News & Blog


For Clean Air Day on 17th June, RADICAL teamed up with UCC’s Environmental Research Institute to celebrate the importance of clean air and air quality monitoring.

Why is clean air important?

We started the day by asking our team and colleagues in air quality research why clean air is important to them. Here are some of the responses:

Dr Marica Cassarino, lecturer in applied psychology at UCC:

Dr Kian Mintz-Woo, lecturer in philosophy at UCC:

RADICAL PhD researcher Vaishali Vardhan, from UCC:

RADICAL project manager and communications manager, Dr Tamela Maciel, from UCC Academy:

Radicals in the atmosphere

We also launched two brand-new diagrams that highlight the role of atmospheric radicals in air quality, in tandem with a guest blog from Professor John Wenger, RADICAL researcher and Director of the UCC’s Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry (CRAC):

Day-time radical chemistry diagram

Hydroxyl is often called the “detergent of the atmosphere” because it is extremely effective at removing gases in the atmosphere. It does this through a series of chain reaction cycles which both use up and regenerate the reactive species (see figure below). Hydroxyl is mainly produced by the action of sunlight on ozone and other species in air and peak concentrations therefore occur around mid-day.

How radicals transform the air (day-time). Credit: RADICAL Project

Night-time radical chemistry diagram

While the hydroxyl radical is the main chemical agent controlling atmospheric composition, it is important to remember that it only operates during the day. At night, another species – the nitrate radical- takes centre stage in driving chemical transformations in the troposphere. Nitrate is formed by reaction of nitrogen dioxide with ozone and although this reaction occurs at all times, nitrate is easily broken down by sunlight, meaning that appreciable concentrations can only build up at night.

How radicals transform the air (night-time). Credit: RADICAL Project

John Wenger does an excellent job of describing the chemistry of radicals in the atmosphere in greater detail in his guest blog: How atmospheric radicals transform the air. The diagrams are also available to download in the blog.

Air quality monitoring in Cork

And last but not least, we highlighted the recent launch of the Cork City Air Quality dashboard, which gives real-time, calibrated measurements of Cork’s air quality. This was created from a collaboration with RADICAL researcher Dr Stig Hellebust, his colleagues at the CRAC lab, and the Cork City Council.

We featured this dashboard in a recent blog from Stig Hellebust here: Air Quality Maps – what to know before you use

To find out more about #CleanAirDay visit:

Follow our progress with RADICAL