General Public

My colleagues and I were having lunch whilst the TV screens were showing the BBC news one day last week.  The news was coming in about an explosion in a furnace at a nucler installation in the South of France.  The news reader may well have said ‘at a nucear power plant’ but I can’t verify that.  I and my colleagues immediately thought ‘Why would there be a furnace at a nucler power plant?’.  All the non-engineers this bulletin would probably have been thinking either  ‘Surely not another accident at these dangerous nuclear facilities; is it another Fukushima?’ or ‘Nuclear + accident just conforms my view that these things are just too dangerous’.

Those bothering to follow the story like myself and my colleagues soon discovered that our bewiderment was significant.  This was an incident at a facility melting down irradiated metal from a nuclear power plant;  so called low level waste.   The heat needed to melt the metal was being supplied by a furnace using a conventional fuel and there had been a explosion in the conventional furnace as can happen anywhere there is a furnace.  There was very little chance of a leak of dangerous material and the amount that could escape was also small.