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Clearing the

Fresh Directions

Air quality research at IENV covers a range of important areas that provide new discoveries and technological developments, and support the formulation of effective air quality management strategies.


These include:

  • Characterization of air pollutants

  • Analysis and modeling of air pollution

  • Air quality and noise management and mitigation

  • Air pollution abatement/treatment

  • Weather and climate

In recent years, air quality over Hong Kong and the neighboring region has deteriorated to an unacceptable level, with haze and smog a frequent and visible reminder of this. The problems faced in Hong Kong are also being repeated all over China and in other developing nations.


Greater understanding of these environmental issues and the delivery of innovative solutions have therefore become vital concerns and effective efforts to help improve air quality will have a direct impact not only on Hong Kong, but internationally.


As one of the core research areas of HKUST's Institute for the Environment (IENV), HKUST researchers seek to make their contribution to a cleaner world through significant findings and recommendations that forge change.

IENV is uniquely positioned to accomplish this important task. Looking across the entire air quality problem, HKUST possesses the most comprehensive capability within Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta to move knowledge forward.

This capability includes measurement, chemical and physical analyses, modeling, control methodologies, impact and policy studies. Collaboration with other institutions and organizations in areas such as health and policy add further to the range and breadth of our work.

With its integrated research approach that maximizes specializations, interdisciplinary perspectives, and HKUST's first-rate facilities, IENV creates an exciting opportunity to clear the air. We look forward to taking Hong Kong, the region, and beyond, into a brighter future.


Frontier Research

Some of the innovative areas being explored by IENV


Characterization, modeling and mitigation of air pollutants in both outdoor and indoor environments;

studying the sources, the fate, and the health and environmental impacts of air pollutants via a combination of techniques:

  • in-situ field and remote-sensing measurements of physical, chemical and biological properties of air pollutants;

  • analyses and modeling of their transport and chemical transformation;

  • controlled experiments for understanding their transformation and impacts;

  • novel technology for the abatement of air pollutants, noises, and for control of infectious aerosols; self-cleaning materials for deodorization and disinfection. 

Improved description, understanding and prediction of climate, weather, and the atmospheric environment of coastal megacities. 


Research in the Area

Pinpointing Air Quality
People's attention is captured most effectively by issues affecting their own neighborhood. However, such localized information about air quality used to be unavailable in Hong Kong - or anywhere else. HKUST's cutting-edge Satellite Informatics System has now changed that. Based on satellite remote-sensing data, faculty members have developed algorithms to calculate surface particulate matter distribution with resolution down to 1 km, enabling better air-quality assessments and more informed management strategies.

Cleaning Up
SNS (Simultaneous deNitrification and deSulfurization) technology, a simple but effective (95+%) catalytic reduction process using special rare-earth based catalysts to simultaneously remove nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide from exhaust gases, represents another top advance. The catalyst can be readily synthesized with commercial rare earth oxides. HKUST has obtained four international (including the US and European) patents for the catalyst synthesis and catalytic reduction technology.

On the Move
MAP is a state-of-the-art mobile air pollution monitoring platform, developed at HKUST and designed to conduct continuous measurements while in motion. Benefits include the provision of high-quality, high-intensity data even in places that are usually hard to access, such as tunnels and bus depots. It also offers an ideal educational platform and regularly visits secondary schools in Hong Kong to promote science education and environmental awareness.

Atmospheric Modeling
HKUST has comprehensive expertise and experience in the full range of atmospheric models at different spatial scales, including weather prediction models MM5/WRF, air quality model CMAQ, diagnostic model CALMET, street-canynon traffic dispersion model ADMS and computational fluid dynamics model FLUENT. These models are needed for better characterization and understanding of the multiscale interactions amongst different atmospheric processes. With these models, we have established the first university-based real-time numerical weather prediction system in Asia in 1997, the Air Pollution Index (API) forecast system for the Environmental Protection Department in 1999, and a high-resolution wind energy resource altas for Hong Kong in 2005.