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On 17 October 2022, RADICAL researchers Prof. Justin Holmes (Coordinator, UCC) & Dr Stig Hellebust (UCC) delivered a virtual seminar talk on our progress towards developing an electronic sensor for atmospheric radicals for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Atmospheric Chemistry Observations and Modeling (ACOM) seminar series.

NCAR ACOM, based in Boulder, Colorado, is an internationally recognised research centre focused on advancing understanding and predictive capability for atmospheric composition and related processes. Research is organized around two major themes – Air Quality Prediction and Weather-Chemistry-Climate Interactions. The synthesis of observations with atmospheric chemistry models is central to progress, with a focus on understanding and modelling fundamental processes.

The RADICAL team was delighted to be invited to present as part of the well-known NCAR ACOM seminar series, speaking on the topic of “RADICAL: Developing an Electronic Sensor for Detecting Atmospheric Radicals and Other Gases“.

Watch a recording of this seminar talk here:

Download the seminar slides here:


This presentation will be split into two parts: first a discussion on the development of sensors to electrically detect atmospheric radicals and other gases and secondly, some preliminary results and lessons from the work to date will be presented.

Towards the electrical detection of atmospheric radicals.  Atmospheric radicals, particularly hydroxyl and nitrate, are the drivers of chemical processes that determine atmospheric composition and thus influence local and global air quality and climate.  However, the detection of these short-lived atmospheric radicals is far from routine, and only a few labs worldwide can accurately measure their concentrations in air.  Current techniques for measuring radicals are based on spectroscopic and mass spectrometric methods, which although sensitive and robust, are technically complex, cumbersome, and expensive.  The first part of the talk will provide an overview of the EU-funded project ‘RADICAL’, which aims to create a small, low-cost sensor to electrically detect short-lived atmospheric radicals in real-time.  Although challenging, RADICAL sensors not only have the potential to be rolled out on a global scale but can also be adapted to detect other important atmospheric gases, particularly over short timescales.

How do nanowires respond to the presence of atmospheric radicals? Will interaction with atmospheric species influence electrically measured parameters, and if so, does that depend on which gas-phase species is present? How is it influenced by the surface functionality of the nanowires? How can we make the response both sensitive and selective? Some early indications that these questions can be answered will be presented and left open for discussion.

Speaker bios:

Justin D. Holmes is Professor of Nanochemistry in the School of Chemistry at University College Cork (UCC), Ireland.  He is also a Principal Investigator at the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) in UCC, and Deputy Director of the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering (AMBER) Centre based in UCC and Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.  Justin leads the Materials Chemistry & Analysis Group, researching new materials for electronic, energy, environmental and catalytic applications, addressing key challenges in nanoscale science and sustainability.  He current co-ordinates two EU projects: RADICAL which is focused on developing a low-cost sensor to electrically detect short-lived atmospheric radicals and TRANSLATE, aimed at creating a platform to effectively convert waste heat into electricity.

Dr. Stig Hellebust is an atmospheric chemist and environmental scientist working the Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry at University College Cork. His research interests have focused on source apportionment studies of atmospheric aerosols based on chemical fingerprints and automated detection of bioaerosols. Some active and recent research projects with his involvement involve a range of interests, such as linking air quality and health (INHALE), emissions from upland wildfires (FLARES), biological aerosols in the atmosphere (FONTANA) and airborne spread of SARS-CoV-2 (UPCOM), Low-Cost Sensor network for improved air quality forecasting (EMERALD) and this RADICAL project.

Follow our progress with RADICAL