Air pollutant concentrations near three Texas roadways, Part I: Ultrafine particles

Yifang Zhu, Jayanth Pudota, Donald Collins, David Allen, Andrea Clements, Allison DenBleyker, Matthew Fraser, Yuling Jia, Elena McDonald-Buller, Edward Michel

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    53 Scopus citations


    Vehicular emitted air pollutant concentrations were studied near three types of roadways in Austin, Texas: (1) State Highway 71 (SH-71), a heavily traveled arterial highway dominated by passenger vehicles; (2) Interstate 35 (I-35), a limited access highway north of Austin in Georgetown; and (3) Farm to Market Road 973 (FM-973), a heavily traveled surface roadway dominated by truck traffic. Air pollutants examined include carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and carbonyl species in the gas-phase. In the particle phase, ultrafine particle (UFP) concentrations (diameter < 100 nm), fine particulate matter (PM2.5, diameter < 2.5 μm) mass and carbon content and several particle-bound organics were examined. All roadways had an upwind stationary sampling location, one or two fixed downwind sample locations and a mobile monitoring platform that characterized pollutant concentrations fall-off with increased distance from the roadways. Data reported in this paper focus on UFP while other pollutants and near-roadway chemical processes are examined in a companion paper. Traffic volume, especially heavy-duty traffic, wind speed, and proximity to the road were found to be the most important factors determining UFP concentrations near the roadways. Since wind directions were not consistent during the sampling periods, distances along wind trajectories from the roadway to the sampling points were used to study the decay characteristics of UFPs. Under perpendicular wind conditions, for all studied roadway types, particle number concentrations increased dramatically moving from the upwind side to the downwind side. The elevated particle number concentrations decay exponentially with increasing distances from the roadway with sharp concentration gradients observed within 100-150 m, similar to previously reported studies. A single exponential decay curve was found to fit the data collected from all three roadways very well under perpendicular wind conditions. No consistent pattern was observed for UFPs under parallel wind conditions. However, regardless of wind conditions, particle concentrations returned to background levels within a few hundred meters of the roadway. Within measured UFP size ranges, smaller particles (6-25 nm) decayed faster than larger ones (100-300 nm). Similar decay rates were observed among UFP number, surface, and volume.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)4513-4522
    Number of pages10
    JournalAtmospheric Environment
    Issue number30
    StatePublished - Sep 2009


    • Exponential decay
    • Near roadway
    • Ultrafine particles
    • Vehicular emissions

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Environmental Science
    • Atmospheric Science


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