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The RADICAL project is a collaboration between multidisciplinary partners across Europe including University College of Cork (Ireland), HZDR (Germany), University of York (United Kingdom), National Technical University of Athens (Greece), Smartcom (Bulgaria) and UCC Academy (Ireland).

In this article, we introduce our partners at University College Cork’s Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry (CRAC Lab), who are responsible for testing our radical sensors in a range of atmospheres.

The Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry, led by Prof. John Wenger, within the School of Chemistry at UCC has been in existence for over 20 years and currently comprises 14 scientists.

The research activity of UCC-CRAC is wide-ranging and encompasses; (i) laboratory simulations of homogeneous and heterogeneous chemistry relevant to the atmosphere; (ii) field measurements of particulate matter and bioaerosols to determine composition, properties, sources and their effects on health and climate; (iii) development of new instrumental approaches for atmospheric analysis.

The Centre has two laboratories, three custom-built simulation chambers for studying atmospheric processes, and state-of-the-art equipment including a range of gas analysers and particle counters/sizers, as well as Aerodyne time-of-flight chemical ionization mass spectrometer (ToF-CIMS).

Credit: CRAC Lab, UCC

Over the years, researchers at CRAC have developed several new techniques including Incoherent Broadband Cavity-Enhanced Absorption Spectroscopy (IBBCEAS) for the detection of trace gases and radicals and a novel denuder-filter method for the collection of gas and particle phase carbonyl compounds. CRAC is now well established as one of Europe’s leading research groups in atmospheric chemistry. The Centre has been successful in obtaining over €12M in funds from National and European sources and currently has active collaborations with institutes in Ireland, France, UK, India, China, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, USA and Japan. Over 30 PhD students and 20 postdoctoral researchers have “graduated” from CRAC-UCC since its inception.

Over recent decades, atmospheric chemistry has evolved from relying on offline laboratory-based methods to involving more and more advanced online instrumentation enabling recording of measurements in real-time at very high temporal resolution. Atmospheric monitoring now routinely involves recording of several hundred measurements every second over weeks and months.

Consequently, the data analysis involved in atmospheric science has evolved to embrace methods based on statistical analysis and machine learning techniques suitable for very big datasets. The work of the CRAC has for many years involved analysis of high-dimensional, complex observational datasets and algorithm development for data visualisation, reporting and communication of information to assist decision-makers.


The research team at UCC-CRAC has extensive experience of designing, conducting and interpreting experiments in laboratory chambers and will use all this expertise in RADICAL, to ensure that the tests will be performed successfully to achieve the key objective of delivering optimised Si nanowire devices for the detection of •OH and •NO3 radicals.

RADICAL project schematic. Credit: RADICAL

The CRAC Lab team working on RADICAL include:

Prof. John Wenger – Professor in Physical and Environmental Chemistry, School of Chemistry, UCC

Dr. Stig Hellebust – Lecturer in Physical Chemistry, School of Chemistry, UCC

Vaishali Vardhan – PhD researcher, School of Chemistry, UCC

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